We last saw Crossrail’s Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) in Germany last year, where the first of the eight TBMs were being assembled. Overall Crossrail will need six Earth Pressure Balanced Machines (EPBs) and two Slurry TBMs and the first of the EPBs are now in situ at New Paddington Yard. In the middle of March they will be moved forward to the tunnel head at Royal Oak Portal and begin driving the first of Crossrail’s new twin bores.

A TBM In The Snow

A TBM In The Snow earlier this month, courtesy dmncf

Today was thus one of the last opportunities to see the TBMs (and their surrounding work site) before they begin their journey beneath London.

TBMs through the trees

TBMs through the trees

The TBMs from the front

The TBMs from the front

The TBMs from the rear

The TBMs from the rear

The cutter head close up

The cutter head close up

Both TBMs now have their cutter heads in place

Both TBMs now have their cutter heads in place

Sadly the paint-job has already taken a bit of a beating

Sadly the paint-job has already taken a bit of a beating

Work continues to fit out the TBMs. Pictured here is a conveyor section

Work continues to fit out the TBMs. Pictured here is a conveyor section

Brushes have now been added to the rear of the wall laying section

Brushes (to help seal against the grout as its injected and any ground water) have now been added to the rear of the wall laying section

The view beneath a TBM

The view beneath a TBM

Elsewhere on the site, work has begun to prepare for the TBM launch when both machines will be jacked up, placed on wheels and moved forward to begin tunneling.

The narrow gauge railway that'll help bring tunnel wall segments forward

The narrow gauge railway that’ll help bring tunnel wall segments forward

Looking away from the tunnel head

Looking away from the portal

Looking down the portal

Looking down the portal

The metal frame allows the spoil conveyors to be cleaned and played back

The metal frame allows the spoil conveyors to be cleaned and played back

Work has begun to remove the concrete from the tunnelling eyes

Work has begun to remove the concrete from the tunnelling eyes

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There are 37 comments on this article
  1. anon says:

    what are the chances it’ll start tunnelling before the 20th (i.e. before the purduh when Boris can no longer get publicity from his role).

  2. Charles Norrie says:

    Keep up the good work a keeep us posted with pictures1

  3. Fandroid says:

    Having had swift glimpses of the TBMs from trains on the GWML, I have been left puzzling how such mighty beasts were going to travel from Westbourne Park to Royal Oak to start their work. Was there any sight of the wheels that are said to be the means of travel?

  4. John Bull says:

    @anon – if I were a betting man (which I am, but lets be honest Ladbrokes aren’t going to take a bet on TBM launch dates) I would place cold, hard, cash on the first TBM launching on the 17th of March.

    @Fandroid – no wheels there yet. I did ask and they were officially described to me as “big f*ck off wheels” so I’m just going to assume that’s a technical term…

  5. Jetblast787 says:

    @anon, it will be launched after the TBM’s are named as tradition with TBM’s. I’ve submitted my entry and am shortlisted, so if there is anyone reading this about 2 hours before close and is willing to help, vote for mary and sophia please 🙂

  6. Greg Tingey says:

    Tracy & Jason, surely ……

  7. Matt-Z says:

    Boris & Ken?

  8. Long Branch Mike says:

    Gavin & Stacey?

  9. Roy says:

    Gog and Magog shurely, though will their tunneling route actually pass into the City?

  10. OgTheDim says:

    Lennon & McCartney

  11. Paul says:

    Girly names only, is the tunnelling tradition…

  12. PhilD says:

    ‘Maggie & Thatcher’? Given that she put the kibosh on any significant tube infrastructure development for a decade it seems a classy way to stick two fingers up to her legacy.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Its a real shame that this project is going ahead at all – in fact, its a public scandal. Any new link going from Paddington to Liverpool Street should go via Maryleborne, Baker Street, Euston, St. Pancras International, maybe Old Street and then Liverpool Street.

    Whats the point otherwise? Think of all those Eurostar passengers coming into St. Pancras – that won’t be able to connect with this link easily. Think of the HS2 link now proposed for Euston – no link there either. This is a badly thought out and ill-conceived plan. Boris Johnson is now saying we’ll need another link!!!!

    I contend its being built to (a) serve the big business interests of Oxford Street (why else does it follow that route?) (b) give a handy link for the long-suffering workers in Canary Wharf with Heathrow Airport (c) and a nice big construction project to keep the City of London happy.

