Crossrail delayed as �1bn is slashed

THE much-awaited Crossrail project has been put back a year to save the taxpayer �1.5 billion.

The delay—described by the company as a “more efficient timetable”—was revealed when Crossrail announced four contracts on Friday for the tunnelling and station platform work.

The new timetable for London’s ‘super tube’ stretching from the Isle of Dogs and Whitechapel through the City and West End is a result of the Government’s spending cuts announced last month, which means Crossrail’s central section won’t be ready for another eight years.

Trains will start running by the end of 2018, instead of 2017, followed by a phased introduction of services along the rest of the route from Whitechapel to Stratford, joining national Rail to Shenley, from Canary Wharf under the Thames to Abbey Wood, and from Paddington joining National Rail to Heathrow Airport and Maidenhead.

“More than �1bn savings have been identified due to a more efficient construction timetable,” said Crossrail’s Chief Rob Holden. “Stiff competition in the construction industry for Crossrail work has meant highly-competitive bids.”

Contractors are being awarded ‘package deals’ to keep costs down—more than one contract each, the Advertiser understands.

The scheme now estimated at �14.9bn is not as ambitious as the original �16bn price tag, with modified designs such as Whitechapel station which has been scaled down to keep within the Government’s tighter budget.

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The brighter side means fewer construction sites across East London, such as the ‘big hole’ that once threatened to open up behind Brick Lane with thousands of lorries thundering through the streets taking away the excavated soil.

Instead, the 18ft diameter tunnelling begins at the surface in Silvertown with the spoils taken out through completed tunnel sections to waiting barges on the Thames to be shipped out to sites in Kent—rather than by lorry from Spitalfields.

But there is still some street-level disruption likely when contractors sink shafts at the Whitechapel and Liverpool Street station sites, probably in 2012.

This contract includes ‘access’ shafts and sprayed concrete tunnel lining for station construction, which has been awarded to a consortium of four companies, Alpine Tunnelling, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, Morgan Sindall and Vinci Construction.

A second ‘package’ deal has been won by Dragados and John Sisk contractors for the biggest section of Crossrail twin tunnelling, from Victoria Dock in Silvertown, drilling westward under Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs to Whitechapel, Liverpool Street and the City as far as Farringdon, with a branch tunnel from Stratford merging under Stepney Green.

Other contracts announced are for tunnelling from Paddington to Farringdon and work at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street stations.

Seven 350ft-long tunnel boring machines will start churning the dirt from the surface at Pudding Mill Lane in Stratford, digging their way under East London, The City and West End. Up to 14,000 people will be employed on Crossrail at the peak of construction between 2013 and 2015.