Published: 9th April 2014
The worst kept secret in the rail industry was confirmed as the Mayor For London and the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that Crossrail would be extended to Reading rather than terminating at Maidenhead. The original plan was to operate no further west than Maidenhead because of signalling arrangements but it is an operating fact that terminating trains use more capacity than trains passing through a station.
So this has no doubt been a factor in the service extension for a couple of trains an hour in each direction. The original plan saw Heathrow Airport being served by Crossrail as well and this remains the case. Network Rail (NR) has already carried out preparatory work at Maidenhead to build what is known as turnback sidings but the Great Western Main Line electrification and resignalling project allows the required changes to be carried out far more easily than as a standalone scheme.
The revised imetbale from December 2019 should see two Crossrail trains an hour reaching Reading and four more serving Maidenhead with the first through London services running from December 2018.
‘Extending Crossrail to Reading will provide passengers with more journey options and will create better connections and direct services between Reading, Twyford and destinations across London without the need to interchange at Paddington’, explained Mike Brown, Managing Director for London Rail at Transport for London.
Crossrail has announced that 75% of the required tunnelling is now complete and that their Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) Victoria has broken through into Whitechapel station. So far, more than 19 miles of tunnelling has been completed and more than 2.5 million tonnes of earth removed. Some of this has been taken to the Thames Estuary to form a new wetland nature reserve while other spoil is being used to fill a former claypit at Calvert in Buckinghamshire 10 miles north of Aylesbury.
TBM Victoria is 150 metres long and named after Queen Victoria. She began her boring job at Limmo Peninsula in east London 15 months ago and has now broken into the cavern at Whitechapel. This is where work is taking place 35 metres below the ground level to build a new station with over half a mile of new platform and passenger tunnels for the Crossrail part of the station.
The tunnels between the Royal Oak Portal just outside Paddington and Farringdon are complete. Later this year as the tunnelling continues, the Crossrail team will move more and more into the next phase, the fitting out of stations and tunnels, another monumental underground task.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "With three quarters of tunnelling complete, we're tantalisingly close to finishing what is without doubt a monumental feat of engineering. It's quite remarkable what the Crossrail team has achieved so far and we now look forward to the next exciting stage of the project - the fitting out of the Crossrail stations of the future."
“Crossrail is set to transform rail travel across the South East when it opens in 2018, improving journeys for thousands of passengers and securing long-term economic benefits across the region and beyond. This is a major milestone in the Crossrail project, and I am delighted with the progress that is being made.”
“Our tunnelling marathon deep beneath the streets of the capital is continuing apace with the construction of the new rail tunnels now three quarters complete. Over the past two years, our huge machines have built more than 19 miles of tunnels and removed more than two million tonnes of earth.”
Three of Crossrail’s boring machines have already retired, with a further five still in use.
In the east, Victoria and Elizabeth have reached Whitechapel; Ellie is heading towards Stepney Green and Jessica is being prepared to complete Crossrail’s shortest tunnel drive between Limmo Peninsula and Victoria Dock.
On the south east section of the route, Sophia has finished her drive and Mary is heading under the Thames.
Two more platforms have been re-opened at Reading, Nos. 10 and 11 ready for the new May 2014 timetable and the flyover being built to the west of the station will be operational by Spring 2015. The whole package is thought to have cost about £900 million and commenced in 2008.
The viaduct opening will mark the end of a massive project which will increase the amount of trains that can use and pass through Reading. It will also end the conflict between trains with the viaduct which will separate routes so services will not have to compete for track space.
Given that 700 trains a day pass through, the project will reduce delays due to congestion, something the 50,000 passengers a day that use Reading will hopefully be delighted about.
Freight services will run on their own lines and not delay passenger trains. This is important as Reading is a key location for container traffic to Southampton and this business is growing all the time.