With Crossrail well into the phase of building the railway infrastructure we look at progress in the tunnel section and what is being done to push forward ahead of schedule

Not just a real railway

A huge project like Crossrail can be looked at and broken down in many ways. Indeed Chairman Andrew Wolstenholme talks about it being two projects – the real railway and the virtual one. The real railway is obvious. The virtual railway is the the incredible amount of data being collected. This is modelling the railway in advance, and during, its construction so that all the data, diagrams etc. are up to date and correct. As a result Crossrail quite literally knows not only where every nut and bolt is, but also their history, type and how many other nuts and bolts share those properties.

The three construction phases of Crossrail

Another way of looking at Crossrail is three distinct construction phases. There is the tunnelling which, until about a year ago, was the primary activity. The second phase is fitting out of both the tunnels and the existing railway that will form part of Crossrail. The third, oft forgotten, phase is systems integration and testing. We are clearly into the second phase but, even more than most big construction projects, Crossrail is always thinking ahead and it is the third phase system integration that probably concerns people more.

Dealing with the known unknowns

A senior Network Rail manager, at the time working on Thameslink, put it this way. The construction phase is not such a problem. It may be daunting but it is all technology that is, or at least should be, predictable. In particular, timescales in the construction world should be very predictable and it is not often in the railway world that a hardware project overruns.

The predictability of hardware projects is in complete contrast to software projects (such as resignalling with ATO), which are notorious for either overrunning or not delivering what was specified. This is not to disparage the software side of things which, when it is successfully introduced, often produces greater benefits at a much lower cost and enables further improvements to be made by subsequent “tweaks”.

Systems integration is very different from construction and involves bring together and testing a myriad of processes (generally involving a lot of software) including such diverse elements as state-of-the-art signalling, ventilation management, radio reception, evacuation procedures and how to manage out-of-course events. In many cases, the technology may be almost cutting edge – mature enough to be reliable on its own but not necessarily tested in all scenarios with all combinations of the other elements of modern technology surrounding it. And that is before you add the human element. If construction is the known known then system integration is the known unknown.

Concentrate on the systems integration

The reason for spelling out the risk involved in various phases is to make it clear that any time that can be gained from the construction phase can be put to good use in the systems implementation phase. Of course in the old days the system implementation phase didn’t really exist. The physical construction was done, the staff were trained and HM Railway Inspectorate would be invited to come down and sign off the new railway. Public services would often start the next day.

As railways got more complicated, however, time would be allocated to make sure everything worked together. But all too often this time allocated was underestimated and then eaten into by late running construction. On Crossrail the current aim is, at worst, not to delay the systems integration phase and, ideally, to buy more time for it.

Scope creep bad, schedule optioneering good

It is often said that the important thing is to have a plan and to stick to it. It is also said that one should have an objective and stick to it. The two are very different things.

Once the exact form that Crossrail should take had been decided it was fairly clear it had an objective to build a railway from Maidenhead to Shenfield and Abbey Wood with the main tunnel section opening by December 2018. It is a project that is well known for resisting outside change that would alter this objective – “scope creep.”

That isn’t to say that Crossrail has been entirely immune from this. The main change has been to extend to Reading, but once Network Rail were committed to Great Western electrification this made a lot of sense and, in any case, the main reason for the project being cut back from its original objective of Reading to Maidenhead was to avoid it incurring costs that in the Railtrack era would have been assigned to it.

Another example of scope creep, largely forgotten, is level access at all stations. In this case it was something Crossrail itself wanted in order to make a better product – provided someone else found the money, of course. Crucially, this was the sort of add-on that could be provided without impacting seriously on other activities.

The importance of a Construction timetable

Construction is a very complicated activity. It relies on things being done in the right order and the right equipment, materials and appropriate people being available. Some items have long lead times. Others are scarce resources. On the positive side, with modern machinery and construction techniques things can progress very quickly if everything is planned properly. If one is lucky, one may even have an advantage of construction techniques and equipment improving in the lifetime of the project enabling time or money saving to be made. This is something that can be hoped for but not relied upon.

The secret is to have a well-planned (but not too ambitious) construction schedule so that everything can come together at the right time. Once this is in place one can determine an opening date.

Although an initial construction timetable is important, it should not be regarded as something that has to be adhered to. Nowadays, construction timetables tend to be very conservative. If you are ahead of schedule and a subsequent crucial task cannot be brought forward it thus does not really matter. On the other hand, if one is even slightly behind schedule the knock-on effects can turn a small delay into a large delay if critical plant cannot be rescheduled or specifically booked time slots cannot be taken advantage of.

A classic example, much seen on Network Rail in recent months, is the problem of an external factor such as windy weather conditions – avoiding this is crucial if you are relying on a crane. Any plan that relies on windspeed being below a certain level on a particular day is to avoided when possible. Normally this is resolved by having back-up dates in case the work cannot be done on the first planned date – but Network Rail do not always have that luxury and sometimes one simply has to cancel the work and reschedule at a future, as yet unknown, date. Rescheduling is not a huge problem for a single independent task, such as like-for-like bridge replacement, unless there is an urgent necessity to get the work done. It is a different matter if there is a sequence of tasks that can only be carried out once the work involving the crane is completed.

Three distinct construction criteria

For much of Crossrail construction the engineers have the rare luxury of not having to fit in with a live running railway – something we will explore more in an upcoming feature. Indeed, another way of dividing the Crossrail railway construction phase is to look at the three distinct areas where the requirements are different.

The central bit and south eastern section

In the central unopened railway between Royal Oak (Paddington) and Abbey Wood, Crossrail has the luxury of being somewhat insulated from having to take into account the effect of activities on the day-to-day world outside. It is true that on the surface there has to be a level of co-ordination with others, but deep in the tunnels the project is largely free to progress as it sees fit. So, although there are exceptions such as agreed closure dates of tube stations or roads, the construction can largely go on at a pace that is determined by Crossrail and can be speeded up if the opportunity arises – or slowed down if necessary.

This independence was notable in the tunnelling phase when the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) made far better progress than planned for and, for the most part, bettered the most optimistic forecasts. Other work could be rescheduled and even resequenced to take advantage of this.

The eastern section

In contrast to the central tunnel section, east of Stratford Crossrail has to contend with a live railway but it does have the considerable advantage that the only passenger service that normally runs on it is already under Crossrail’s operational wing – even if advertised under a different name. The decision has been made here to go for lots of weekend closures and upgrade the railway whilst the opportunity is there. There are some fairly big projects going on such as the work at Shenfield which, amongst other things, involves an extra platform. Elsewhere there are new station footbridges and major station refurbishments which include platform extensions. There is also a comprehensive programme of railway renewal, including replacing the catenary.

There is never a good time to do the work involved on the eastern section of Crossrail, but it is far better to get this done before Crossrail begins in earnest. In a way it could be argued it has already been left later than it ideally should have been because TfL taking over the Shenfield – Liverpool Street service has already resulted in a considerable increase in the number of passengers, despite the accompanying weekend engineering works.

Clearly, east of Stratford, Crossrail construction is constrained by only having the railway closed at weekends though it is fairly free to use this time to its best advantage.

The western section

West of Old Oak, Crossrail has to work with a live 7-days a week railway. This, in some ways, is made worse by Great Western electrification also taking place. The sharing of tracks with the Great Western Railway (and freight) severely restricts both the time available and the opportunity to reschedule work once time slots are allocated – generally booked months, and sometimes years, in advance.

It is pertinent to note that the original plan was for Crossrail to open on the west side first and run new stock from 2017 onward from Maidenhead. The thought was that there was not much to be done, the platforms were long enough and the signalling was in place. How hard can a bit of electrification be? Eventually wiser counsel prevailed and it was realised that not only was the work on the western side not that simple but that, in fact, it would be easier to have the eastern side ready by 2017 even though more work needed to be done.

A manageable project

Part of Crossrail’s great success has been breaking the project down into manageable chunks, with each chunk let as a contract. Indeed Crossrail managers seem to refer to everything by its contract or C number – be it the Thames Tunnel or the fitting out of Tottenham Court Road station. In construction, as in many other walks of life including software, the trick is to get these manageable chunks to an optimum size – a true black art – and crucially to minimise (or at least manage) the interfaces between the different construction projects.

Length of PlatformTottenham Court Road station platform at track level completely partitioned off from the platform itself

The lengths Crossrail has gone to so as to minimise interfaces and to prevent one contract affecting another is quite surprising. This can be see at Tottenham Court Road where the track work (one contract) is completely separated from the station work (a different contract) by a large temporary, but fairly substantial, wall. The structure for hanging the platform edge doors from the ceiling is almost complete but a small portion at each end has not been finished in order to achieve contract segregation by the required date. The only connection between the two contractual sites is a fire door for emergency evacuation.

fire doorThe only way to get from one worksite to another

Amongst other things, with this wall in place at Tottenham Court Road, the tracklayers can plan their work including ventilation management plans using temporary ventilation (especially vital once the diesel power trains are in the tunnels) without having to consider the impact on, or liaise with, the team at Tottenham Court Road station.

As we shall shortly see, this separation of contracts does have its downside.

Current state in the middle

Today the overall project is progressing according to schedule, more-or-less. Well established techniques for laying track learnt from the Channel Tunnel, French TGV routes and HS1 mean that a sophisticated production line system is progressing.

In recent months Crossrail has been proudly showing off its concreting train, its multi-purpose gantries and its drilling rig.

Crossrail video explaining tracklaying. Accompanying text here.

The concreting train is purpose built and can concrete approximately 180 metres a night. The general plan is that concreting is done at night with maintenance on the plant and any site preparation necessary done during the day. Only if noise for residents above became a significant issue would this be switched around, but this has not been necessary so far.

To all intents and purposes a production line phase of fitting out, where one large production factory on rail wheels simply follows another and the railway gets built, is now in effect on Crossrail. Again, this is something we will talk more about at a later date and whilst that is a simple overview, the reality is much more complicated than that. In general, rail-mounted machinery will return to its base on the surface each day or night for maintenance and restocking.

With around 21 months to go until January 2018, when Crossrail aims to be in an integration and testing phase, they are clearly going to have their work cut out if they are to have the 42 kilometres of tunnel and various short surface sections ready in time. In other words, they are progressing well but they need to – because the schedule does not allow for otherwise.


Crossrail can’t just rush and get everything done at once because they are constrained. This is basically down to three issues: sequencing the tasks, access considerations and restrictions brought about by noise issues. We consider each of these in turn.


Things have to be done in a particular sequence. The concrete base has already been laid through the tunnels. The next stage is generally to lay temporary jointed rails. This enables the concrete to be poured for the track. Once the concrete is poured then permanent track can be laid. With track in place one can bring along other “rolling factories” to do their work in a very precise, ordered way.

The above is a simplification but, generally, the idea is to get rails in the concrete so that one has a precise alignment and other plant can work. Of course it is not as simple as that. One needs plant to lay the rails in the first place. In the case of Crossrail, these are on pneumatic tyres. The four multi-purpose gantries, in particular, can only run on pneumatic tyres. On these, the wheels can be adjusted heightwise so on one side the wheels are at track level and on the other they climb up a ramp to be at platform level. Furthermore the whole frame can “squeeze itself in” so that it fits within the Network Rail loading gauge and can travel on the live railway upstairs.

The hole story

Another complication is that by sequencing activity one has, at the start, nothing happening in certain places and plant lying idle elsewhere. So, although the preference is for the drilling rig to run on rails it also has the capability to run on tyres and, of course, there is no reason why the necessary holes for rigid catenary, cable brackets and more cannot be drilled in advance of the rails being in place. This is especially helpful when one considers how many of the tasks subsequent to rail laying require the holes to be in place before they can commence. It would be possible to drill the holes by hand but that would be less accurate and the marking out in advance of drilling would be very time consuming.

Crossrail’s Drilling Rig

As a digression, it is interesting to note that Crossrail did not have the holes already pre-drillled or cast in advance, but chose to wait until the tunnels had actually been built. The actual reason is unknown but anyone aware of the history of the construction of the Spitfire fighter plane will be aware how crucial it is to get holes in exactly the right place. One of the lesser known stories of World War II is how Lord Nuffield (of Morris cars fame) nearly lost us the war by trying to build Spitfire planes like cars. Amongst other problems, he tried to build the planes with the holes for the rivets pre-drilled into the assembly parts, only for them to not line up when the plane was assembled.


The second of the major constraints that Crossrail faces in the tunnels is access for rail vehicles. The Pudding Mill Portal is not, to the best of our knowledge, being used for access. This leaves the Royal Oak Portal west of Paddington and the Plumstead Portal south of the Thames. This means that it will be a long time before rails get laid at somewhere around Farringdon. As well as that, you then have the problem of getting stuff out. If other plant is following on behind then it is not simply a matter of reversing. There is a crossover tunnel at Holborn, currently without rails, but even if it had rails laid, not all the plant would be capable of using it.

Noise and consequent track considerations

Crossrail claim that in most normal circumstances noise will not be a problem. The sleepers will generally have their own rubber sock that should remove a lot of the vibrations. The idea of modifying the structure around the track to reduce vibrations is nothing new and it has been successfully used in a different way by Network Rail for the Thameslink service under St Pancras Hotel. On Crossrail the use is much more extensive and the only tunnel not to be fitted with any kind of noise dampening track structure is the Connaught tunnel under the Royal Docks.

When the Crossrail bill was going through Parliament there were numerous objections concerning noise but clearly, in general, Parliament was satisfied that everything reasonable had been done to counter it, and even the residents of Mayfair had to be content with this.

Exceptions were made though in a couple of cases. These were because the vibration would interfere with recording studios located in Soho and also the Barbican Concert Hall. Parliament felt that these objections required more than the standard mitigating measures and specified that what is generally known as floating slab track was to be used in these locations.

Not the complete answer

One has to be careful with extolling the praises of floating track and other noise reducing track construction techniques too much. Crossrail can proudly show off their floating track construction deep below the streets of London, but the Baldrick-like flaw in the cunning plan soon becomes apparent as one can clearly hear and feel the vibration present from an existing Tube line – presumably the Central line. The technique is probably completely impractical for retrofitting on existing lines. The space available would likely be a problem but the length of closures required to install it would probably make it utterly impractical on their own. In a similar manner one does wonder about the benefit of quieter track in the vicinity of London City Airport.

