As readers will no doubt have noticed, we have been somewhat quiet lately. This is, in part, because both Lemmo and I have been involved in the process of moving houses (an exercise at which he has so far proved more successful than I). It largely fell to Pedantic to “mind the fort,” a task he accomplished admirably.

To begin the return to normality, it seems worth highlighting a number of Crossrail photos which have emerged over the last month. These photos largely focus on the tunnelling operation, which is now well underway on both sides of the Capital. We’ve looked at the Crossrail TBMs a number of times before, but it easy to forget that there is an enormous human operation involved in the tunnelling process as well. The photos below nicely highlight the scale of the operation, both human and technical.

Several of the photos also come close to conveying just how alien a world it can be beneath ground in transport tunnels, both during construction and after. This is something that can be hard to appreciate and which is normally not particularly obvious in photographs and videos of tunnelling or active tunnels. The combination of a lack of surface features to provide a mental frame of reference and long sightlines (as transport tunnels generally curve relatively gently) can leave the tunnel visitor feeling both confined and as if they are standing in a wide open space at the same time. It’s a hard feeling to explain, and one that is often amplified by the strange effects that strong lighting can have down below. A number of these photos come closer than most to conveying some of that feeling.

Those looking for more information about the current goings on with the Crossrail stations would also do well to read Ianvisit’s excellent report on the state of play at Bond Street, which we highly recommended.

Working on the arches in the Connaught Tunnel

Working on the arches in the Connaught Tunnel

More work in the Connaught Tunnel

More work in the Connaught Tunnel

The shaft at Stepney Green

The shaft at Stepney Green

Tunnelling at Stepney Green

Tunnelling at Stepney Green

More tunnel work at Stepney Green

More tunnel work at Stepney Green

Looking down at Hanover Square (Bond Street station works)

Looking down at Hanover Square (Bond Street station works)

Tunnelling at Hanover Square

Tunnelling at Hanover Square

Spraycrete work at Hanover Square

Spraycrete work at Hanover Square

Beneath Finsbury Circus (Liverpool Street station works)

Beneath Finsbury Circus (Liverpool Street station works)

Working on the Finsbury Circus tunnels

Working on the Finsbury Circus tunnels

The tunnels at Whitechapel

The tunnels at Whitechapel

Another look beneath Whitechapel

Another look beneath Whitechapel

The tunnels at Westbourne Park (the track is for the TBM)

The tunnels at Westbourne Park (the track is for the TBM)

In the Western Tunnels

In the Western Tunnels

Inside a TBM in the eastern tunnels

Inside a TBM in the eastern tunnels

TBM working in the western tunnels

TBM working in the western tunnels

Laying ring segments in the western tunnels

Laying ring segments in the western tunnels

Celebrating Phyllis laying her 2000th ring, earlier this month

Celebrating Phyllis laying her 2000th ring, earlier this month

jump to the end
There are 62 comments on this article
  1. swirlythingy says:

    Where on earth is that green light coming from in the Whitechapel picture?

    Nothing ‘primeval’, I hope?

  2. John Bull says:

    Easily my favourite photo of the bunch, that one. It makes me think that I’m about to turn the corner and see Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart fighting a Yeti.

  3. Alan Griffiths says:

    Interesting stuff, and some of it not seen before. I presume that most of the sprayed contrete is station and ventilation tunnels? How much are they digging at Stepney Green, which is the underground junction site as well as ventilation, before the TBMs get there?

  4. Greg Tingey says:

    Lots already well under way, lots to do ….
    Also, the deliberate decision NOT to connect at the East end of “Bond Street (except for emergencies is interesting.
    I wonder if that will last, or will “proper” connections be put in before Xr-! actually opens?

  5. Pedantic of Purley says:

    If you are talking about about passages connecting Bond Street East Crossrail entrance to Oxford Circus tube station then the answer about “proper” connections is absolutely no chance. Modelling shows that there is absolutely no way that the southbound Victoria line could cope with the number of people who would change to the Victoria Line if it had a direct underground link with Crossrail.