    In other words, its got little to do with improving the day-to-day commute of the average Londoner.

    And it won’t even serve all of Heathrow’s terminals – only 1,2 & 3? What are being going to have to do then? Change there for Terminals 4 & 5? Oh, and l bet they’ll be “premium” fares along this route.

    Is that what we get for £9 billion or whatever its costing? Didn’t Livingstone have the guts to say NO – the route has to change? And if they really wanted a “shopping” line to serve all the big tax-dodging companies operating in Oxford Street, then why not convert the Central Line to National Rail – and run that through to Heathrow etc?

    This in a city where a huge sum of money was spent constructing Waterloo International (now lying unused), Stratford “International” (which has never been used by Eurostar services) and where for most of the 1980s and 1990s, 80% of all the money spent on public transport in England was spent on docklands – of which this is the latest incarnation.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Wow. This is London Reconnections sweetie. If you’re looking to rant like a mad man about something you evidently know little about, maybe best to head to the daily mail website. They’ll appreciate your comments there.

  15. Chris says:

    And the award for most rediculous, ill thought out rant goes to…

  16. Alan Griffiths says:

    Anonymous @ 11:24PM, 2nd March 2012

    The longest overcrowded stretch of the tube is the Central Line between Stratford and Holborn. A lot of passengers from stations east of Stratford, including lots of my neighbours, would think that is quite enough reason to build Crossrail, but it does other things as well.

    The route was changed during the term of London’s first Mayor. It now includes lots more tunelling, a station at Whitechapel and a branch via Canary Wharf and Custom House to Woolwich.

  17. Fandroid says:

    Although a bit intemperately put, [email protected] 2nd March does raise a few points worthy of discussion. Crossrail is most probably a victim of history, and the enormous time it took between the first definite proposals and its ultimate approval. I suspect a few of the initial ideas stuck throughout, despite them becoming less relevant as the project progressed. Politics is sure have played a part, as the project team had to get a Bill approved by parliament, and big objectors like the City and Canary Wharf might have jeopardised its ultimate success (or may have been seen to be too big a set of risks to be left untamed before the Bill was introduced). It’s Central London tunnel route has been protected (against deep foundations) for just about all of its history, so what was decided in the early days has got fixed.

    I’m intrigued as to how BAA are going to ensure they get their premium fares off the passengers. Heathrow Connect is unbusy enough for ticket checks on the trains. A 205 metre long Crossrail train is a different fish kettle. Imagine the mad rush between Hayes and Heathrow Central to check everyone who might have sneaked on. Will they (shock horror) install barriers on the Heathrow stations ? Imagine the pandemonium as long-haul passengers with multiple humungous cases wrestle their way through.

  18. An onymous says:

    What is the purpose of the structure in the Crossrail site that looks like some sort of ramp rising up?

  19. Snowy says:

    I suspect the issue of surcharges for airport users will become much a hotly debated topic in the future. As the london & south east RUS noted (& covered here on LR) the great western rail line will be full of train paths soon after x-rail opens & one of the means of increasing paths from reading into paddington is to stop the express service & give those paths away.

    This will of course be difficult because the airport tunnel is owned by BAA not DFT/network rail thus for BAA to maintain their premium service they could refuse to allow non-BAA services (i.e x-rail) on their infrastructure. In response of course NR could prevent BAA using paths on its lines from airport junction to Paddington. I suspect that at some point in the near future a decision on the ownership of the tunnel may be required. If the government purchases it then it makes implementing the RUS services easy. BAA however will fully expect a considerable sum of money for this, to cover both the cost of building the tunnel & lost revenue from services, a cost which has not yet been factored into any plans!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Most confused. “Unbusy” Heathrow connects? Sacrifice Heathrow Express paths? So why in the world do we need yet more schemes to run to the place from every conceivable compass point?

  21. Vulcan's Finest says:

    Perhaps in an ideal world Crossrail would link Paddington and Liverpool Street with all the other mainline termini on the Euston Road, but of course the High Speed lines from Euston and St Pancras weren’t even on the horizon when Crossrail was conceived in the Mid 1980s. And of course the Farringdon interchange offers quite a large variety of destinations with a single change, including the MML and ECML Thameslink services..