It’s all done with springs

Floating slab track is track laid on a slab of concrete that is supported on very strong springs.

tottenham court road separationTottenham Court Road station at track level with shuttered boxes to provide access through the concrete slab so the springs can be installed.

The technology is not new and has been used before on various railways including HS1. However, for various reasons, it is expensive. It requires a lot of manpower to install. To get the necessary weight of supported concrete track you also either have to make the tunnels even bigger – which as you are using TBMs means that, in practice, they have to bigger along the whole length of the route – or you have to use an especially dense form of concrete. The especially dense form of concrete brings its own separate issues as you cannot use standard concreting plant and machinery with it.

Now having a relatively small site where you have to put floating track is not too bad. You simply work from the west to access sites to the west of the floating track and work from the east to access sites to the east of the floating track. Meanwhile work advances on the floating track ready for the final fitting out when the production line finally arrives on site.

floating slab track requires a lot of rebarFloating slab track involves lots of rebar

The problem for Crossrail is that there are two sections of floating track. These effectively isolate the section in between. A further complication is that you potentially cannot get the heavy concrete to it, which limits preparation to setting out the reinforced steel bars (rebars) by manual labour – a massive job in itself.

Getting the concrete in

Ultimately the Crossrail construction programme could not be accelerated further because of the restriction that the concrete had to be delivered from one of the extremities of the tunnels.

The issue of concrete delivery was recognised during the phase when an initial concrete base was put into the tunnels. This concreting was not so critical and did not require a sophisticated concreting machine to deliver it. Not for the first time, the Kingsway tram subway provided an opportunity for Crossrail and from there they simply drilled a hole into the the top of one of the running tunnels to provide a flexible chute for concrete delivery. This could then be delivered to wherever it was needed.

Concrete dispenser from Kingsway tram tunnelThe chute through which concrete arrived from Kingsway tram tunnel

Unfortunately the Kingsway subway solution wasn’t really viable as a way of providing heavy concrete for the section between Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street station. The extra weight would have produced problems and the concrete really needs to be continuously pumped through rigid pipes.

It turned out that what one would have thought was an ideal location, Tottenham Court Road station, was not really suitable either. Although the site may look big there is a lot of concurrent activity going on and the thing would have been a logistical nightmare.

In contrast Bond Street (we presume this means the Hanover Square site) provided more possibilities. The problem here, as elsewhere, was that this operation simply had not been envisaged and, though it sounded simple, there would be all sorts of issues. It is now that the isolation of the different contracts was working against a beneficial change and it took six months of negotiating to sort out all the issues.

Fisher Street shaftFisher Street shaft

More fortuitously the Fisher Street shaft, just to the east of the Holborn Kingsway subway dive-down entrance, was ideal for pumping concrete. The problem was that it wasn’t especially close to where it was needed and as, far as is known, no-one had pumped heavy concrete over the distance necessary. As it was, new plant would have to be imported to the UK and there would probably be no future use for it in this country. The heavy concrete is more typically used in Sweden for basements as the water table is quite high in Sweden so the walls and floor need to be especially heavy to prevent the entire structure from floating. However, when building walls and basement floors in Sweden you generally have easy access to the site.

Ianvisits has already reported on the visit Crossrail made possible to see what is going on under London. You can find it here. Amongst other things the photos are probably better than you will see on this site. Geofftech has done his usual excellent video for Londonist which can be found here. No doubt New Civil Engineer and all the other usual suspects rounded up by Crossrail for a visit will also provide excellent interesting accounts of what is going on. RailEngineer has reported in the past on the details of the tracklaying process. Here we just remind you that it is some of the less exciting advances, such as working out how to deliver a load of concrete, that can actually provide a significant benefit to a project like Crossrail.

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There are 228 comments on this article
  1. Old Buccaneer says:

    Good piece PoP. I shudder to think of the consequences if a floating track spring fails once the railway is operational.

    You piqued my interest with the Nuffield story too & I will research it further.

  2. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Old Buccaneer,

    I haven’t gone into the technical detail much. There were people on the visit who are far more capable than I of doing that. Also, the Crossrail website is quite good on this.

    One of the pictures shows some square holes regularly spaced along the floating slab track. These are for accessing the springs. The floating concrete base can be jacked up and a spring replaced. I would imagine it would be a simple overnight job. No need to close the railway to do it.

    On the subject of Spitfires and Lord Nuffield, I am fairly sure the book giving the detail is Spitfire by Robert Jackson. Either the author had it in for Lord Nuffield or the man was a bit of a walking disaster when it comes to manufacturing aircraft. It took the brashness, arrogance and pig-headed determination of Lord Beaverbrook to turn the situation around.

  3. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Anyone visiting Infrarail today would not only have seen John Bull in his finery, but also the concreteing train in action at Custom House. The train would have concrete running along the conveyors into a pumping system for a few minutes, then with a squeal of brakes that only an engineering train can make, it would shuffle down the line a few metres, stop, and the concrete conveyors would start again.

    Presumably it was a remarkable coincidence that it was working day shift at Custom House on the day of the country’s largest rail industry products exhibition.

  4. Old Buccaneer says:

    SFD: I think that ‘coincidence’ is one of the things you pay programme managers for (as well as the things listed in the article).

  5. Walthamstow Writer says:

    [Typos corrected, thx. LBM]

    I had read a little bit about the track laying activity. I hadn’t, though, seen the drilling rig video. Clearly a lot of thought went into planning how these major jobs will be done and it’s very impressive. I’ll be interested to see how well other contract packages work together.

    We are, of course, heading into the arena where “public” deadlines have to be met and that’s where management of the contracts becomes all important to avoid cost escalation and “silly games” being played by key trades. Clearly Crossrail’s dates are not as immovable as the turn of the century was for the JLE but it will be immensely embarrassing if Crossrail doesn’t begin service on the relevant National Timetable changes dates in 2018 and 2019. There is obviously a degree of flex around introducing the new trains on Great Eastern and potentially taking over the Heathrow Connect service.

    As an aside the Jubilee Line Extension project also used “Cnumber” terminology for all of its work packages. I was involved largely in C208 which was the JLE ticketing contract. It is presumably an industry standard as I’m sure I’ve read the same thing for new metro line construction in HK and Singapore.

  6. Kate says:

    Most articles on LR are written for a reasonably informed person. That is one of the joys of LR – for me at least. In contrast this article seems to me to be considerably slower and explains more. Neither style is inherently better or inferior to the other (it is a choice for an author what type of audience he is writing for) , but as feedback I for one would prefer either a more consistent approach between articles or some categorisation to show upfront which articles are deliberately more accessible (like this one IMO) than others.

    Sorry, but I think polite, honest feedback is important.

  7. stevekeiretsu says:

    The IEE has an interesting look at the “virtual railway” mentioned in the first paragraph.

  8. Kate,

    Not quibbling in any way with what you said. Personally, I find it easier to write about either something I specifically want to write about and have probably thought about for ages or something that niggles me and makes me want to dissect it (such as a highly mis-leading press release).

    What we had here is a golden opportunity presented to us in the form of a visit. As it turned out John Bull was indisposed so, at short notice, I went. It seemed a pity to squander the trouble taken by Crossrail to organise this trip. At at the same time there was no point in competing in either picture quality or technical understanding of the issues involved with some of the other journalists or bloggers who have either already published their accounts or, no doubt, will do so. So I thought it better to look at a different aspect of the work. Inevitably, for me, this leads to a different style of article but it would be a shame not to report on it just because there isn’t a lot of deep insight.

  9. @Kate

    To a great extent articles are driven by the author’s own interests and curiosity, as PoP explains, with the corresponding level of detail (and technical explanation). Whilst I’m an engineer, I’m more interested in writing an interesting narrative. And personally, I try to discover why the choices (political, financial, technical) were made, for the real story.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  10. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    Thanks for an interesting update.

    As systems integration has always my forte then I’m a little disappointed that the “Concentrate on…” section was only two paragraphs. I would be interested in much, much more.

    “The Pudding Mill Portal is not, to the best of our knowledge, being used for access. ”

    I’m going to take a wild guess and suggest that the position in between eight active railway lines and the City Mill River makes the site a poor choice for access?

  11. Greg Tingey says:

    Wiki quote: The Supermarine Spitfire was a technically advanced aircraft. Though ordered by the Air Ministry in March 1936 by early 1938 no single plane had been made so a vast new factory at Castle Bromwich was ordered by the Air Secretary and Morris, now Lord Nuffield, placed in charge of it. He had claimed he could produce 50 Spitfires a week but by May 1940, the height of the Battle of France, not one Spitfire had been built at Castle Bromwich. That month Lord Beaverbrook was placed in charge of all aircraft production, Lord Nuffield was sacked and the plant handed over to Vickers, Supermarine’s parent company.[4]
    Oops, as they say.
    Also, Nuffield was in charge of MORRIS – Austin was an entirely separate company at that time & until the formation of BMC in 1952.
    [Oops, as you say. I have removed reference to Austin. PoP]

  12. Ian Sergeant says:

    nearly lost us the war

    non-BBC language – “nearly lost the Allies the war” might be more appropriate, and even then it may be an exaggeration. Heaven forbid that LR becomes the Daily Express.
    [Indeed but, also, heaven forbid that we become a slave to political correctness. PoP]

    It took the brashness, arrogance and pig-headed determination of Lord Beaverbrook to turn the situation around.

    Well that would never have appeared in the Daily Express. Remember that what Nuffield was managing was a supplementary factory to the one at Southampton which had the appropriate people from Supermarine involved. What Beaverbrook did was to ensure that those people were in place, which I would see as a standard management technique, not the action of someone arrogant.

    What needs to be stressed here is that Churchill had created the role for Beaverbrook three days before Beaverbrook intervened – you can draw your own conclusions. Also the attempts of the Air Ministry to perform the specialist task of assembling Spitfires using workers on average pay was bound to lead to the management and production issues which ensued. It isn’t hard for even a non expert such as myself to infer that Nuffield was, by no means, solely at fault for the lack of production.

  13. Ian Sergeant says:

    Additionally Churchill himself had only been Prime Minister for four days when he appointed Beaverbrook.

  14. Ian Sergeant (and others),

    I accept that Lord Nuffield’s culpability or otherwise was a lot more complicated than I have implied in a couple of sentences. The point I was trying to make is that mundane things such as how and when you drill a hole are really important and cannot be dismissed as a minor details. The consequences can be enormous and it needs sorting out. There are at least 250,000 holes to be drilled in the Crossrail tunnels and it is important to get it right.

    I think as much as appropriate (and a bit more) has now been said about Spitfire production.

    By the way, although Crossrail trumpets its achievements here I believe Network Rail has already done something very similar in order to drill holes for electrification support in the Severn tunnel.

  15. Briantist,

    With a lot of articles (including this one) one could write a whole lot more and there are always things omitted. It is certainly not unusual for people to express surprise a certain aspect was not mentioned or only mentioned briefly. But there has to be a balance reflecting what we believe the majority are interested in, what we are capable of writing about, time expended, length of article and writing for our own niche rather than producing standard articles about these topics. I am not disparaging the writings of others – merely pointing out that we are trying to be a bit different and not repeating what can be read about elsewhere.

  16. Alan Griffiths says:

    Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) 14 April 2016 at 06:09

    “The Pudding Mill Portal is not, to the best of our knowledge, being used for access ”

    which might be due to the current lack of track and points!

    At one point, the project was to use Aldersbrook sidings to deliver and work via Pudding Mill Lane portal. I don’t think they spent too long deciding that Plumstead would be a better option.

    I’m sure someone on here knows.

  17. ngh says:

    Re PoP et al.

    Holes – the key thing is that the precise spacing relative to other holes for the part that is going to be fixed which can only really be done with a jig and multiple drills. (and they can’t be pre-drilled before tunnelling especially if they are on different segments as you can’t get the required tolerances.)

    See the NR’s Severn tunnel example here:

    Work being done overnight or during other closures. Also being used in Scotland for the EGIP electrification scheme at the moment and can be adjusted for lots of different tunnel geometries.

    Lord Nuffield – In his will he generously left Oxford University a tidy sum to set up a college focused on engineering to help rectify the then lack of engineers (both in general and at the university) – it ended up being set up as a college focused on post graduate economics…
    [An appropriate final comment on Lord Nuffield. PoP]

  18. ngh says:

    Re Alan G,

    The problem with Pudding Mill as an access point is that it would be the last of the 3 possible locations to be brought into use and also the most problematic so would come with huge risk weighting…

  19. ngh,

    Yes a lot of it is down to relative spacing as anyone fitting a ceiling rose or similar can vouch for. But some things are critically spaced relative to the track so this is important as well (but maybe only in one dimension). And of course, precise location markers (if there are any) have to be, err, precisely located.

  20. ngh says:

    Re PoP,

    Dividing line between contracts and getting it in the right place – One now deceased senior BR engineer (@BR from the first to final day) described the the golden rule of rolling stock building as being: “make sure you order the doors and door frames from the same manufacturer so it is their problem not your problem”

  21. timbeau says:

    “it would be the last of the 3 possible locations to be brought into use ”
    Surely that is an advantage as an access point, as it can continue to be used after class 345s start running in and out of the other holes every few minutes.

  22. marckee says:

    @ngh, PoP: Although if you follow that to it’s logical conclusion, you end up ordering everything from a single supplier!

    But agreed: a skilled project manager (or architect) will hopefully know where to draw the line between the two approaches of a) pre-construction co-ordination and pre-fabrication and b) on-site survey and fabrication, and also which packages to combine under a single contract to minimise exposure to risk, and which to separate to minimise paying others for taking on risk.

    Using tools and approaches such as BIM in the design and manufacturing process helps hugely, but if truly streamlined construction is desired then you still need experienced people to make the judgments about where the contract boundaries and risk should lie. Sometimes the tolerances are such that it’s better to wait until elements are installed and settled before measuring and surveying, and sometimes it’s an acceptable risk to prefabricate based upon others drawings.

