Crossrail breakthrough as giant tunnelling machine reaches Canary Wharf

New Crossrail tunnel under east London

New Crossrail tunnel under east London - Credit: Crossrail

A giant Crossrail tunnelling machine churning its way deep beneath east London has now made a breakthrough to the huge Canary Wharf station complex.

New Crossrail tunnel under east London

New Crossrail tunnel under east London - Credit: Crossrail

It is the biggest milestone so far in London’s £16 billion Crossrail ‘super tube’ scheme which began in 2009.

Canary Wharf Station architect's impression

Canary Wharf Station architect's impression - Credit: Canary Wharf Group

London Mayor Boris Johnson joined Transport State Secretary Patrick McLoughlin and Crossrail chiefs at Canary Wharf today to see the 1,000-tonne tunnelling machine after it had arrived.

“Many thought it would never happen,” Boris admitted. “But now there’s no doubt Crossrail’s on its way, with this gigantic machine arriving in the heart of Canary Wharf, grubby with mud and rubble.”

The machine named ‘Elizabeth’ and its twin ‘Victoria’, which began tunnelling from the Limmo peninsular construction site on the Lea estuary near Canning Town in December, have been working round-the-clock over the past six months 90ft deep under ground towards the Canary Wharf station complex.

Crossrail Chief Executive Andrew Wolstenholme said: “The breakthrough is our biggest milestone so far and shows the scale of Europe’s biggest construction project which is now more than a third complete.”

The station complex is being built by Canary Wharf Group which is also adding a four-storey retail development with a rooftop garden above the ticket hall.

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Tunnelling machine Elizabeth is now undergoing maintenance before churning its way under Limehouse, Stepney Green and Whitechapel, followed by Victoria a few weeks later, then on to Liverpool Street and Farringdon in the City to link up with Crossrail’s west London tunneling machines some time next year, coming the other way from Paddington and Tottenham Court Road.

First trains start running in 2018, giving Canary Wharf and east London a direct 39-minute connection to Heathrow Airport, with links to Essex, North Kent and Berkshire.