    If you force them upstairs onto the street that will either put them off or, if not, at least you can refuse to let them in to Oxford Circus station if it becomes dangerously congested. In the time honoured manner this then becomes someone else’s problem.

    I think this is in fact one of the weaknesses of Crossrail (along with terminating at Abbey Wood, Maidenhead and Paddington as discussed ad nauseum) but don’t see any way around it. It is one of the problems you potentially hit if you build big full size tubes and link them to a dinky tube network.

    Also this shows why proposals have to be investigated to an incredible level of detail and modelling. You really don’t want to get this sort of thing wrong.

  6. mr_jrt says:

    It is interesting though. I find when heading south from Euston that aside from Victoria, Oxford Circus is the primary destination. Most passengers stream out, and a whole new load pile on heading to Victoria. Once CR2 relieves the Victoria line….it may well make sense to have a link.

  7. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I knew someone would say that. As I understand it, it wouldn’t be hard to do. As Greg says, the link will be there in some form for emergencies so I will go completely against the ethos I generally try and present and suggest that it would be really easy to do, when and if the time comes.

  8. timbeau says:

    Mr jrt

    But how many of those piling on and off are originating from / going to Oxford circus, and how many changing to/fromr the Central and Bakerloo lines?

  9. mr_jrt says:

    That is the 1 Billion pound question, isn’t it? 🙂

    I’ve often wondered if TfL are missing a trick with Oyster. IIRC, in the original tests (with the product’s default power levels) the RFID used in the Oyster card triggered 4-5 gates at once.

    I’ve previously wondered if that might be a better solution for the mainline terminals than barriers of ticket gates – something like large arches passengers can walk though, with everything handled wirelessly. The minority using (or not using!) paper tickets fraudulently are the only issue, really.

    However – could TfL not have readers set up in the interchange passageways of tube interchanges and then measure the passenger flows? They’d know exactly which route (and also, potentially their route through the station itself) each passenger took for their journey, not just their entry and exit points to the system. Could provide invaluable data for signage and passageway layout as well as routing options.

  10. HowardGWR says:

    I have mentioned on here before that origin and destination surveys are the only tool that can enable answers to the questions posed above. Those, of course, extended with planning information, that would inform about future flows.

  11. DT says:


    That’s a good idea but not everyone would do that, I’m sure people even miss the pink interchange validators, I personally always have a Zone 1-6 travelcard and I don’t always touch in/or out because it makes no difference to me.

    Also some people still travel on the underground with one day paper travelcards (cheaper for me because of my railcard), and other paper tickets.

  12. Anonymous says:

    DT – Yes my wife when she is with me to get my Gold Card discount. Also useful when using a 2 for 1 offer at the Zoo for instsnce as they need to see an NR ticket.

  13. Ian Sergeant says:

    @PoP @mr_jrt

    Come Crossrail 2, I’m not convinced you would want the link from Bond Street to Oxford Circus. The interchange one step further east on Crossrail 1 at TCR provides most of the destinations people would want from Oxford Circus. Do we really want people to encourage people to go on to a tube train rather than Crossrail? For that is the likely outcome.

  14. Littlejohn says:

    Are there any stats as to what proportion of tube travellers use Oyster? It might be lower than some commentators seem to suppose. Even when I lived in Harefield/Uxbridge/Ruislip, I travelled into Town with a one-day travel card because I didn’t work there and travelled infrequently so Oyster was of no great benefit to me. Now I can travel from Newbury to Paddington in much the same time as it took from Uxbridge if I catch an HST. And the travel card element of the fare is really very modest. From casual observation there seems to be almosst as many people putting travel cards through the gate machines as using Oysters.

  15. mr_jrt says:

    Fair points.

    With the push to ITSO though, I think paper’s on borrowed time.