  23. ngh says:

    Re marckee,

    Agreed – The engineers point was about drawing the lines in the right places rather than single sourcing. Those lines ideally ending up in less critical places in that case welding the frame to the bodyshell being relatively lowest risk “line” thought the original thinking went back to wooden components on slamdoors stock

  24. ngh says:

    Re Timebeau,

    But accessed from lines with 345s and 315s running very few minutes…
    That section is only 2x 2.8km and can easily be fed overnight from the Plumstead base with reversal at Whitechapel.

    Once the track reaches Whitechapel it is easy to work in both directions as the total number of trains is relatively small just the sequence of them.

    Having the track (and points) to Custom House sorted will also see a big increase in work rate and productivity.

    Alderbrook sidings will be needed for other purposes (existing stock stabling and new stock delivery etc) as Ilford depot is seeing a big rebuild.

  25. timbeau says:

    “The engineers point was about drawing the lines in the right places rather than single sourcing.”

    In particular, if you want two components to couple together on the road (or indeed in space) it helps if they have been tested together before being sent to where they are to be fitted to the vehicles concerned. Any compatiblity problems will then be between the coupling and the vehicle, and can be resolved during assembly.

  26. RogerB says:

    There’s no right place to draw the dividing line. In my experience from sewage treatment plant design, (fitting mechanical and electrical plant into concrete structures), one usually does the opposite of what one did the time before to avoid the known problems. Are point motors supplied under the track or signalling contract?

  27. Ian J says:

    @ngh: The problem with Pudding Mill as an access point is that it would be the last of the 3 possible locations to be brought into use

    The start of work at Pudding Mill having been deferred to avoid some kind of sports event that happened close by a few years ago, I think (plus the need to divert the DLR before the portal was built).

    It’s interesting to see that the Severn Tunnel, like Crossrail, will have a rigid conductor beam rather than overhead wires.

    The use of the Kingsway tram subway seems particularly ingenious. Presumably they could drive a cement mixer down the ramp into the tunnel then pump directly down the hole?

  28. Anonymous says:

    RE the rubber boots previously used on Thameslink:

    Thameslink used a very similar system for the new tunnels connecting St Pancras and the East Coast. Thameslink’s system uses two independent half sleepers, each with their own boot, whereas the Crossrail system links the two half sleepers with a steel tie to maintain gauge and rail inclination. Both essentially mimic a classic concrete sleeper. There are vibration attenuating pads under the half sleepers but within the boot that give the track it’s low noise characteristics.

    For the editors, the track under St Pancras Hotel is nothing like the Canal Tunnels or Crossrail track – it is baseplated, with rubber-topped arms holding the rail up by the head. If you go to the north end of St Pancras low level you can see the two systems next to each other. Can you correct the article please?

    [Wording now changed to emphasise that the principle of modifying the track/trackbase to reduce noise is nothing new whilst being non-specific about how it was done at St Pancras. PoP]

  29. ngh says:

    Re Ian J,

    Conductor beam, Furrer+Frey have now got it working up to 275kph / 170mph and the Severn Tunnel is moving to different maintenance regime so they will have fewer opportunities to maintain any OHLE when the line is closed for other maintenance reasons hence high reliability low maintenance option.

    “The use of the Kingsway tram subway seems particularly ingenious. Presumably they could drive a cement mixer down the ramp into the tunnel then pump directly down the hole?”
    I’ve seen them emerging from the ramp recently I assume they would have to be reversed in though.

  30. Fandroid says:

    Interesting point about the floating slab sections of track dictating the size of the TBMs for the whole length of tunnelling. It would be equally interesting to find out how much those floating slab track sections increased the overall cost of the project. Even a small increase in tunnel diameter will have made a very noticeable increase in excavated volume (all barged to wildest Essex!). Add on the cost of the awkward and specialist engineering, and then the extra complexity of concreting the bit in between, I suspect that the total additional cost would have paid for lots of boxes of the highest calibre crayons. Seriously, it looks as if finding a way of achieving much lower vibrations without the all those downsides would be a research project worth pursuing for, say, HS2 or even CR2.

  31. timbeau says:

    A bigger tunnel would be harder to fit between all the other stuff down there, but I doubt the extra cost of the TBM would be significant. That is one reason we are not planning any more Yerkes-sized tubes.
    And yes, there is more spoil, but at least the tunnel through which it has to be extracted is also bigger!

  32. DPWH says:

    Why even bother with reduction though? I mean if you have recording studios, boohoo you – transport vibrations shouldn’t be unexpected in Central London. Why should the taxpayer have to subsidise your business when you could instead move the studios out to (say) Reading and use Crossrail to get there.

  33. Malcolm says:

    DPWH: The parliamentary committee could have taken the view that you express when considering the Crossrail bill. Apparently they did not. Rather than seeing it as “the taxpayer subsidising [the recording studio’s] business”, it could be seen as “the taxpayer ensuring that the business is not put to unreasonable extra expense or forced to move”. I doubt if everyone potentially aggrieved by Crossrail is as satisfied as this one might be. (Or might not, of course).

  34. RayK says:

    DPWH: And apart from that; moving to Reading would only advantage those people who can get to reading easier than they can get to London. This is likely to be a small proportion of those who wish to access the studios. People set up business in London because it is THE transport hub for the whole country; which is important for many types of business.

  35. Fandroid says:

    @timbeau. The TBM won’t be a lot bigger, as only the cutting face and the steel sleeve behind it need to go out to the bigger diameter. However, the concrete lining will be bigger. Extra costs might not be much in % terms, but remember how humungously expensive the project is. I doubt if the combined commentariat of LR would be able to pay for that extra cost.

  36. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Just to be clear. The tunnels are NOT larger as a result of the floating slab track. The price Crossrail paid to avoid larger tunnels was denser concrete so that the same weight of concrete slab could be laid with space underneath for a gap. By this means the floating slab track could fit into the same size tunnels. I just wasn’t sure if this point had been grasped. The floating slab concrete is extremely expensive so I imagine the larger tunnels would be more expensive still – or create major logistical problems (e.g. at Tottenham Court Road where the space available between existing tunnels was already very limited).

  37. ngh says:

    Re PoP, et al,

    In damping terms the usual adage is that there is “no substitute for mass” which usually leaves you with 2 options – bigger volume or higher density (or combination of the 2), they chose the higher density option.

  38. Fandroid says:

    @PoP. Thanks for clarifying that one!

    The point about the rebar that was made in the article is a good one IMO. I continue to be amazed at construction sites I glimpse where the slow, labour intensive, tradition of manual ‘steel-fixing’ seems to have survived despite its obvious disadvantages. That’s not the case with Crossrail as the problems of accessibility over-ride the designers’ desire for something more efficient.

  39. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Way off topic so it and responses deleted.

    And instead of asking us, why not ask Crossrail direct? That would seem to me to be far more sensible. They can be contacted at I have only used it a few times but I have always had sensible answers back.

  40. I have modified the article at the end to include a link to Geofftech’s excellent video made on the day. To save you searching you can link to it here.

  41. Ian J says:

    @Anonymous: Thameslink’s system uses two independent half sleepers, each with their own boot, whereas the Crossrail system links the two half sleepers with a steel tie to maintain gauge and rail inclination

    That does raise the question of how gauge is maintained in the Thameslink tunnels if the two rails can move independently of each other. Or can they only move up and down?

    @DPWH: Presumably Parliament wanted to protect one of Britain’s major export earners, recorded music. I think America’s biggest selling album of 2015 was partly recorded in a basement on Denmark Street very close to the TCR tunnels.

    The point in the article about the systems integration phase is very important – the Berlin airport fiasco shows what happens if you try to just build something and expect all the systems to work together as soon as construction work stops (as well as being a useful corrective to claims that the Germans are so much better at infrastructure projects).

    The big known unknown with Crossrail’s systems integration seems to be whether ETCS will be working on the GWML out of Paddington by the time services start. Fortunately, there is a Plan B (literally called “Plan B”) of deploying enhanced TPWS instead.

  42. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J
    I didn’t realise that the Berlin Airport Show was still in such chaos…..
    Thanks tor the Grauniad link – that was seriously hilarious & puts Edinburgh Tram into some perspective, as in you’re glad that neither is on your patch.

  43. Jim Cobb says:

    @Ian J – Interesting article about BER. The comments are also interesting, mostly along the lines of “if the Germans can’t do big infra right, what chance do we have” which is typical British pessimism about our abilities. This is something that Crossrail needs to be shouting a lot more about – on time and on budget !!!

  44. Fandroid says:

    Crossrail is (fingers crossed here) indeed a great example of how to manage a major project properly. However, it is the successor of many that now seem successful only in hindsight. Heathrow’ s T5 was a construction triumph and a systems integration embarrassment. One of Crossrail’ s top dogs (I don’t remember who) came straight from T5. I assume that he is determined not to repeat his previous experience!

  45. ngh says:

    Re Ian J, Greg, Jim, Fandroid,

    If memory serves a British contractor was the first to raise the alarm over Berlin by refusing to sign off the fire alarm systems that they had been brought into test…

    And T2 at Heathrow has been a systems integration success and a very quiet one as no bad news to fill newspapers / tv / websites!
    The difference was a soft start to operations and gradual ramp up rather than a full start with almost everything transferred on day 1… (having used in its first week I suspect that the first batch of airlines to transfer to T2 had a much higher than average number of well travelled passengers.)
    And this approach is also being replicated on Crossrail and where it can be on Thameslink – there is much more phased opening from now on where possible.

  46. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid – I’ll start by saying that I want Crossrail to complete on time and ideally under budget. However I don’t think it is quite time to be yelling overly loudly about it being a rip roaring success. I think Crossrail have chosen to be fairly modest in their pronouncements precisely to avoid “ha ha – I told you so” syndrome occurring if something does go wrong at some point. The “horrible” bit of the project is yet to come.

  47. Old Buccaneer says:

    Wise words, WW.

  48. Fandroid says:

    Heathrow T2 was a fine example of a slow but steady operational transfer. It was a bit frustrating that one major customer, Lufthansa, took its time shifting over from T1, but one unsung advantage was that T1 became quite civilised during that period, compared with its hectic previous existence. I cannot see how Crossrail can replicate that type of customer experience, except possibly for those travelling on the parallel parts of the Underground, such as the Central line. But that relief probably relies on Crossrail being 100% operational, rather than being a nice side effect of the transition.

  49. Josh says:

    It helped with T2 that they could move a handful of airlines at a time because the occupants are many small operations. With T5 there is only one airline so there was more incentive to move the operation en masse.

  50. Ian J says:

    @WW: Yes, there are a number of tricky bits and ‘firsts’ still to achieve:

    – First platform edge doors on National Rail.
    – First use of CBTC on National Rail.
    – First interface between National Rail signalling and CBTC.
    – First use of ATO on National Rail (or will Thameslink get there first?).
    – First use of ETCS in the UK for a frequent service (the Heathrow tunnels have to go ETCS in May 2018, as the Crossrail trains won’t have ATP and the Heathrow Express trains don’t have TPWS). Hence also:
    – First on the move interface between ETCS and TPWS+
    – New types of information system on trains and in stations.
    – Likely expansion of the Oyster area to more zones than the original system could cope with.
    – New timetable on the Great Western Main Line.
    – New depots.
    – New rolling stock.
    – New very long escalators.
    – Change of working conditions for former Great Western employees transferred to MTR.
    – Training everyone on every system they need to do their job.

    The problem is that almost all of these different tasks will probably go OK, but it only takes problems in one of them to risk delaying the whole project.

    I believe that for Terminal 5, the weak point was that the swipe card system to get into the staff car park was too slow. So the baggage handlers couldn’t get to work on time, the baggage started building up, and the whole thing ground to a halt. At least with Crossrail there can be a period of shadow running in the tunnels without passengers (or media attention on every problem), and the changeover of the surface routes has deliberately been separated in time from the start of services through the tunnels.

  51. James Bunting says:

    @ Ian J 0435

    ” Change of working conditions for former Great Western employees transferred to MTR”

    An additional problem at Terminal 5 was that of culture, or so I learned from a visit to BA’s excellent, but very small, museum at its headquarters at Heathrow. The opening of T5 was the first time that all staff had worked together in one place. It was found that despite being a single company for over 20 years, and one entity with separate divisions for 13 years before that, the cultures and ways of interpreting the operating manual between former BEA* and BOAC* staff were still different. This applied even though there were very few who went to T5 who had been employed by the former companies.

    Given how differences between the GWR, LNER and SR persisted after nationalisation do these still remain in some form or other or were things in London changed by the creation of Network South East and its successors?

    * BEA – British European Airways.
    * BOAC – British Overseas Airways Corporation.

  52. Greg Tingey says:

    Ian J
    And, the really trickiest bit has been left until last, IIRC, namely joined-up through running dahn th ‘ ole by Royal Oak, giving time for the separate systems between Padders, the airport etc to show up faults separate from ( & nothing at all to do with, of course) Crossrail.

    James Bunting
    As in the separate attitudes of “The Combine” & the “Met” were (are?) still showing up in London’s Transport, certainly as recently as 1980, if not later?

  53. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Greg Tingey,

    Surely they will have to join up the separate systems just to get to Old Oak Common depot so it will be in use from December 2018 onwards if not before?

  54. ngh says:

    Re PoP,

    Indeed used but just not in passenger service, thus allowing more time for signalling on the GW part to be finalised rather than having temporary solution in place with changes after opening…

    Re Ian J,

    Thameslink ATO (hopefully) gets turned on during the Christmas ’17 blockade.

    T5 staff car park there were multiple issues not just the slowness.
    No entry before a certain time leading to queues.
    Lots of passes not working
    Unfamiliarity of getting from car park to place of work in the terminal as they hadn’t used the car park before. (the pre-opening staff visits had largely been the tour bus variety so few of the staff had spent a useful amount of time there)

    There were plenty of other issues but the car park is the most famous.

    Staff familiarity is key in many situations also see London Bridge 15 months ago.

  55. Edmonton 'Eadcase says:

    Willy Brandt Airport? Willy Teveropen seems more appropriate.

