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Meeting with Sir Terry Morgan, Chairman of Crossrail and Tour of the Farringdon Crossrail Site

Prior to a behind the scenes tour of the Crossrail site at Farringdon, WTS London board members had the privilege of meeting Sir Terry Morgan who provided a most interesting and comprehensive insight into what has been achieved since he became Crossrail’s Chairman back in 2009 when the first pilings were going in at Canary Wharf.






When it opens in central London in 2018, Crossrail will be named the Elizabeth Line and will connect the West End, the City and Canary Wharf to Stratford and Shenfield in north east London and Woolwich and Abbey Wood in the south east.  In 2019 the rest of the line will open, providing direct links to Heathrow and Reading in the west. It involves building 10 new stations and upgrading 30 more while integrating new and existing infrastructure. 


Now, 75 per cent complete, Sir Terry confirmed that Crossrail is being delivered on time and within the funding made available. Tunnelling is finished, systems are being installed and stations fitted out.

'One of the most notable and impressive things about Crossrail', he told us, 'Is its sheer size and scale. It's massive!''  Indeed, the £14.8 billion scheme, sponsored by the DfT and TfL, is currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project. And everything about this railway has been planned to be bigger and, in terms of passenger experience, better than anything that has gone before. At 250 metres, platforms are more than double the usual length and the same is true of the 200 metre state-of-the art trains with a capacity for over 1500 passengers. Trains will run at the rate of 24 per hour.







Sir Terry emphasised that the whole concept is about legacy and the bigger picture. Crossrail will provide much needed infrastructure and £42 billion net benefit to the UK economy.


'What's good for London is good for the rest of the UK', he says. It will create better links between the capital’s major commercial and business districts as well as creating 55,000 full-time jobs and 75,000 business opportunities. 96 per cent of Crossrail contracts were awarded to UK companies with some 62 cent of suppliers from outside London and more than half of the supply chain being SMEs.


However, Crossrail is as much about regeneration of local environment as business benefit. It will transform London's public transport, reducing journey times, increasing rail capacity by 10 per cent and bringing an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of central London.Towns on the Crossrail route will prosper and 57,000 new homes will be developed. There has been a great focus on investment in communities by donating skills, time and money to local environmental projects that bring long lasting benefit.  As well as the immediate environment around and above the Crossrail stations this has included the creation of park areas and the development of an RSPB wetlands nature reserve in Essex. 


Apprenticeship Scheme

Another ambition fulfilled by Crossrail is the benefit to communities from employment opportunities generated and, particularly, the apprenticeship scheme. More than 15,000 people have completed training at Crossrail’s Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy and over 1000 jobs starts given to local unemployed people.



We were delighted to hear that diversity and, in particular, gender diversity has been another important focus. Approximately 30 per cent of the Crossrail team are women compared to only 20 per cent of women working in construction nationally. Valerie Todd, Director of Talent and Resources at Crossrail (and the first president of WTS London) has been the key driver of this along with Project Manager, Linda Miller. Gender balance has been progressed by highlighting positive role models, changing the concept of transport being traditionally a man's world and initiatives such as partnering with Women in Construction.


This is good news but Sir Terry says they have a way to go to reach their target of 50 per cent female employees. He supports positive discrimination because, in his experience, it works. Crossrail has also actively driven the agenda for diversity further down the supply chain and he believes that other organisations are now following their example.



Last, but by no means least, Sir Terry spoke about the cultural legacy of Crossrail. Art has been integrated into the project from the start and The Crossrail Art Foundation, which Sir Terry chairs, has worked with local artists as well as Turner Prize winners to create an ambitious and diverse programme of artworks reflecting both the Crossrail railway and the city it will eventually serve. As this was outside the scope of the core funding, The Foundation set about raising the £1 million per station needed for individual artworks from corporate funders which has been matched by The City of London Corporation,


Site Tour

Having seen the big picture painted by Sir Terry, it was time to take a look at the construction work and we were led on a site tour by very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, Clover Hutchison, the lead Cost Engineer for Farringdon Station, and Site Manager, Andy Scholes. 






When the Elizabeth line opens in 2018 Farringdon station will be one of the busiest in the UK, connecting with Thameslink and the London Underground to provide links with outer London, the home counties, the City, Canary Wharf and three of London’s five airports.

Two new ticket halls are connected by underground mined platforms. The western end will provide access to and from the Thameslink ticket hall. This major transport interchange site has had to fit within a complex infrastructure network up to 25 metres below ground.

While all of the new stations are being designed to give a consistent look that is spacious, with smooth simple lines, each one has its own distinctive character conceived by different architects reflecting the local environment and heritage. At Farringdon inspiration has been taken from the goldsmiths and jewellers of Hatton Garden with a diamond pattern ceiling in the western ticket hall while, in the eastern hall, the copper covered ceiling references the local architecture of the Barbican.

We were among the first to see the diamond ceiling being constructed, locked together like a huge jigsaw, with pieces just delivered from the manufacturer in Derby.  






Seven levels below and tunnels have a sprayed concrete lining with curved junctions that are larger in scale than any previously seen on London Underground. Creating bigger spaces and wider walkways will accommodate future growth in passenger numbers.






Glass fibre reinforced concrete is used to clad the tunnels. Being easy to shape makes it aesthetically pleasing, creating smooth fluid lines. As well as working acoustically, the cladding is cost-effective, lightweight, transportable and easily removed to access services behind it.






The rail systems fit-out  teams were installing floor-to-ceiling platform edge screens, a critical safety feature creating a physical barrier between the platform and the track. The screens above will provide lighting, wayfinders and surface information.


Eighty per cent of the new tracks are fixed to a concrete bed, but areas particularly sensitive to noise, such as those in close proximity to the Barbican concert hall are floating slab track sitting on heavy duty springs to reduce vibrations.




The engineering and design challenges at Farringdon have driven tailored design solutions. For example, lifts are being installed that move on a slope as it is too steep for the standard vertical movement. 




One last picture by the escalator site and our tour was at an end. It had been the most fascinating afternoon and, Sir Terry was right, we were simply over-awed by the sheer scale and complexity of the Crossrail project.


Our thanks go to Sir Terry Morgan for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us and also to our excellent guides, Clover Hutchison and Andy Scholes as well as the rest of the Crossrail team who helped facilitate our tour.


For more information about Crossrail visit: www.crossrail.co.uk


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