    The point is not that passengers would have to swipe a-la the pink readers – it’d be higher powered readers that would read the Oyster card in passengers pockets as they passed by. Arguably could replace the pink readers in some cases. In narrow tube passageways this shoudl be quite viable…likewise on platforms. The trick would be getting readers that could interrogate hundreds of cards quickly at distance.

  16. Anonymous says:

    @Ian Sergeant

    “The interchange one step further east on Crossrail 1 at TCR provides most of the destinations people would want from Oxford Circus”

    KXStP I grant you can be reached from Paddington or Farringdon, but what about Victoria?

  17. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Anonymous 09:49

    Exactly and that’s the problem. I did specifically say southbound  Victoria Line platforms. Mind you the initial modelling was done years ago so maybe even northbound would be a problem now. If only you could selectively allow passengers through depending on their destination. Of course with Oyster and Travelcards this just isn’t possible.

    I have never quite understood why there is no proposed link from  Oxford Circus to Bond Street east but I presume this is because they don’t like the idea of asymmetric journeys and because it confuses passengers. Asymmetric journeys as people tried to maximise their opportunity to get a seat and the consequent loss of useful capacity was one of the serious concerns about taking the Fleet Line to Hayes.

  18. Ian Sergeant says:

    @Anonymous 09:49

    What am I missing? Victoria is one stop south of TCR on Crossrail 2.

  19. timbeau says:

    @Ian Sergeant

    You’ll have a long wait to make that connection. Probably not in my lifetime.

  20. Josh says:

    Do we know when the first breakthrough’s are due to happen? Which is first? Woolwich? Canary Wharf? Bond Street shaft?

  21. Timmy! says:

    Thanks again for another excellent article. As a commentator here (or here) said, seeing workers in the tunnels gives a whole new perspective. I’m in awe of the scale of engineering and overall size. I see the peak of activity is from now until 2015 – should be some exciting developments. I look forward to TfL notices on the Tube similar to the Jubilee Line extension (with TBMs named ‘Sharon’ and ‘Tracy’ if I remember correctly!).

  22. Graham says:

    I’ve often wondered if TfL are missing a trick with Oyster. IIRC, in the original tests (with the product’s default power levels) the RFID used in the Oyster card triggered 4-5 gates at once.

    Do you have a reference for that? Oyster cards communicate using the near field effect, which is a physical phenomenon that drops off precipitously at a fixed distance (proportional to the RF wavelength and the size of the antenna). You can’t simply turn up the power to increase the effective distance.

    (it may be possible to eavesdrop from further away, but that still requires the card to be next to a reader)

  23. mr_jrt says:

    As I wasn’t there during said testing I must’ve read it somewhere…but I’m dammed if I can recall where, and Google isn’t helping. 🙁

    For my cursory research looking for this info for you, the MIFARE tech the cards are based on has a default range of up to 6cm, and you can possibly tune some RFID setups to increase the range to dramatic levels (several metres are possible), but I can’t see how this correlates with the 6cm figure given for MIFARE, nor why the sorts of modifications required would even be in place on a test gateline.

    Another source suggests my suggested use case could be possible with a different product, but obviously this isn’t the case with the existing Oyster tech, unless the tests I read about happened to refer to very, very early evaluations that used differing RFID options.

  24. MikeP says:

    While monitoring traffic flows and routes at intermediate points via Oyster (without bonking) would be helpful for planning purposes, can you imagine the privacy backlash ?? And the paranoia that it would raise over being trackable not just when on the transport network, but everywhere. Bizarre, I know, with the current level of cellular phone use, but there you go…..

    In case peeps think we’ve grown beyond that, the original Oyster paranoia is being repeated over nationwide smartcard ticketing. At least, it is on the Daily Mail forums 🙂

  25. Greg Tingey says:

    Another, much more practical & immediate reason for NOT monitoring flows at intermediate points…
    The crowd-crushes & traffic-jams.
    You really just do not want to go there, I can assure you.