  56. lmm says:

    Even at the time, a “big bang” opening for T5 seemed like an obviously bad idea, and so it proved. Is this just a lesson that has to be re-learned every decade or two?

  57. ngh says:

    Re lmm,

    yes unfortunately more frequently than that – Willy Brandt were still planning a “big bang” opening till 3 weeks before their proposed opening date (closing the 2 other airports at the same time even having seen the T5 issues. Also issues at Hong Kong with the new airport which the T5 team could have learned from. With the information available on the internet it is now much easier for lessons to remain learnt and not be relearned.

  58. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @ngh: You are assuming that people (normally) try to learn lessons in advance? 😉

  59. timbeau says:

    Some “big bang” changes seem to work though – Eurostar moved from SE1 to N1 overnight without much in the way of glitches as far as I recall.

  60. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau,

    but all the staff had been extensively trained in the new station in advance and the drivers had all done lots of the new route learning in advance – the level of preparation was far higher.

    They also picked a quiet day at a quiet time of year…

  61. Chris H says:

    One further point on the Heathrow T2/T5 openings: T5 moved one airline with one handling agent. T2 moved 23 airlines, each with their own operating practices and handling agents; and by itself would be one of Europe’s busiest airports.

    So the triumph of it opening on time, on budget, and with no systems integration hiccups cannot be underestimated.

  62. peezedtee says:

    “Presumably Parliament wanted to protect one of Britain’s major export earners, recorded music. I think America’s biggest selling album of 2015 was partly recorded in a basement on Denmark Street very close to the TCR tunnels.”

    — Is the floating slab track really just for the benefit of one recording studio in Denmark Street? If so, would it not have been cheaper to pay the recording company to move somewhere else? And it’s not as if that studio produces all the music Britain exports. Other recording studios are available.

  63. KitGreen says:

    It would be far cheaper to build a few floating studios, which is not uncommon.

    Not much help for the likes of the Dominion at TCR.
    Anyone who has been in the Criterion will know the vibration and noise of sitting on top of a tube tunnel during a performance.

  64. timbeau says:

    “but all the staff had been extensively trained in the new station in advance and the drivers had all done lots of the new route learning in advance – the level of preparation was far higher.”

    That’s why it worked, and T5 didn’t. If the same amount of preparation and training had happened at T5, that could have been a success as well.

  65. Ian J says:

    @PZT: Is the floating slab track really just for the benefit of one recording studio in Denmark Street

    I doubt it. It was just one example of the cluster of music-related businesses in the area (recording studios, performance venues, music shops, record and music publishing companies), some of which have a legitimate interest in a vibration-free environment, and others of which benefit from proximity to the businesses that do. Not something you can easily move to Reading.

  66. Ian J says:

    @ngh: Thameslink ATO (hopefully) gets turned on during the Christmas ’17 blockade.

    Thanks, that’s sooner than I had expected. I guess the point is that it isn’t actually needed to run the January 2018 timetable, so if the system has problems it can be switched off and the passengers won’t be disrupted (so not a big bang).

  67. RayK says:

    @ngh Would I be right in thinking that it will have been turned on for testing long before that?

  68. ngh says:

    Re Ian J & Ray K,

    The plan appears to be that ATO goes live on the core central and core south workstations (control area starts around the dive under) at Three Bridges ROC during that 10 day blockade Sat 23rd December 2017 to Monday 1st Jan 2018 inclusive).

    The new track added to those panels should all be in position before the the blockade as they have from the Easter / May BHs to get all the TL track in place with the connections to CHX/CST lines done at weekends/August ’17.

    So they should be able to test the “finished” new line side signalling equipment from September. The rest is re-control of well tested recently installed equipment that is being used or some additional equipment that has been installed and tested already.

    The ETCS, Traffic management (and Automatic route setting non TL routes e.g. CST/CHX lines) goes live then. They will need the ATO functionality for May ’18 though…

  69. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – how do drivers and signallers keep up their detailed route knowledge when layouts are changing every few months? In an area as complex as London Bridge and its approaches it must surely be an enormous challenge for staff and their managers to maintain safe working. And to remain “on topic” similar challenges will apply to Crossrail but I guess the interfaces with existing routes are, initially simple, but then you have GE drivers having to learn the tunnels and then later the GWR route, GWR drivers doing the reverse plus a plethora of new / transferred staff.

  70. Sad Fat Dad says:

    WW – quite simply, training. However, with one or two exceptions, the changes at London Bridge haven’t been that large. The main exception being the December 14 / January 15 two week close down on the ‘low level’ side, where to all intents and purposes a new railway was created from the buffer stops to New Cross Gate. But that layout has not changed since.

    For the ‘high level’ side (Southeastern) the changes have been relatively straightforward – installing track slues, but the signalling is replicated, such that (say) L160 signal in the Up Charing Cross which was on line 6 is now on line 4 (with line 6 out of use). The signaller’s diagram remains the same, and the driver sees the same signal at the same point along the line (indeed often in the same gantry) just approx 8 metres to the right of where it used to be.

    For stages such as this, a simple brief is usually sufficient. Where completely new signals and layouts are commissioned, as per the last two Christmas breaks, the training is much more intensive. Drivers will get much briefing material, CGI drivers eye DVDs of the new layout with extra explanation, and in most cases will be driving past the new signals and layout pre commissioning so can see what will happen. Signallers will be trained on the new layout for several weeks beforehand on a full time basis; for this reason there is a temporary increase in signallers and/or much overtime during the training period.

  71. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ SFD – thanks. It’s all pretty straightforward then. I assume that things like slewing the track and preserving signal positions are, where possible, deliberate decisions to minimise the volume of change. It’s an aspect of railway work I’ve never been involved with because my eyesight precludes from me driving trains or playing with signals!

  72. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @ngh: I thought they had already tested ATO through the core?

  73. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Southern Heights,

    It’s going way off topic (but still systems integration I suppose). I presumed they had tested ECTS (the basic safety system) but not ERTMS (the ATO system). They don’t need ECTS working on on day 1 (January 2018) because the trains can be driven manually and they could probably run 20tph that way. They need to get ERTMS working eventually – preferably by May – so they can run a more intensive service with less likelihood of delay. They really need ERTMS for the full 24tph service come December 2018.

    No doubt SFD will correct me if I am wrong.

  74. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Here sir.

    ETCS is part of ERTMS. The former is a method of signalling trains, the latter is a catch all for controlling a train service, and includes ETCS (the signalling), GSM-R (the comms) and Traffic Management (the method of taking the operational decisions that regulate the service).

    The Automatic Train Operation (ATO) is an overlay system on ETCS.

    Test trains have indeed operated in ETCS mode through the core; the system can be switched in and out as required. But the driver was driving. I heard a suggestion this week that the ATO had been tested also, but I’m not sure about that.

    ATO is only required for reliable 2.5 minute headways, so in theory is only needed at 24 tph. The original schedule had it tested during 2017 and in full service June 2018.

    However, the 20tph service (May 2018) is more than likely to be the 24tph service with 4 gaps, is 2.5 minute headways with 4 x 5 minute headways mixed in. So ATO may be needed a little earlier.

  75. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Southern Heights, Sad Fat Dad et al,

    I realise My description could have been better. If I had written “because the trains can be driven manually observing conventional signals …” it might have been clearer what I meant.

  76. Anomnibus says:

    It’s no longer necessary to use real trains for driver training when the changes are (relatively) minor.

    There are companies specialising in producing simulators for both railway signalling and driving. [Uninformed speculation on details snipped. Malcolm]

    (Note: I’m by no means certain that this is what’s actually happening, but I’d be surprised if simulations aren’t being used at all.)

  77. Londoner says:

    LU has a number of simulators that are used for training people on how to use the (newer) trains.

    The S-Stock one is a very nice piece of kit (a kitted out cab end surrounded by projectors), and covers things like fault finding (basic driver level stuff) and can simulate various outside conditions including the less pleasant scenarios a driver can face.

    I’m not sure if LU uses these for route learning as well as stock training.

  78. Anomnibus says:



    [Anomnibus, if you had put that link in your previous comment it wouldn’t have caused this misunderstanding. Please add such references in the future to avoid confusion and the common impression of your comments being your personal opinion or speculation. (My apologies; I should have said “apparently uninformed”. Malcolm)

    Note to all that we are not interested in opinions, but the presentation and analysis of facts. LBM (and Malcolm)]

  79. Ian J says:

    @Anomnibus: that is a modelling simulation of the timetable, not a training simulator, the modelling carried out apparently in 2009 (the date on the screenshot). This may have been the modelling that convinced Network Rail that ATO was needed for reliable operation of 24 tph. There was also modelling of the new timetable adopted during construction work at London Bridge, the lessons of which, some people here have hinted, weren’t learnt by the DfT when specifying the train service: hence the well-publicised problems.

    But there is a training simulator at the Siemens depot at Three Bridges that I assume will be/is being used for training drivers on the new trains.

  80. Anomnibus says:

    @Ian J:

    True, but the same page also has links to their related simulation systems down near the bottom of the page. Or at least it did when I viewed the page at the time. (They’re still showing up for me, but it’s possible others are seeing something else.)

    [Snips. LBM]

  81. Mr Beckton says:

    It’s disappointing that Crossrail has made no provision in the core for stabling any failed trains; recovery of them (and the service) is surely going to be an issue. Quite some money has been spent on the DLR in recent years to provide additional emergency sidings at quite a number of points; Tower Gateway, Royal Victoria and Mudchute, as well as the various sidings elsewhere, it’s not apparent why the DLR (where I’ve never experienced a train failure; every breakdown seems to have been the trackside signalling) needed this number where Crossrail has none. Even emergency crossover in the Core are few, only Holborn and Whitechapel I believe, although as soon as you come out of the tunnel at Custom House there appear to be three all together.

  82. 100andthirty says:

    Mr Beckton. I believe the reason is sheer cost. It’s expensive enough building tunnels that will see trains at the rate of 24 an hour. No one could justify building a siding in tunnel that might only see a train every 24 weeks. Modern trains, signalling and track are incredibly reliable and have multiple levels of redundancy (famous last words). If Bombardier and Siemens only achieve the same reliability as they achieved on the Victoria line it’ll be very good. In practice, one siding is only any good if you’ve got a duff train that can only move at very low speed. If you have signalling or electrification issue, a siding is no real use.

    Comparisons with the Victoria Line (siding at Kings Cross) relate to earlier, gentler times when it was worth running a Victoria to Kings Cross service.

    Like you I have often seen many more crossovers on others’ metro lines than is normal in UK. I know for a fact how little the London ones are used. I have never got to the bottom as to how often, if at all, other metros use theirs. Often, though, they have both lines in one tunnel which helps.

    as an aside, a crossover on lines 9/10 in Barcelona is more interesting and challenging. They chose to build a huge tunnel, put in a floor half way up and have one track at the top and the other at the bottom. Crossovers involve quite long ramps. The benefit is that tunnel and stations have the same tunnel diameter and between stations there’s plenty of space for walkways and equipment. Try it sometime from the cab… the line is unmanned.

  83. Mr Beckton,

    The philosophy on Crossrail is very different. A lot of emphasis is placed on reliability. I can’t really see how a siding would help much. If the train can move at a reasonable speed then you take it out of service and get it out to the depot to be sorted out. If it is well and truly stuck (highly unlikely but possible) then a siding isn’t going to help anyway.

    It would be interesting to know whether in an emergency a train could be stabled at Fisher St (Holborn) or Whitechapel crossovers. I am not sure but I rather suspect they could. If so, no sidings necessary. In principle, a failed train could stable at Custom House eastbound platform and all trains could call at the westbound platform.

  84. 100andthirty says:

    PoP….. “In principle, a failed train could stable at Custom House eastbound platform and all trains could call at the westbound platform.”

    Phew……the impact on capacity would be disastrous!

  85. Mr Beckton,

    Could I add that, despite extolling their virtues a few years ago, underground sidings have distinctly gone out of fashion and so have ones on the surface to some extent.

    The same also applies to its close cousin, the bay platform, to a lesser degree.

    The reason largely relates to the frequent service now operating. A train has to approach a dead-end siding or platform slowly. Nowadays this almost inevitably delays the following train.

    Far better to create a bi-directional loop between the running tracks and use it as a siding. Trains can signalled with an overrun back onto the main line so can approach at full speed. There is, of course, the added advantage that it can be used in both directions or even, if necessary, for passing trains. A good example of the is the relatively new bi-directional loop at West Ham. Note also the arrangement for the third (terminating) platform at North Greenwich which is also, in fact, a bidirectional loop. Furthermore, under the Sub-Surface Railway resignalling plan, the existing terminating platform at Tower Hill will be replaced by the same platform on a bi-directional loop. The primary reason for this, I understand, is simply for trains to approach the platform from the west at higher speed.

    The problem with doing this on Crossrail, as 100andthirty points out, is the enormous cost for very little use. I bet they would have loved to have done this at Paddington but the demolition on the surface required for a bigger concrete box would probably put the cost into the hundreds of millions of pounds – if not getting on for a billion pounds.

  86. 100andthirty,

    Phew……the impact on capacity would be disastrous!

    I totally disagree. Most of the time capacity would be unaffected or a bit of an inconvenience for some passengers.

    I would have thought a modern state-of-the-art automatically run railway could run 16tph (8 tph per direction) with 205m long trains into a bi-directional platform that has crossing points at each end of the platform. To operate it would be very simple. You always give priority to westbound trains. Eastbound trains get slightly delayed but that doesn’t really matter because the line is a dedicated line and they simply lose a bit of dwell time at Abbey Wood to recover. If, for any reason, that doesn’t work you divert 4 tph to the Shenfield line and reverse at Ilford carriage sidings or somewhere else suitable.

    I admit that during the peak (12 tph) it would have a bit of an impact as you couldn’t easily divert some trains to the Shenfield branch but then I did say “in principle”.