    The premium fares between Heathrow and Hayes & Harlington (£4.80 single) mean that the half-hourly 5-car Connect services run almost empty on this stretch, save for a few tourists opting for a cheaper ticket and a handful of airport staff who get 75% concessions. Of course this farcical situation absolutely has to change before Crossrail opens because 10 car trains running every 15 minutes will represent a fourfold increase in seating.

    Anyone who has tried to use the Piccadilly to Heathrow between 3 and 6pm on a weekday will know that those Crossrail trains to Heathrow will be a very popular alternative – IF travelcards are valid. However a Crossrail service continuing through London will abstract a significant percentage of the passengers who currently use the premium rate Heathrow Express. A 15 minute time saving to Paddington isn’t worth much if it means getting off a HEX service and walking down to the low-level Crossrail station to catch the same (slow) train from Heathrow that would have cost much less to travel on in the first place! The ideal solution for the rail passenger is for BAA to sell their infrastructure – but what price would they demand for it after just 20 years use?

  22. cp says:

    Why is Boris, as cyclist, supporting the concept of Crossrail which will provide a worse service to cyclists?

    Cyclist, it is planned, will have to get off at Stratford rather than Liverpool Street and at Acton rather than Paddington

  23. First traveller says:

    Is it me, or is the TBM stuck in front of a gantry that is just a bit too low?

  24. ChrisOfBristol says:

    Anonymous 11:24PM, 2nd March 2012 has made some good points.

    This scheme is aimed at people living or working in London, it does not consider the cross London rail links which are also important. For example if I want to take the Eurostar to Brussels from Bristol I would have to change once on the west of London then again at St Pancras rather than taking a train through to St. Pancras. Other capital cities like Brussels for example, have through links for trains.

    (I’m assuming that the GWR electrification goes ahead)

  25. Anonymous says:

    Given Brussels is about a seventh the size of London that is not really a like-for-like comparison. A city that size can support what is effectively a single station with two other stops supporting it.

  26. answer=42 says:

    Imagine that Eurostar still used Waterloo. Chris’s train arrives from Bristol at Paddington, then continues round the Circle Line, stopping at King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, Victoria and finally Waterloo. That is Brux’s through link for trains.

    Brussels Nord station is a desolate place in a universe with no room for happiness.

  27. Anonymous says:

    That is absolutely nothing like Brussels. For London to be like Brussels it would require Paddington and Liverpool Street to be its only stations.

    The size of the city, and for that matter Belgium in general, does not have anywhere near the need for as many services as London does. Being able to link up all of London’s mainline services in such a way that you can change from any one to another is near-on impossible.

    Comparing London with Brussels is like comparing it with Manchester. Totally different sizes and service needs. The best example for a London-like European capital is Paris.

    Anonymous 2

  28. Mark Townend says:

    In an alternative history, it might have been possible to establish a single large terminal in London in the mid 19th century as the city was much smaller then, though I stagger to think how big it might have had to become in later years! There was a proposal for a joint terminal near Farringdon, but the alternative urban distributor connecting separate terminals at the fringe was built instead; now the Circle and associated sub surface lines.

    With the network as it is has developed, cross-city urban/suburban connectors such as Crossrail, Thameslink and orbital Overground links provide valuable improvements to connectivity as well as capacity, particularly if long distance trains all call at the outer hubs such as that proposed at Old Oak Common, and those existing at Stratford and Clapham Junction, as well as the traditional termini.

  29. Lemmo says:

    @ Mark Townend, yes indeed in 1846 there was a proposal by the godfather of the Underground, Charles Pearson, for a central city terminus at Farringdon. It’s fascinating to think how this may have evolved today.

    Back last year we looked at the historic legacy of a ring of termini linked by the Underground, and how this network pattern concentrates an increasing demand on the same central core as in the 1860s.

    You are absolutely right to point out the value of orbital links to improve connectivity and build capacity, and this is the thinking behind TfL’s “strategic interchanges”. However for this to work requires more capacity on the orbital lines, where they are competing for space with freight. And it requires rethinking the service pattern to allow more long-distance trains to call. Old Oak Common may provide the litmus test of whether our transport planners consider this viable or of strategic value. Perhaps then they will also look at other places such as Finsbury Park, Stratford, Brixton, West Hampstead, Lewisham etc.