  26. Anonymous says:

    ” reason for NOT monitoring flows at intermediate points… The crowd-crushes & traffic-jams..”

    Look at the crushing at Wimbledon when SWT decide that revenue extortion is more important than the safety or convenience of their victims who have a connection to make

  27. AViewFromInside says:

    One of the benefits of the WiFi in all stations (and the growing number of stations that allow public access) is that could let you monitor passenger flows to the granularity of each access point location – which given how poorly 2.4GHz penetrates the ground, should mean effectively a resolution of every publicl tunnel/corridor used. Of course it only works for people with their WiFi turned on, but even if that’s only 1% – given the sheer numbers those figures can be extrapolated to improve models. How much is officially planned to make use of this data yet, I don’t know – but I know that the possibilities are being discussed within LU.

    I was also shocked by how simple some of the modelling tools are for dynamic pedestrian flow analysis being done for the Crossrail stations – the %ages of people taken each route have to be programmed in manually, rather than a thorough agent-based solution that would see passengers taking alternate routes if one corridor was jammed. Seemed to me like if these assumptions were wrong, then the models have significant scope for error…

  28. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mr JRT – I’ve just skimmed over the comments and note the remark about Oyster prototypes triggering multiple gates. As I was one of the people involved in all of the early LU and bus trials of smartcards I have no recollection of such an event ever happening in the field or even on test equipment in the factory. Given the small area above a target that is “active” waiting to detect a card I do not see how multiple gates could ever be activated by the normal presence of a card.

  29. DW down under says:

    [email protected]:48AM, 6th April 2013

    Oh, dear. We do have great expectations of Crossrail – that they’ve got it right. A lot has been done to immunise the project from extraneous variables, to ensure tight delivery and good fiscal control.

    It would be a crying shame if the basic analysis was up the shoot because of weakly grounded assumptions and poor simulation tools at the “paper stage.” After all, on paper it’s easy to fix, But now there’s holes in the ground and concrete getting sprayed – it’s too late!

  30. mr_jrt says:

    @Walthamstow Writer
    Fair enough – but I honestly read it somewhere – I’m not making it up…but the point stands, if TPTB wanted to do so, they could, abet by a new version of the cards and and readers.

  31. MiaM says:


    In which cases would it be useful information to know which route from A to B a passenger took, where it’s not more or less obvious if entry and exit times are cross referenced to how the trains followed the timetables when that journey were made?

    Generally Re. Oxford Circus: How many of todays Central line passengers will switch to using Crossrail? How many passengers will change from Crossrail to Central and then go back to Oxford Circus to change to the Picadilly line?

  32. DW down under says:

    @ MiaM

    You’ve got us there, friend! Either you meant change to the VICTORIA line …. or you meant: go back to Holborn Kingsway to change to the Picc.

  33. Greg Tingey says:

    MiaM & DWdu
    If we are talking about people coming in from the West …
    Those who would now use the Met/H&C/Circus will probably stay on Xr-1 to the City, ditto those changing at Ealing Braodway, unless, of course they want somewhere “before” Bond St.
    If they want to go North, then I woould expect them to change @ either TCR or Faringdon
    If South, then Bond St, for Victoria or Waterloo or London Bridge – though a s-bound connection @ Farringdon is also a possibility.
    So, in that sense, NOT including Oxford Circus, except for emergencies seems not so bad an idea.
    Coming from the East, we can expect the vast numbers wedging the central line @ Stratford to vanish, as they use Xr-1 instead. Southbound onto Jubilee here, also for the S-of-the-river ex-SR termini.
    Northbound interchanges at the Mporgate end of the double station there, & southbound, too (which is going to make the rebuilding of Bank on the Northern even more urgent) & Farringdon.
    Southbound also @ TCR & Bond St.

  34. timbeau says:


    Bond St, for Victoria …….

    The only direct service between Bond Street station and Victoria is the No 73 bus.