  87. 100andthirty says:

    PoP…. I was forgetting the service is cut in half by the time it gets to Custom House

  88. Greg Tingey says:

    [I appreciate your enthusiasm Greg, but we try to stay away from posting news items and extension proposals unless they are looking likely to be approved. Further, the link you provided is a mere teaser, with the rest behind a paywall, so the link is of very limited use to the commentariat. LBM]

  89. Si says:

    For those in the commitariat, like me, teased by LBM’s teaser of Greg’s post that linked to a teaser of a news article: a Google News search for “Crossrail Extension” will get you there.

    Of course, this post is rather useless, but given that LBM felt that replacing a link of “very limited value” with a even more useless post saying that there is news out there and we have to go find it (actually worse than useless as it suggests that the news isn’t relevant and hidden behind a paywall, when the news is relevant and given in the teaser of the article), I feel that I’m obeying the moderation team’s guidelines by making this post totally and utterly pointless, rather than discussing the news of supposed “very limited value”.

  90. Ed says:

    Just reminded that they are planning 8 trains per hour off peak? That seems very low. The current Southeastern service through Abbey Wood is that length! Hardly the frequencies of a modern metro system. It didn’t take long until the DLR on the Woolwich branch went to 12 an hour off-peak. Obviously Crossrail trains are longer, but given the huge publicity it will have, the increased speed to major destinations and all the house building along the branches that frequency of 8 an hour will be bumped up sharpish.

  91. Malcolm says:

    sorry Si, but the site policy of discouraging random bits of unsupported gossip will remain, and the paywall aspect is further re-inforcement.

    The discouragement may sometimes take a stronger form, of just removing such posts entirely without notice to anyone.

    Other sites, with different moderation principles, are available. District Dave’s and Skyscraper City are often mentioned in such contexts, and there are doubtless many more.

  92. Malcolm says:

    Ed: you may be right about an early improvement in Crossrail frequency, for possible capacity reasons. But an average waiting time of 4 minutes (which would be achieved by an even 8tph frequency) is nothing to get over-agitated about. Particularly considering what it is replacing (i.e. a frequency of 0 tph).

  93. Anomnibus says:


    “The current Southeastern service through Abbey Wood is that length!”

    They don’t all go to the same destinations though. Some go via Greenwich, some go via Lewisham.

  94. Si says:

    @Malcolm – I’m not complaining about this not being the forum for such things. I thought that, while passive-aggressive, I made my complaint clear – that LBM’s teasing about the content was a post far more in violation of what he complained about the link than the actual link – useless teasing of content. Just delete the post without public comment rather than inform people that there’s news out there to go find that you have just stopped us getting to easily – I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for that (and a link would have been of more use than the short while it took me to find the ‘news’).

    Also, I’m intrigued to know whether you and LBM have access beyond the paywall to opine about the quality of the article and its claims. I don’t, so while it could be just idle gossip, it could be well sourced and everything. Perhaps I’m too naive, but I don’t begin with the assumption that journalists are crooked and made stuff up.

  95. Malcolm says:

    Si: No, I don’t happen to be a subscriber (and I don’t think LBM does), so the article could indeed be well sourced, I am just guessing (based on other knowledge) that it isn’t. If there is a real story that we have accidentally concealed by this mod action, well sorry, but anyone who wants to be super-informed about everything in transport in London must already be reading things elsewhere – I know that you know that we are not a news service (and especially not a comprehensive news service), but our experience suggests that some people forget this sometimes.

    Yes, the way it was done may have wasted a little of your time (and perhaps some others’), sorry about that, but sometimes moderators’ comments are also intended “pour décourager les autres” (to discourage others who may feel inclined to post such things).

  96. @Si

    Your point is well taken. It was never my intention to have a “useless teasing of content”, which it evidently was.

    The news article of a potential Crossrail extension eastward was the first I’d read about it, and I do try to stay current on transport news. Nor do I have access to the full article.

    So I didn’t want to dismiss the topic out of hand, and I’d thought that there might be a member of the commentariat more in the know that might have more information or could post a better link that would provide more concrete information on the subject.

    I was making no judgement as to the quality or intent of the journalist(s) of the article, nor could I as the preview provided was exceedingly brief (two and half sentences).

    Going forward we will do things differently. Thank you for bringing up this issue. And as Malcolm requests, an email is preferred.


  97. ngh says:

    Re Malcolm LBM Greg Si,

    This story is an update of that was covered in more detail in another CR thread (December time?) and is a go-er. It is linked to changes in Ebbsfleet development corp. management including individuals with CR involvement coming on board in 2015.

    There was some LR discussion including “Ebbsfleet” not being the nearest station to most of the Ebbsfleet site in the previous thread.

  98. Greg Tingey says:

    ngh & the Moderators
    I think we should, perhaps temporarily suspend discussion of this putative extension until more solid information becomes available, as in probably this Autumn?

  99. Si says:

    @Malcolm, LBM – thanks. I’ll use the email should there be a next time.

    @Greg – absolutely, it’s not an urgent discussion to have and best to discuss when we have more than a safeguarded route to talk about.

  100. RayK says:

    Malcolm 30 April at 14:54
    ‘. . . an average waiting time of 4 minutes (which would be achieved by an even 8tph frequency)’
    Have I misunderstood you? by my reckoning 8 x 4 mins gives a 32 minute hour. ???

  101. Malcolm says:

    RayK: Yes. The clue is in the word “average”.

  102. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Malcolm – I assume you’ve rounded up slightly or allowed for some level of deviation. If the timetable ran precisely then trains would turn up at 7.5 min intervals and if you split that precisely then 3.75 mins but, of course, people turn up randomly and the train service doesn’t run precisely to the nanosecond. Furthermore it’s unlikely a 8 tph headway would be provided from start to end of service so widened headways would adjust the average upwards. You can see real life examples of this by looking at the calculated average wait times for bus routes on the TfL bus performance stats.

    Alternatively someone can come along and tell me I’ve forgotten all the stuff I learnt when I did A Level Statistics. 😉

  103. Malcolm says:

    Yes, of course I rounded up slightly: saying there would be an average wait time of 3.75 minutes would have been a case of misplaced accuracy. If you want to be really fussy you could note that the person who arrives within a few seconds of the train leaving won’t be able or allowed to board it anyway.

    The point I was really making is that a service of 8 tph is not all that dreadful: for making such a point an approximate average wait time is all that is needed.

  104. Purley Dweller says:

    @ww Even allowing for some 15 minute frequencies during the extremes of the day, the 5 minute frequency at peaks means the average over a 19 hour running day comes in a shade over 4 minutes, so I would call it a pretty good estimate. I would love a frequency of 8 trains per hour all heading to the same place. I only have that for East Croydon. Even 4 evenly spaced trains would be useful out of London.

  105. Malcolm says:

    Purley Dweller: As it happens, the 4 minutes I quoted was (approximately) the average wait time for a hypothetical line on which the frequency is an evenly-spaced 8 tph all day. The number you have calculated or read is actually an average frequency for a real-life line, so it being the same figure is a co-incidence.

    I am not convinced that “average frequency” is a very useful concept, presumably it results from dividing the length of the day by the total number of trains [formula corrected as I had it upside down]. This is not the same as taking a weighted average of the tph at different times, since it is well-known mathematically that the reciprocal of the average (of a set of numbers) is in general different from the average of the reciprocals (of the same set). But then neither am I convinced that that number means much either!

    But yes, many people without an 8 tph service are envious of those who have such a thing, and rightly so.

  106. ngh says:

    Crossrail have just published a 360degree video (you can play or stop and pan round) of the concreting train on its journey from Plumstead to its concreting job just inside the westbound running tunnel just west of Custom House.
    This video has probably just raised the quality bar significantly for rail construction project videos.

  107. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – I think you might be right. That is really excellent and even the music is well matched. Certainly brings home the massive scale of the stations on Crossrail. Whoever is doing the public relations and media stuff for Crossrail is very attuned to what people might like to see and what technology can bring forth.

  108. Melvyn says:

    All the film needs is a TARDIS and you have a new opening film for Dr Who …

  109. Old Buccaneer says:

    ngh, WW, Melvyn

    There’s an awful lot of water in the Connaught.

    Awesome video.

  110. Chris C says:

    I gave up on the video as it was making me nauseous with the format.

    What’s wrong with a simple point and shoot??

  111. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Melvyn & Chris C – Yes, I almost gave up on the video because I used Windows Explorer (“IE”) as usual and witnessed what I assume you have viewed – some bizarre split screen goldfish bowl eye view. However, by following these tips as given in the accompanying notes, it views well enough on a PC in e.g. Google Chrome:

    “Watch this video on the latest version of Chrome or Firefox on desktop or laptop and use your mouse or the control panel in the top left hand corner to scroll around the image. On mobile or tablet devices, use the latest version of the YouTube app for Android or iOS and scroll around the video using your touch screen, or by moving the device left, right, up or down.”

    You can then simply view the journey ‘as it was’, from your chosen camera angle and without any Dr. Who effects. In other words, it’s not Windows IE compatible.

  112. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @Graham Feakins: I think it’s more of a case of IE not being compatible… I avoid it at all costs…

  113. ngh says:

    Re Southern Heights,

    Indeed and complete agree I suspect newer MS Edge (IE replacement on W10) support will be better.

    In comparison Thameslink Project got the BBC Transport correspondent (RW) to walk a few metres across the new concourse early last week branded by the BBC as trying out “their new toy”* unfortunately the BBC website couldn’t support the 360D video so they had to use facebook to host it:

    The conventional BBC camera man wandering down seems far better:
    (can go full screen) * this contains the “new toy” quote

    It only took few days for Crossrail to raise the stakes.

  114. Fandroid says:

    Impressive piece of dumper driving on that BBC London Bridge video. It has a trailer and is being reversed through a narrow space with plenty of clutter to avoid.

  115. Alan Griffiths says:

    Lift, bridge and big staircase at Custom House station opened to DLR passengers and to pedestrians crossing the line this morning.
    First bit of Crossrail actually available to use!

  116. Si says:

    @Alan Griffiths

    Other bits of Crossrail are available to use – eg the rebuilt Pudding Mill Lane station and the stuff on top of Canary Wharf station,

  117. Chris C says:

    Graham – yes it was some strange goggle eyed view.

    Last night I was watching it on my ipad.

    Just watched it again on my laptop using firefox and it played normally with no need to change any settings etc.

    Turned the musak off though!

    But very nice bit of engineering porn !

  118. Anomnibus says:

    FYI: The video does indeed work fine in Microsoft’s Edge browser in Windows 10.

    Their Internet Explorer browser has been officially deprecated for a while now. I strongly recommend using an alternative browser if you don’t want to make the move to Windows 10.

  119. Old Buccaneer says:

    I’d caution against taking project management advice from the BBC based on this evidence:

  120. Old Buccaneer says:

    Re BBC business Facebook page: doesn’t play in Chrome over Android; allegedly plays in the FB app, but I haven’t checked. Bah.

  121. Graham H says:

    @OB – and you thought W1A was entirely made up? Presumably, the project in question was overseen by the Director, Better.

  122. Alan Griffiths says:

    Si 10 May 2016 at 13:45

    I hear what you say (or rather, I read what you write) but that’s the way the Chief Executive put it in the hearing of the Mayor of Newham (and others).

  123. ngh says:

    Re Old Buccaneer,

    It works on FB in Chrome (v50) and Firefox (v46) on W10 and W7

  124. Greg Tingey says:

    I’m still on WinXP, but have 3 different browsers – video only seems to work, & then not fully, in “Firefox”.

  125. Old Buccaneer says:

    Dear Greg, it may be time to move on. XP has not been supported by Microsoft for a while.

    If you can’t stand Windows any more, have a look at Mint, a flavour of Linux. Happy to talk more outside this forum.

  126. Old Buccaneer says:

    Graham: I only know of W1A at second hand, having stepped outside the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (& its successors) a while ago.

  127. Old Buccaneer says:

    ngh: thanks, the W7 laptop was not on my lap at the time (or now). But the Crossrail video worked well in the Utube app on my phone. Crossrail 1, BBC 0.

  128. Walthamstow Writer says:

    TfL have launched a consultation on a change to the designation of the central operating section of Crossrail. They wish to designate the infrastructure as specialised infrastructure. This effectively allows the controller of the infrastructure to prioritise designated services over all others.

    The document in the consultation includes a peak and off peak service pattern and frequency diagram as well as a track plan for the central section. The document also sets out TfL’s intent to pass the infrastructure into a new subsidiary called “Rail for London (Infrastructure)” that will be responsible for maintaining the central section. The land ownership of the tracks is also clarified and sets out what is currently owned by Network Rail. TfL are negotiating the transfer of these NR assets to their ownership as well as maintenance responsibility. Although the consultation is a bit “legal techy” there are some interesting snippets contained therein. You will note the need for TfL to identify alternative routes for certain traffics, eg freight, if it seeks to restrain the use of Crossrail’s infrastructure for such traffics. Therefore TfL is having to offer up the NLL and WLL as alternative routes for freight – I suspect it would like to designate those routes for its services too but that’s an impossibility due to historic rights to (freight) paths.

  129. Greg Tingey says:

    Even in my new browser/OS your link isn’t working.
    Could someone provide a working link, please?

    [Done. LBM]

  130. timbeau says:

    It shouldn’t be difficult for alternative routes to be identified that can be used for freight, as freight has managed without the Crossrail Core for 170 years

  131. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – well TfL have had to offer up the NLL and WLL as alternatives. Entirely logical for the reasons you cite. However not exactly in line with other objectives TfL have for increasing the number of trains they want to run on those routes to cope with demand.

    It is worth looking at the service patterns proposed for Crossrail services. I may be reading it incorrectly but there are some odd gaps in services in West London plus enforced interchange when I didn’t expect to see it. For example no direct trains from the Shenfield route into Heathrow. All Heathrow services run from Abbey Wood apart from a few odd workings.

  132. ChrisMitch says:

    That could be the Canary Wharf lobby working – any train from Heathrow goes via Canary Wharf to Abbey Wood.