  30. Anonymous says:

    There are hints here and there on the internet of a plan in the 1940s to have a single London terminus, but I’ve never been able to find any details… But can you imagine what kind of nightmare using such a station would be?!

  31. Belgianrefugee says:

    It’s worth noting that the construction of the cross-Brussels underground rail link in the 19th century demanded that whole swathes of the city centre be demolished, and what’s sprung up in its place is decidedly not an improvement…

    And Brussels North station is indeed possible the most soul-destroying station I’ve ever been through. You do however get a good view of the ladies of the night in the windows on Aarschotstraat from trains running along the eastern-most track if that’s your thing…

  32. Fandroid says:

    There was a time when I really believed that ‘Brussels Midi’ and ‘Brussel Zuid’ were two different stations. I blame Eurostar for not seeming to appreciate that Bruxelles/Brussel is in theory a bilingual city.

    It’s easy to think that London is behind the times in connecting surface railways either side of the city with tunnels through it. Because now know them as part of the ‘Tube’ we forget that is exactly what the District, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines are. The real ‘tubes’ also do it, albeit with a reduced tunnel gauge and in a one-sided way ie: Piccadilly line Hounslow branch, Northern line High Barnet branch, Central line eastern end. That’s not to forget the Thameslink route’s Snow Hill tunnel (built 1866). Even the East London line’s tunnel is not far out of the city centre, and that had full connections to the surface railway network until it was adsorbed by LT.

    Additionally, London’s not unique in having loads of termini. Paris still has. Berlin doesn’t have now, but before WW2 and the Cold War mucked it all about, it had a bewildering array of termini too. Pre-WW2, Germany stretched almost as far eastwards as it did westwards, so a through line through the city made some sense, hence the main east-west railway that is there now from Zoo to Friedrichstrasse.

  33. timbeau says:

    @Fandroid – the Central was extended over main line tracks at both ends – GER to Epping, GWR to Ruislip

    The Piccadilly was an unusual example, as the Hounslow line was built by, and originally part of, the District. the District itself did extend over other companies metals to Wimbledon, Richmond and Upminster (and at one time to Southend, and to Windsor via Ealing Brioadway!)

  34. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Was the Central line extended over main line tracks ? I am not saying you are wrong but I thought they built parallel tracks to the main line. And GWR to Ruislip doesn’t sound right to me. I know the GWR went as far as Greenford because, famously, there was a GWR somersault signal there, but to Ruislip ?

  35. timbeau says:

    I understand that between Northolt Junction and West Ruislip there were four tracks on the GC&GWJR, two of which are now used by the Central Line, but betwen North Acton and Northolt Junction I believe you are correct.
    (I could argue that the line was quadrauplec and then immediately handed over to LU, but I don’t think that will wash!)

  36. Lemmo says:

    @ timbeau, Fandroid and Pedantic, this forgotten part of London rail has an interesting history. The GC-GW line opened in 1903, and is described on Wikipedia as the New North Main Line. The GW built the Ealing Broadway branch (the western part of the former Ealing & Shepherd’s Bush Railway) and opened it for freight trains in 1917. The line was jointly conceived and promoted with the Central London Railway, which accessed it from 1920 by building the short section from Wood Lane. West Acton and North Acton stations were built and owned by the GWR and opened in 1923. GWR steam freight trains ran through West and North Acton until 1938, when the London Underground tracks were segregated throughout as part of the New Works Programme. The freight lines from North Acton through East Acton to the West London Line were closed in the 1960s.

    That is the past, but what of its future? For instance, is there potential to route freight from the WLL via the GC-GW line to the West Midlands, and also via East-West Rail to the East Midlands and the North? This could release paths on the WCML and the NLL.

    Alongside this, and perhaps tied in with plans around Old Oak Common, will there be a switch around of the routes, perhaps involving the Bakerloo, even the District, and the oft-considered Central extension west from Shepherds Bush…?

  37. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I also believe that Chiltern have long-term aspirations to take over West Ealing to South Ruislip and run through trains to West Ealing to provide a convenient interchange with Crossrail. Apart from providing a service that would benefit many of their customers it would provide free up capacity at Marylebone.

    I think this idea got dropped as the layout of HS2 at South Ruislip would have made it a non-starter but the revised proposals put HS2 in a tunnel at this point so presumably it might come alive again.

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