    You could change for direct trains to both the Brighton and Chatham Main Lines at Farringdon.

  35. Ian Sergeant says:

    …and at TCR once Crossrail 2 is built, but I’m sounding like a long playing record…

  36. Anonymous says:

    …..but I’m sounding like a long playing record

    You will need a very long playing record to last until XR2 comes along

  37. Alan Griffiths says:

    Josh06:07PM, 5th April 2013
    Do we know when the first breakthrough’s are due to happen? Which is first? Woolwich? Canary Wharf? Bond Street shaft?

    You missed it!

  38. Malcolm says:

    … and the is the issue of oyster cards in people’s pockets/luggage which they have no intention of using because they have a paper ticket, another Oyster, (on buses) an over-60-issued-outside-London pass, etc etc. The oyster might be carried for use another day. Or indeed, they might have just bought it for Auntie Flo. One of the reasons why I’m very dubious about contactless paying, at least until they’ve got the snags ironed out.

  39. Greg Tingey says:

    I have an Oyster (which I must remember to use some time this month, on a bus, just to keep it valid for another year ….
    Now I have a Londoner’s over-60 “Pass” plus other (rail passes for soem areas) validations, I very rarely need my “O” – but I might.
    I keep it well away indeed from my normal card.

    I know of people who have “bleep” annual seasons + an Oyster & they occasionally get the gates electronic knockers in a toal twist.[ Didn’t we discuss this here, some time back? ]

  40. Malcolm says:

    Do you have to use an oyster once a year? I’ve never heard that rule, and I’ve definitely broken it, but when I recently put my Senior Railcard on (just in case) no problem was flagged up.

  41. Malcolm says:

    Crossrail links to Victoria.

    But just not building an underground link to the southbound Vic line platforms will not stop pax from wanting to travel somehow to Victoria, surely? And isn’t whatever route(s) all these crowds finish up using going to get equally crowded instead? Or is it hoped that they will all just stay at home?

  42. Greg Tingey says:

    If you don’t use your Oyster, after a certain time-interval ( I can’t remember if its’ a year or 18 months ) it goes “dormant” & you have to go to a staiton (or is it a central office?) to get it re-activated.
    But, if you use it once-a-year, it stays active.

    Yes, but … the idea is to spread the flows out, so as to alliviate the wedging.

  43. Anonymous says:

    According to TfL, the credit on an Oyster doesn’t expire – see

  44. Martin Potts says:

    “The tunnels at Westbourne Park (the track is for the TBM)”

    Actually not correct. The track is for the trains that transport personnel and equipment (tunnel segments etc) from the tunnel mouth to the TBMs and also haul excavated dirt to surface.

  45. Greg Tingey says:

    Fascinating – the exact opposite of what I’d been told.
    Except, perhaps – the credit remains, but the card may go “dormant”?
    Don’t know – can’t find anything on TfL’s web-site, either ….

  46. Josh says:

    The easier way to get to Victoria may be to get the Circle line from Paddington.

  47. Anonymous says:

    “The easier way to get to Victoria may be to get the Circle line from Paddington.”

    Easy, but very slow – it’s a lot more circuitous than it looks on the Tube map.

    TfL’s Journey planner reckons, even with the change at Oxford Circus, that its just as quick, and far more frequent, to go Padd – Vic by the Bakerloo and Victoria lines, and the No 36 bus is not far behind.

    Indeed, JP currently shows it is even quicker to miss out Paddington altogether and change from the GWML (and XR1 when it comes) at Ealing Broadway for the District Line to Victoria. From the east, Whitechapel would provide a similar facility.

  48. Dstock7080 says:

    02:13PM, 9th April 2013
    The easier way to get to Victoria may be to get the Circle line from Paddington.”