  133. Anon E. Mouse says:

    @ Walthamstow Writer

    I had a feeling that all Heathrow trains were going to be Abbey Wood-bound. The reasoning being that they were only intending to run 4tph to Heathrow which would ideally be at exact 15 min intervals. With that spacing, once they get into the core they will be an EVEN number of trains apart (based on 24tph peak, 16tph off-peak) and so will have to go to the SAME eastern terminus (assuming that trains strictly alternate between the two). Having worked all this out, I then came to the conclusion that they were more likely to focus on business travellers (Heathrow-Canary Wharf) than leisure travellers (Heathrow-Shenfield) so this comes as no surprise to me.

  134. Anon E. Mouse says:

    I also note with interest the bit that says:

    “Occasional Peak only services also operate between:
    Shenfield to Heathrow
    Shenfield to West Drayton
    Abbey Wood to Reading
    Abbey Wood to Maidenhead”

    I suspect that such trains will only operate in the transition time between peak and off-peak (i.e. as the peak timetable morphs into the off-peak and vice versa).

  135. Ian J says:

    @WW: Thanks for that. Things in the document I hadn’t known/realised:

    – Confirmation of a 16tph off-peak service through the core, 8tph for each eastern branch – so an increase from the originally proposed 6tph off-peak on the Shenfield branch and resolving some of the problems with that which PoP pointed out.
    – Skip-stop service on the GWML: no trains will serve both Hanwell and West Ealing.
    – The Liverpool St High Level peak services only go as far as Gidea Park.
    – The single track connection between Crossrail and SouthEastern at Abbey Wood won’t be electrified (so no Class 319 railtours then)
    – There is a “quiet period” at Tottenham Court Road after 21:00 and before 07:00 (not sure what that means).

    @ChrisMitch/Anon: I had an idea that Canary Wharf’s contribution to Crossrail was conditional on having a certain number of trains per hour to Heathrow.

  136. Ed says:

    “I then came to the conclusion that they were more likely to focus on business travellers (Heathrow-Canary Wharf) than leisure travellers (Heathrow-Shenfield) so this comes as no surprise to me.”

    Why would there be more leisure passengers from the Shenfield branch than Abbey Wood? Shenfield serves Essex, and they don’t lack for airports compared to Kent. Essex folk can also go to Stansted or fast-growing Southend, yet Kent has no airport at all and Gatwick isn’t great to reach. So more leisure users will use Crossrail at Abbey Wood to reach airports.

  137. Ed says:

    * no international airport served by big airlines that is. Even Southend has a lot of Easyjet flights.

  138. 100andthirty says:

    If the DfT had recognised the inevitable and designated these part of Crossrail as exempt from the EU directives relating to all this* (as per the tube and ELL central tunnel section) then this piece of administrative nonsense wouldn’t have been necessary. Did anyone really expect anything other than cl 345 and maintenance trains to run on Crossrail?

    *Paragraph 3 is the relevant one:
    (3) The provisions referred to in paragraph (2) do not apply to railway undertakings whose activity is limited to the provision of solely urban, suburban or regional services on local and regional stand-alone networks for transport services on railway infrastructure or on networks intended only for the operation of urban or suburban rail services.

  139. timbeau says:

    “Why would there be more leisure passengers from the Shenfield branch than Abbey Wood?”
    That’s not what he said. However, there will be a higher proportion of business travellers on the Abbey Wood branch because Canary Wharf is on that branch, and there is no equivalent on the Shenfield branch.

    The skip stop arrangement on the GWML is curious (and means the Castlebar line will have no direct connection to Heathrow!) but is confirmed if you read between tyeh lins of the station to station times on the official Crossrail website

  140. ChrisMitch says:

    The stopping pattern west of Ealing looks strange, and I can imagine many of the locals will be angry and disappointed that they are not getting the ‘tube-like’ service that has always been implied.

  141. Malcolm says:

    I don’t think Anon E. meant that there would necessarily be more leisure passengers on the Shenfield branch than the Abbey Wood one. He/she just referred to the “focus”, i.e that the timetable planners deciding where to send trains from Heathrow, and obliged by the even numbers argument to send them all down the same branch, would choose the branch with the greater number of business travellers to Heathrow, rather than the one whose Heathrow need is mainly for leisure fliers. The number of leisure fliers on the Abbey Wood branch does not come into it.

  142. Malcolm says:

    Administrative nonsense it may be (arguably), but it seems to have a handy side-effect of more Crossrail publicity, and another one of more discussion here (and perhaps elsewhere).

  143. Ian J says:

    @130: On the other hand, if the DfT had designated Crossrail’s central tunnels as exempt from the EU Directives, would they have given Heathrow Airport Ltd a stronger argument to exempt the Heathrow tunnels from the directive that prevents them from charging more than marginal costs for Crossrail trains?

    In other words, is this a side-effect of the process by which HAL were recently snookered over track access charges?

  144. Anon E. Mouse says:

    @timbeau, Malcolm

    Thanks for clearing that up. I didn’t word that part of my argument very well and you have correctly pointed out what I was trying to say.

  145. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Regarding “Occasional peak hour services…”

    The slight obfuscation is because the diagram is trying to portray peak and off-peak services as if these were the only two types that existed. My understanding is that there will also be a shoulder-peak service of 10tph on the two eastern branches hence the need for the occasional working which will not fit in with the established pattern.
    Also a bit surprised that post 2100 will be a “quiet period” when frequencies are reduced. To me it is quite clear that nowadays you need to run an off-peak service to as near as possible to the last train.

    Really surprised Crossrail has introduced skip stopping services on the western side. Bit puzzled by the key having “Station: only off-peak* trains call” (in green) yet there are none on the diagram.

  146. Graham H says:

    @ChrisMitch – “the ‘tube-like’ service that has always been implied.” Not by TfL it hasn’t. This is just the usual wishful thinking that happens once you plonk a roundel on a map…

  147. ngh says:

    Re Graham H,

    Indeed not news to me either – I think this was discussed circa 5 years ago on LR.

    Re Ian J,

    They would have had to do something any way but I think you are spot on method chosen given other considerations along the route! DfT also has the WRAtH card in NR’s hands to play.

  148. timbeau says:

    @Chris Mitch/Graham H

    I think the operative word was “implied”. TfL may put in as much small print as they like that, for example, West Ealing will only have 4tph, none of them going to Heathrow or Docklands.

    BUT – the public recognise brands as representing a certain quality, be it cheap and cheerful or opulent and expensive. Brand owners are very protective of their brand image, and are usually very wary of applying an existing brand to a new product or service unless they are sure it will not devalue that image. (A counterexample, AustinRover made the mistake of rebranding all its Austin models as Rovers, in the expectation that badge snobbery would make them sell better. What it actually did was drag the reputation of the existing Rover models down to the level of the bread and butter models. Ford, Citroen and Toyota have gone the other way, creating new brands for their upmarket models, and VW work very hard at keeping daylight between their various brands, even though mechanically an Audi, SEAT, VW or Skoda can be much the same)

    Giving Crossrail a roundel will inevitably lead to expectations that it is a new Tube line, with all that implies for the expectations of the general public*. Even if people are getting used to the Overground being not quite as frequent, giving the new line a name will further feed the expectation that it’s more Underground than Overground.
    TfL, as a monopoly, can afford to do this because however much the “brand values” represented by the roundel are eroded, the clientele cannot defect to the competition.

    (*outside Chesham, at least)

  149. Phil says:

    Re POP

    Skip stepping is necessary because Crossrail will not have exclusive use of the relief lines on the GWML. There will still be a residual semi fast GWR service using them plus freight traffic – including those heavy jumbo stone trains from the Mendips to Acton yard – which take an age to stop and get going again if aced with red signals. Skip stopping can help by allowing the freights to stay on the move and is a effective way to maximize line capacity for all services.

  150. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Totally understood and, to that extent, not a surprise. But it was very much implied (it is that word again) by lots of Crossrail speakers that there would be semi-fasts and all-stations trains (implicitly organised that way for the convenience of the passenger).

    This could be just another Thameslink type saga where many speakers and writers from the company did not actually realise what was probably planned from the outset and, unwittingly, misled others as to the true intention. Or maybe Crossrail didn’t intend skip-stopping but the reality of having to go along with it was eventually realised.

  151. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – yes it’s not a great shock that there is some skip stopping on the lines west of Paddington. What is a genuine surprise is that local journeys that are direct, albeit it low frequency, today will not exist in future. I can’t see the loss of the all stations service into Heathrow being popular with people in West London who work at the airport. Heathrow Connect is only half hourly but even so. The double irony is that the new service patterns are going to upset people in West London who lose local journeys and a direct service to Heathrow while East Londoners lose their faster skip stop peak services into the City. Obviously some people, at inner stations like Manor Park, will gain considerably. I can’t see any of this being hugely popular although I know there are good reasons behind the decisions. Grumbling commuters rarely give any time to “good reasons” (witness the reaction to the Anglia franchise award – already a complete disaster and the contract hasn’t been signed yet!).

    @ Timbeau – it’s not only a roundel but the service is being given a tube like name and is the organisational responsibility of the LUL MD whereas Overground and DLR are in the tender care of Mr Daniels alongside buses, roads and cycles. The double irony is that Shenfield / Abbey Wood line users will get closest to tube like frequencies with peak trains every few mins whereas beyond Paddington you’re down to Overground frequencies and the need to change trains. Oh and while I agree the Shenfield line doesn’t yet match Canary Wharf’s “pulling power” we do have an awful lot of development planned at Stratford which will mean business travellers will want direct access to / from the area from Heathrow. Obvious TfL can flex the service patterns within limits so it’ll be interesting to see what happens over time.

  152. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    Surely only West Ealing passengers are affected by not having a direct Heathrow Connection and they can change at Southall or H&H and will still get there quicker than on average today with 4tph change & 4tph?

    The question is which 4tph of the Paddington terminators would get extended west to takeover HEx if that happens:
    a) The 4 all day Abbey Wood – Paddington (keeps service patterns simple)
    b) The 4 all day Shenfield – Paddington and then have some very complex service patterns (unless some station usage rapidly increases and some skips get removed.

  153. Walthamstow Writer,

    East Londoners lose their faster skip stop peak services into the City

    I found it laughable to describe these as “faster”. My experience is that they get caught behind the previous train and might as well have stopped anyway.

    More to the point, Crossrail trains will have faster acceleration. So whereas even the fastest trains from Shenfield to Stratford currently take 31 minutes in the peak and most take longer, Crossrail is expected to do it in 32 minutes and offer a consistent service. Nearly all passengers will have a quicker journey despite the extra stops so quite why this should upset people is a mystery to me.

  154. Anonymous** says:

    I see on the diagram that Crossrail will offer 16tph between Lpool St and Gidea Park, but I’m I right in thinking it is currently more than that? My understanding was that there would be 20tph (12 beyond Lpool st and 8 terminating there)

  155. John U.K. says:

    @Ian J – 16 August 2016 at 01:22
    – There is a “quiet period” at Tottenham Court Road after 21:00 and before 07:00 (not sure what that means).

    Share your mystification! Did wonder if all night service was at the back of TfL’s mind??

  156. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – it all depends on how the timetable is structured. If you arrive at Hayes from West Ealing to see the tail lights of the Heathrow train just leaving then you have a 14 minute wait. Not good. If the connections are just a couple of mins wait for all journeys in both directions then I agree there’d be little to moan about.

    To take a real life example – the lunacy that is having Barking trains [1] leave Gospel Oak at the precise moment that NLL trains arrive from the west. What on earth is the issue with shifting the GOBLIN departures a couple of minutes later to allow a connection? [2] Nothing worse than having doors slam in your face as you step off one train and then have a 15 minute wait. It’s not as if the pathing is so crucial on the GOBLIN that a 2 minute shifting of times will cause a disaster – even with freight train pathing.

    @ PoP – oh come on. Since when do grumbling commuters rely on the facts and logic? You might do but many people don’t. It’s all about perception and whether “my train” still runs at the same time as it has done for the last 18 years. We are now governed and influnced by “fact less” debate and bluster from politicians and others on far more important issues than train timetables. TfL will have a job on their hands to get past the inevitable cynicism and complaints once the wider public become aware of the train service plans.

    [1] yes yes I know we haven’t got trains to Barking at the moment before someone jumps in to “correct” me. 😉
    [2] I have written to TfL about this. I got one of their standard patronising “we don’t see the point you are making” replies which their customer services department excels in.

  157. Duncan Stott says:

    The decision to skip-stop West Ealing is even more problematic once we consider that Greenford Branch services will be terminating here when Crossrail begins. Passengers from the Greenford branch to Heathrow face two interchanges, which is nuisance for travellers with luggage and doubles the chance of the ’14 minute wait’ problem WW describes.

  158. Pedantic of Purley says:

    *Does not include “quiet” period pre-0700 and post2100 at Tottenham Ct Rd

    Clearly this could have been better worded and is misleading.

    I presume it meant a period of less than the standard off-peak service in the early morning and late evening more specifically as measured by the train service at Tottenham Court Road. When it comes to Crossrail, you can’t say something like “times on departing London termini” to base your times on so you have to chose a slightly arbitrary reference station.

  159. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I see on the diagram that Crossrail will offer 16tph between Lpool St and Gidea Park, but I’m I right in thinking it is currently more than that? My understanding was that there would be 20tph (12 beyond Lpool st and 8 terminating there)

    No. I believe it can get up to 15tph in the morning peak but can’t be bothered to check. The original plan was for 12 + 6 but this was calculated to be an overprovision even under the largest projected rises in usage so the Gidea Park – Liverpool St high level provision was cut back to 4tph. I strongly suspect this was also done to make it easier at some future date to go to 15tph on both branches and eliminate the Gidea Park peak-only services to Liverpool St as soon as practicable.

    Duncan Stott,

    The decision to skip-stop West Ealing is even more problematic once we consider that Greenford Branch services will be terminating here when Crossrail begins

    Not true. It was only ever intended that 6tph would call at West Ealing. Whether they are skip-stop or all stations or semi-fast trains is irrelevant.

  160. timbeau says:


    “The decision to skip-stop West Ealing is even more problematic once we consider that Greenford Branch services will be terminating here ”

    Depends whether more Greenford branch passengers want to go to Heathrow than Slough, I suppose.

    From the area served by the Greenford branch, there are several buses serving Ealing Broadway, Hanwell and Southall which, for many people, will be more convenient (bus stops are more closely spaced than railway stations, and buses are more frequent than the Castlebar line trains)

    I would guess that the reason for the staggered stopping pattern, rather than an all stations/limited stop arrangement, is for pathing. Having some trains calling at all four stations between Paddington and Southall and others at just one would result in the latter catching up with the former, and make it difficult to provide a regular interval service. By having some trains call at three stations and others at two would even things up. Moreoever, West Ealing’s proximity to Hanwell (it’s about half a mile) means that there will be few people wanting to make that point-to-point journey (at 4tph, you could walk it in less time than the average wait between trains, and there are frequent buses).

    Assuming the 4tph on each route are evenly spaced, the wait at Hayes between a train from West Ealing and a train to Heathrow (or from Hanwell to Slough, for that matter) should be seven and a half minutes.

  161. Anon E. Mouse says:

    “Assuming the 4tph on each route are evenly spaced, the wait at Hayes between a train from West Ealing and a train to Heathrow (or from Hanwell to Slough, for that matter) should be seven and a half minutes.”

    I should point out that off-peak it will only be possible to run Crossrail trains at 7 1/2 min intervals west of Paddington if they all originate at the same eastern terminus (for reasons which should be clear). However, the diagram on the consultation document tells us that they will alternate between Shenfield and Abbey Wood so we can expect there to be uneven intervals between Ealing and Hayes.

  162. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Anon E. Mouse

    True. Perhaps we should in our minds consider that the two western branches separate to the west of Paddington and happen to have Ealing Broadway, Southall and Hayes & Harlington stations on both routes. This is what I think the diagram is trying to convey.

    As mentioned above, you have those long freight trains from Acton Yard so there is probably a desire for uneven intervals between the two virtual branches to maximise the chance of getting a freight train in or out of the yard without delaying Crossrail trains. The situation is different on the Shenfield branch because all 8tph are going to the same destination so an uneven interval would be awkward there. Plus, of course, uneven intervals enable a direct service from both eastern branches to west of Paddington.

  163. Greg Tingey says:

    West Ealing’s proximity to Hanwell (it’s about half a mile)
    About 1.2km, measuring it off the map – longer by road, of course

  164. WestFiver says:

    In the above discussion, nobody has mentioned that trains would no longer stop at both West Ealing and Acton Main Line. So a journey between Drayton Green and Acton ML, currently 3 stops on the Greenford service, will require 2 changes, one at West Ealing and then at Ealing Broadway.
    Also, Acton ML gains a Heathrow service, while West Ealing loses theirs. Acton ML also has a doubling of services from 2 tph to 4.

  165. timbeau says:

    “About 1.2km, measuring it off the map – longer by road, of course”

    I stand corrected: I was measuring it off the AtoZ. According to the GBTT, table 117 West Ealing is 6.5 miles from Paddington, and Hanwell 7.25 miles, so the distance is about 0.75 miles, which is 1.2km.

    “a journey between Drayton Green and Acton ML, ”
    I can’t imagine there are many of those, and it is always possible to travel to nearby North Acton, via one change at Greenford.

    Doubtless someone has collected stats for such journeys, and if there was a recognisably strong flow would have arranged the stopping patterns accordingly. Certainly no-one has kicked up a fuss about it.

  166. Mike says:

    TfL doesn’t seem to place much importance on connecting with GWR Greenford trains at West Ealing, since the latter is not marked as an interchange; nor (perhaps more surprisingly) Romford, for the Overground to/from Upminster; nor Twyford, for GWR trains to/from Henley.

  167. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    Crossrail tweeted on Friday that the second SE platform will come in to use as of Monday at Abbey Wood. It included a flyer like document, but have not been able to find it anywhere to post a link…

  168. Anon E. Mouse says:

    For the benefit of people who don’t know the layout at Abbey Wood…

    The first new platform to be brought into use was the new up platform on the south side of the former up platform. This new (down) platform about to be opened is the original up platform refurbished to meet the standards of the newly built platform. Once this is done, the former down platform will provide the construction site for the Crossrail side of the station. When completed, the station will be formed of two island platforms (one for SE, one for XR).

  169. Keith Knight says:

    There are a set of photos (now over 200 in total) covering the work at Abbey Wood from mid 2014 to date. Chris Mansfield is the photographer and the photos can be accessed on The only minor problem is that you need to scroll through the complete series to get the newest views. Generally updated on Monday or Tuesday after work at Abbey Wood (as for example this weekend)

  170. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @SHLR – hopefully this link will work for that Crossrail flyer about Abbey Wood.

    @ K Knight – while it’s a good collection of photos it’s a tad “buried” within his site! The Crossrail stuff is actually hidden under “local events” which is about the last place I expected to find it. I went to 5 other folders / sub folders first.

  171. Melvyn says:

    Please see link to Network Rail site with new of new platform at Abbey Wood Station –

  172. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @Melvyn: Those platforms look quite narrow!

  173. Anon E. Mouse says:

    @Southern Heights

    The Networker in the background of that first picture looks a bit distorted which suggests that the picture has been squashed. Therefore, the platform is a little wider than it looks.

  174. Eddie says:

    Here’s another site which has almost daily updates on Abbey Wood construction work. Not just the station but also the track corridor to the east if you scroll down. Huge amount of material here:

  175. ngh says:

    And Also not forgetting LR’s Unravelled relatively frequent visits, for example last weekend photos here:

  176. Jim Elson says:

    The over run for crossrail east of Abbey Wood extends for at least half a mile. It’s concrete track base seems designed for double track. There does not seem to be room under the bridge,& new station building, for more than a new single track. Why is the overrun so long,is it for berthing trains & is it double track? Can any one point to the new track diagram or the planning approval plans?

  177. ngh says:

    Re Jim,

    Track diagram – See the last page of this pdf:

    Single track under and beyond the bridge with an un-electrified link with the NR tracks at the far east and they have been building lots concrete in the way of the northern most track going beyond the buffers at the station. However it looks as like is should be easy enough to remove if wanted… (and the gate line, steps and wheelchair ramp from ground level to the north side of the station behind the block)

    Unravelled found the planning drawings:

    search for Application ref :13/1748/G (direct linking not possible)

    And look at drawing …201

  178. Greg Tingey says:

    IIRC that is part of the “passive provision” for extension to Dartford & possibly Ebbsfleet/Gravesend, some of which at least, is route-safeguarded.
    So it ought to have room for 2 tracks, ought it not?

  179. Walthamstow Writer says:

    TfL have now moved on to a further stage of consultation. This covers the draft Network Statement for the new TfL owned infrastructure. It sets out proposals for access to the infrastructure, charging for paths, engineering access and the performance regime any other operators would be subject to. It also sets out the timetable for agreeing the access / engineering regime and creating the new timetable. Draft documents are accessible via the link below.

    The more thrilling news is that the opening date for the core section is set as 9 December 2018. By inference Whitechapel to Shenfield will open on 19 May 2019 and the GWML will be linked into the core from 8 December 2019 (although this latter date is shown as “to be confirmed”). Anyone familiar with the standardised NR timetable change dates won’t be that surprised by the above but at least it is in writing now.

  180. Anon E. Mouse says:

    I agree with you that those dates are no surprise. However, while the latter two dates are set by the need to fit in with other NR timetables, the first one is not so rigid as the initial system is basically self-contained. Therefore, if the testing phase goes really smoothly, they might be able to open the first section a few weeks early (similar to what happened with the ELL extension and it’s preview service).

  181. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anon E Mouse – well, self contained in its passenger service. Not self contained in terms of paths to and from depots and sidings. I assume there must be paths on NR metals from at least OOC to allow the service to run. I doubt the facility at Plumstead could sustain the entire core service. Therefore there must be something that is reflected in the NR WTTs from at least 9 December 2018 and quite likely before that for all the obvious reasons around test trains, ghost services etc.

    It would be nice to imagine that there will be a preview service of some sort but I’m not sure how you’d manage that as I suspect once Crossrail “opens” (however restricted that might be) there will be floods of interest – way in excess of what happened with the ELL. You then immediately get into issues of crowding and potential disappointment – the absolute last thing that TfL will want. While there was obvious interest in the ELL reopening it had nothing like the profile that Crossrail has. I certainly don’t recall the preview service being overwhelmed with demand.

  182. Anon E. Mouse says:

    Fair points, I guess. It was only something which had crossed my mind. Of course, your second point does raise the obvious question of what levels of service they will provide for those floods of interest (given that they’ll only have one eastern branch to work with at first), however, as I’m sure that this has been discussed in great detail elsewhere, we’ll leave it at that.

  183. Ian J says:

    @WW: Thanks. I assume the point of the access conditions document and the stations charging regime is essentially to make it impossible for anyone other than TfL to run trains through the Crossrail tunnels while maintaining a polite legal fiction that the line complies with Open Access requirements.

    The consultation document says the proposals are on the assumption that the EU Fourth Railway Package comes in around late 2018, but acknowledges that it is unknown whether this will now apply to the UK.

    A few extra points I hadn’t known before:

    – Speed limits in the tunnels are 100 km/h, except Connaught tunnel which is 80 km/h. Clearly Crossrail will be a metric railway in the central sections.

    – The signalling system requires 205m trains (so no sending a different unit through on a railtour).

    – The crossovers, as well as Westbourne Park sidings, have autoreverse functionality built into the signalling to speed up turn arounds.

    – In April 2019, in theory, the GWML switches to ETCS Level 2 signalling (“but don’t hold your breath”, the document implies).

    – Confirmation that Abbey Wood station will be operated by Crossrail and Network Rail will lease or sell the station to TfL.

  184. Graham H says:

    @IanJ -interesting. Could you run shorter than 205m trains? (I’m thinking of works services here).

  185. timbeau says:

    @Graham H/Ian J

    presumably works trains would run under an engineering possession, when any constraints imposed by the signalling would not apply. Whether such trains would be diesel powered or some as-yet unbuilt battery locos is an interesting question – or could LU’s existing battery locos operate there? The Schoma diesels recently converted would seem to fit the bill.

  186. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau,

    As they can and do happily run 66s through the tunnels I suspect that is what they will do. (Assuming Crossrail might also retain the new diesel shunters they had for marshalling construction trains etc). The Rail Grinder unit on order is diesel powered.

  187. 100andthirty says:

    Crossrail will have serious ventilation systems which will make short order of any emissions from a modern diesel loco. Also I would be quite confident that ORR wouldn’t permit any routine engineers train operation to be solely by procedure unless it’s “one train in steam”. This will bring challenges to the central section CBTC system but those challenges have been solved for other metro CBTC systems, so no doubt can be done here.

    As a digression, metro CBTC systems are somewhat simplified if all the trains are more or less the same size. It is the complexity of main line operation (different length trains, locos/multiple units, different performance, different speed limits on the same track for different classes of trains that makes ETCS such an interesting* challenge.

    *Interesting is meant in the Chinese curse context “May you live in interesting times”!

  188. WestFiver says:

    Maybe not concrete, but definitely piles of rusty steel!

    Readers may be interested in this.

    Going into or out of Paddington, you can hardly miss line of rusty sheet piles extending westwards from the Royal Oak tunnel portal. These piles were supposed to be temporary and obviously required during the construction of the portal structure, and since it was completed many moons ago, one must ask why they have not yet been removed and when are they going to be removed, as it surely was a task to be done in the project plans.

    The answer to these questions is answered by the recent planning application made by Crossrail to City of Westminster Council and since accepted:

    Ref: 16/07841/XRPS

    [The rest of this extremely long and opinionated post removed as it seemed to be using this site for campaigning for a local issue. Readers are welcome to use the information provided to look at the planning application and draw their own conclusions, if interested. And I don’t see why readers must ask why these have not been removed. It is a local issue and probably not of great interest to most of our readers. PoP]

  189. Jim elson says:

    With respect, I think you are unfair to WestFiver. A friend & I separately noticed this grubby piling as we came or left Paddington & we even discussed it before westFiver’s posting. Millions has been spent by Crossrail on expensive & able architects to design the stations. It seems illogical to leave parts of the new railway(outside the stations but still very visible)looking messy & rusty.
    On a different Crossrail aspect,is Nopo,no person operation,ruled out for the Abbeywood Paddington terminators? It seems entirely feasible & absurd not to adopt it now,while there are no staff to object. I have travelled in France,Hungary,Denmark,Singapore & Germany on quite lengthy driverless metros & I have not heard they are any less safe. They are certainly more reliable than the human aboard variety of metro.

  190. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Jim Elson,

    I understand your feelings. I am not against the subject being discussed and I made a point of not deleting it in its entirety and to keep the planning reference available. But it was a very long post indeed and intended to appeal more to emotion than rational discussion. And some of the wording was inflammatory. If you or anyone else (including WestFiver) wants to bring the issues to our attention they are welcome to do so but, please, more in the spirit of the comments we normally get on this website. Most people manage to keep a considerate tone even though a lot of us hold strong views on particular subjects.

  191. Anon E. Mouse says:

    @Jim Elson
    “On a different Crossrail aspect,is Nopo,no person operation,ruled out for the Abbeywood Paddington terminators?”

    Yes. Because even though the trains could quite easily drive themselves back and forth between Abbey Wood and Paddington/Westbourne Park sidings all day without any human intervention, they still need someone on board to control the doors.

  192. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Anon E. Mouse

    they still need someone on board to control the doors.

    No they wouldn’t! It is perfectly possible not to have any staff about. Go to Paris Ligne 1 or Paris Ligne 14 or Lille or Barcelona and you can see trains run without staff. Wait a bit until 2021 and a trip to Glasgow on the Clockwork Orange will probably provide you with the same experience.

    My understanding is that Crossrail will be perfectly capable of running unstaffed trains between Paddington and Abbey Wood and the system would allow that but they have chosen not to implement it. One reason is the lack of Passenger Edge Doors at Custom House and Abbey Wood which means it almost certainly would not be permitted at these stations. The other reason is that unstaffed trains would severely limit flexibility. If something happened and you needed to divert a train to Shenfield or westward beyond Paddington you would be in a very awkward situation.