    With the SSR ATO work complete before Crossrail opens this should speed things. Paddington-Embankment due complete Feb 2017.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t the problem with Oxford Circus that the platforms are all north and east of the junction, while crossrail is south and west, and that there are massive sewers running very close to the platforms (which caused the awkward platform exit layout in the first place)

  50. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t a large portion of Victoria to Oxford Circus passengers include those who arrive at Victoria mainline and won’t a portion of them stop using Victoria when a decent service starts on Thameslink in 2018. When Thameslink and Crossrail arrive a lot of passengers from South of London will change their routes.

    The current Thameslink service in the peaks going through Herne Hill is so slow that few use it unless it is their direct link. (Even then when I travelled to an office half way between Cannon Street and Blackfriars every day I used to go to London Bridge and change to a Cannon Street train as it was much faster than a direct train to Blackfriars).

  51. peezedtee says:

    @Anon 4.12am
    Could you give examples of the sort of journeys you think will switch from Victoria to Thameslink in 2018? Since Thameslink is still not going to go anywhere near the West End, I’m not understanding your point.

  52. Anonymous says:

    As someone who commutes on the Orpington to Victoria via Herne Hill line I’d say that the number of people getting on at Herne Hill in the mornings is equal to or just slightly more than those getting off. The trains are always busy, even on the 30-minute interval Sunday services. In the last five years a lot more morning peak passengers change to the tube at Brixton to avoid the closures at Victoria tube because of congestion. Whether that reverts back when the enlarged Victoria ticket hall opens waits to be seen. I think Kent/SE London-Victoria-Oxford Circus will always be a popular route into the West End unless a Crossrail approach could see mainline service from the SE tunnel under Victoria straight into Oxford Circus. I guess Thameslink could remove some of the Orpington-Victoria passengers who currently head east on the District and Circle lines but the current SE FCC services at Herne Hill are fairly well timed to meet each other.

  53. Alan Griffiths says:

    Crossrail posters have begun appearing at stations east of Stratford, in a manner that suggests more will follow. I’ll send in three examples.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Forgive me if this question has already been addressed – I don’t visit here often enough – and I come at it merely as an observer and rail user, but why is there to be no new station a North Woolwich to connect with the ferry. The current bus stop is a lonely and desolate place and not very cheering or encouraging. I could guess and say the route as planned deviates away from any possible station that could serve the ferry, but on this occasion would welcome an explanation.

  55. timbeau says:

    @Anon 0742

    Why would you want to transfer from Crossrail to the ferry at North Woolwich? Staying on the train one more stop will get you to Woolwich anyway

  56. Annoymous says:

    Well that’s a point of view, but what about the people who actually live in the area that is currently only served by buses? I suppose the same argument is being used as for there being no station at Surrey Canal Road, but in the case of North Woolwich Custom House is not close by. As I said, I come at this with no special knowledge or insight and am just a observer and rail user.

  57. timbeau says:

    “but in the case of North Woolwich Custom House is not close by.”

    But King George V DLR station is, and that provides connections to Crossrail in both directions (not to mention to the rest of the world via London City Airport)

  58. Anonymous says:

    I did a google street view and see that King George V DLR station is, indeed, nearby.

    I can’t find out anything about what is to be done with the old and beautiful North Woolwich station. Such a shame that a magnificant building is being left to rack and ruin.

  59. Snowy says:

    Some updated excellent pictures available on the crossrail site of the now refurbished Connaught tunnel.

  60. Anonymous says:

    King George V DLR station is, indeed, nearby but to get a connection with cross rail you will still have to travel 20m by DLR towards central London or travel to Woolwich to then come back, it will still take longer and considering that the people leaving in the north Woolwich area had all the inconvenience of the tunnel to been built in the area the should have at least the privilege of a station in North Woolwich!

  61. timbeau says:

    You could say that of anywhere a new route is put through: how about a Crossrail statoin at Pudding Mill Lane? An HS2 station at Northolt and another at Duddeston?

  62. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – I demand a HS1 station be built in Hackney after all the tunnelling disruption! 😉

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