    I do wonder if some of the testing phase will involved unstaffed trains but I suspect not.

  193. jim elson says:

    Would it be awkward if the trains was unmanned and it had to be diverted?
    With platform staff on all stations, passengers could be detrained and the train sent empty to the next reversing point. The flexibility & cost saving of running without train staff is surely worth putting in platform doors at two more stations.

  194. Anon E. Mouse says:

    Hmm. In looking back at my comment, I can see it was rather silly as simply saying “they need someone on board to control the doors” does not imply that that person would actually be on the train! I think the point I was trying to make was that the system is being designed under the assumption that drivers would control the doors and so no special equipment would be put in place so that someone else could control them. However, I suppose there’s no reason why such equipment could not subsequently be installed if it was desired.

    The point about flexibility actually occured to me after I wrote that comment and it is a very good point. That is because the option for unmanned operation would only be available for a quarter of the trains passing through the core. (According to the indicative timetable mentioned in comments above [15 Aug onwards], exactly half the Abbey Wood service would terminate at Paddington which would be a quarter of the overall service.) Therefore, not much would be gained for this loss of flexibility.

  195. Malcolm says:

    Further to the possible reasons for not implementing (at least initially) the theoretical unstaffed facility would be the need to undertake much extra training for many other staff members (on how to deal with incidents and difficulties on unstaffed trains). Then there would be the need to periodically check and refresh these skills. All this on top of the training, procedure-fettling and so forth which would in any case be required for running new(ish) trains on a brand-new line through new stations.

    With the best planning in the world there will still be teething problems (hopefully small ones). So why open up an extra hostage to fortune, for probably very little benefit?

  196. timbeau says:

    Or, nearer to home, the internal shuttles at Gatwick, Stansted, or Heathrow T5.

  197. IslandDweller says:

    Not really sure which of the various Crossrail threads is the most appropriate for this:
    At face value, that sounds like very worrying news. Anyone got any insight?

  198. Graham H says:

    @island Dweller – insider comments focus on those electrical matters including interference and our old friend, clearances.

  199. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Island Dweller – no great insight just a lack of surprise given what certain trade unions are also threatening. Paddington seems to have design issues as well as contractor / sub contractor performance issues. The wider issue of trade unions demanding “incentive bonuses” (i.e. more money to do the same job because the “boys” have gone slow) is a repeat tactic from the JLE (and no doubt other works). As I think I’ve said before I only hope Crossrail were wise to this risk a long time ago and have plans up their sleeves to manage it. I will now bore everyone again and say this part of a major project (fitting out, integration, commissioning, testing, handover, snagging) is by far the most risky given every day you are closer to the “immovable” target of long planned scheduled opening days.

  200. Greg Tingey says:

    IIRC, & people are welcome to correct me if I have got the information round my neck …..
    The problem with the JLE started when there was a supposedly-serious “security” alert around London Bridge & the area was sealed off … & the sparkies came up out of their ‘ole, to find themselves inside said security cordon & no-one had bothered to tell them.
    They were, understandably, not happy bunnies, but the implications of cost-overruns & time-deadlines during a tight commissioning were realised very quickly.
    Which is how we got to this point.

  201. Anonymously says:

    @GT/WW….But in the case of the JLE, wasn’t the main problem the immovable deadline of 31/12/99, since it was the only major mode of transport access to the Dome exhibition? I vividly remember the electricians’ union (and possibly others?) holding management to a King’s ransom for premium payments in order to finish the work on time.

    Given that Crossrail is meant to be opening in a phased manner over 18 months or so, would any delay in completion have any major consequences (aside from the obvious political embarrassment)?

  202. Ian J says:

    @Greg Tingey: Being upset about not being told about a security alert would not explain why electrical cables were deliberately sabotaged on the London Bridge building site in November 1998.

  203. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anonymously / Greg – my contention is that Crossrail has some immovable dates given the links to national timetable changes. I suppose the core opening date of Dec 2018 could be delayed without enormous consequences to other services as all you have to ensure is that trains can get from a depot / sidings into / out of the core. There would be reputational damage, though, given the impressive progress thus far. However if it is delayed hugely at what point do you get knock ons with integrating the later phases? I assume linking the Shenfield line into the core is important because it then allows the platform works to proceed at Liv St (surface) and triggers the conversion of 7 car units to 9 cars for the build up to the last phase. I imagine, but am happy to be corrected, that there will be significant timetable recasts for May 2019 and Dec 2019 when the main line sections are linked to the core. Delaying those may not be acceptable given the knock on impacts to other TOCs – primarily GWR in late 2019 but I suspect Greater Anglia may have some knock on impacts too as will freight.

    Note I did not carve out just the station work. The activities I cited apply to the integration of the power, signalling and control and other systems needed to allow the through running phases to function properly. Obviously signalling and control are the big risks but you still need all the station systems to recognise trains running to new destinations etc. Drivers also need to be familiarised with running through to the new branches although some of that can be done on simulators. I’m not trying to over-egg this – it’s a predictable set of risks that I’d expect Crossrail to be on top of.

  204. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    Largely agree, I can see several ways the December ’18 changes can be delayed but the later ones are much more problematic. Quite a lot of timetable changes on GW reliefs (slows) in May and Dec ’17 so it may not be that disruptive later (e.g. change from diesel to mostly electric from Maidenhead May ’17 and Reading / Didcot in December ’17)

  205. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – thanks for the phasing of timetable changes on Great Western. I wasn’t aware of that. If you’ve achieved the traction switch and cascaded diesels away then I agree it’s less of an issue come 2019 but, of course, any subsequent cascade of the EMUs would be delayed if Crossrail can’t run through.

  206. Anonymously says:

    @WW….So, if in the worst case scenario the Dec 2018 deadline can’t be met, would a six-month delay to May 2019 for opening the core have any major consequences for other lines and services (assuming it can be opened and linked in with the GEML at the same time….difficult, I know, but not impossible)?

  207. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    Crossrail is meant to take over operating existing Heathrow Connect and most GWR suburban services in May ’18 independent of the core semi-opening.

    Also with the delay of electrification of Didcot – Oxford and Reading – Newbury there is no rush for the EMUs elsewhere on GWR. I suspect the biggest issue will actually be finding track to train “new” drivers and test and accumulate mileage on new trains.

    On the GEML presumably with 345 introduction from May ’17 and presumably enough delivered for Dec’17 (or May ’18 if that slips) timetable change to enable a timetable change to reflect improved train performance with the withdrawal of 315s, the GEML will propably see a multi step timetable change.

  208. Littlejohn says:

    @ngh. Has electrification Reading – Newbury been delayed? (apart from the delay to the whole programme of course). The 8 November announcement covered Oxford to Didcot Parkway, Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads, Bath Spa to Bristol Temple Meads and the Henley and Windsor branch lines. If electrification to Newbury had been shelved it would surely have led to banner headlines in the the local press, which hasn’t said anything.

  209. ngh says:

    Re Littlejohn,

    Whole programme delays since when the stock orders were planned and actually ordered. (Paddington – Swindon is the initial priority) GWR were perfectly happy for C2C to take delivery of their 387s and to slow down delivery of their 387s overall as much as could be done as they will have more EMUs (but less than originally planned with more IEPs ordered instead) than they know what to do with until well after Crossrail is planned on being fully open. Arguably about a 12-18months of “float” at some points in the cascade process.

  210. Littlejohn says:

    @ngh, thanks. I realised that the whole project was delayed (as I said) but as I understand it those elements that I listed, including Didcot-Oxford, have been suspended if not ditched completely so are not going ahead at the moment. So far as I know Reading-Newbury is only suffering the general project delay – or have I got it wrong?

  211. Greg Tingey says:

    No point in wiring Didcot-Oxford unless/until station rebuild & signalling works done also.
    It then makes sense under the circs, to delay Oxford …

  212. Ian J says:

    @Greg: On the other hand the Rail Minister’s rhetoric has been that electrification is not worth the disruption at all, if bi-modes are running on a route – which would imply cancellation, not delay.

  213. ngh says:

    Re Littlejohn,

    Reading – Newbury completion date has been pushed back by a year over the last 18month period as had most of the elements that will still be completed in CP5 (till March 2019).
    Didcot – Oxford was due to complete in summer 2019 (after Oxford Station partial rebuild and resignalling) at the last time they formally published dates but they aren’t publishing dates for anything that was due to complete after March 2019 now. Sensible given that a re-plan of the work to keep costs down but completing Oxford is probably a quick easy first task in CP6 given the work already done on that stretch (bridges and piling). With far less pressure to complete everything as soon as possible in CP6 it should possible to keep costs under control a bit more and work in more efficient way.

  214. Anonymously says:

    @Ian J….If that indeed is the case, expect an almighty political storm in places at the extremities of planned GWML electrification (Oxford/Bristol/South Wales) to blow up, particularly if it is true that the bi-modes are limited to 100mph in diesel mode. Using that argument, no one would upgrade *any* infrastructure (incl. roads etc.) whatsoever, if there was a slight possibility of major disruption.

    As they say, ‘No pain, no gain’……

  215. ngh says:

    Re Ian J,

    The minister was trying to be as non-committal in both directions as possible. Wanting to claim as much benefit as possible without electrification all the way to Bristol TM to minimise egg on face but pointing out it is still needed to achieve capacity increases and running cost reductions and that the BCR for completing works from the current starting point is expected to be good (given the scale of the sunk works and cost). It just has to be done sensibly not in headless turkey mode.

    You’ll still have 165/166 running Didcot – Oxford stopping services and limiting capacity.

  216. Alan Griffiths says:

    An awful lot of work has been done between Chippenham and Bath, lowering the track in the historic heart of Bath and in tunnels.

  217. ngh says:

    Porterbrook have announced trial conversions (by Brush/Wabtec) on some 319s into dual voltage bi-modes* for Northern to deal with electrification delays in the North-West (especially Windermere Branch). Other TOCs including GWR are apparently very interested too, especially given the shortage of DMUs caused by GW electrification delays especially on the 3/4 branch lines that interact with Crossrail. The retention of dual voltage suggests a possible home on North Downs Lines.

    *by installing a diesel engine, alternator and rectifier under each driving car

    Re Alan G,

    Those were some of the sunk costs I was thinking of! The issue appears to be what to do with the that route through the 2 AONBs… (then there are the Bristol TM and Filton bank issues). Plenty of good reasons for less speed, more haste and less cost increase.

  218. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – I thought Crossrail were only taking on Heathrow Connect services, albeit at 4 tph, in May 2018. I also thought that remained unchanged until Dec 2019 when the GWML is linked to the Core and then Crossrail operate a higher level of suburban services. I was not aware that Crossrail were taking on anything more than 4 tph out of Paddington earlier than Dec 2019. All of the Crossrail consultations on the regulatory provisions haven’t suggested a greater suburban operation on the GWML prior to Dec 2019. Has something changed?

    @ Anonymously – I would guess, and it’s nothing more than that, that a delay to opening the core by 6 months might start to cause issues with accumulating mileage on the 345s and bedding down their reliability. I would need to double check but I think it’s the case that each opening phase sees a modest build up in the timetabled service intensity and thus the demand the service has to handle. If TfL ended up opening the core and GEML link at the same time it has a much bigger “hurdle” to get over in one go. I’m not saying it’s the end of the world but there’s more risk of reputational damage to the entire project and subsequent operation. And that also means passengers may get a less than ideal service which may colour their view of how billions of public money has been spent. You know what people (and the media) are like.

  219. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @ngh: Why would they fit them there when the driving axles are under the coach with the pantograph? Is it because of space issues?

    Once I looked closely at them and heard about pacers I put two and two together…. Surprised they’re still running as was….

  220. Herned says:

    Re Reading-Newbury
    I travelled east along there this morning, there has been steady progress since I last made the trip a few months ago. I would guess around a third of the masts are installed, and most piling is done. Quite a few masts also have arms(?) attached as well.

    The masts placed are seemingly random though, with some long stretches done, then nothing, then the odd one or two. The lone ones aren’t all of the same type either, clearly there must be a plan and order of work but it’s not obvious!

  221. 100andthirty says:

    SH(LR) Yes, there would be no space under the class 319 motor car. Also there would be serious weight issues. The motor car has the traction electronics, transformer and – er – traction motors. Motor cars are roughly 20t heavier than trailer cars.

  222. Timbeau says:

    There is, I think, even more space under the intermediate trailers, but I seem to recall the units are to run with only three cars. Of course, the weight of the diesel engines will be balanced by the loss of weight because of the absent trailer.

  223. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau,

    319s can’t run as 3 car with simple tweaks with removing the intermediate trailer unlike many of the other 4car EMUs of the time and will remain as 4 car. There is lots of equipment (of the 1 per unit variety) on the intermediate trailer (some overflow from the motor trailer) when they looked at the potential to convert them to 3 car and decided against it several years ago).
    The driving trailers have more space under the floor and weigh 2 tonnes less than the intermediate trailer. With the new engine, alternator, fuel tank and electronics there won’t be any space under the driving trailers to relocate the equipment form under the intermediate trailer to enable conversion to 3 car.
    The intermediate trailer also has the toilet…

    Re SHLR,

    The driving trailers already have the 750V DC bus running through them with the 3rd rail pick up shoes on the outer bogies. The diesel engine, alternator and rectifier etc. provide another 750V DC source to the bus (admittedly probably less than is available from the 3rd rail).

  224. timbeau says:

    My mistake. I was thinking of the former class 321s converted to 320s – but they went much further north – across the Border indeed.

  225. Anonymously says:

    @WW….Won’t the mileage accumulated by the 345s on the Shenfield services before the core opens (taking into account any delay) be enough to test their robustness and bed down their reliability? I accept that opening the core at the same time as the GEML link is risky, but at least any consequential problems in timetabling, rolling stock availability etc. on other lines could then be minimised or even avoided.

  226. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Anonymously – that will demonstrate reliability for 7 car units. The core will, AIUI, work with 9 car units. They will mostly be based at Old Oak Common and some may be outstabled at Plumstead. There will be less opportunity in the west to establish reliability on the 9 car fleet as there are fewer in service workings between Padd and H’row and Ngh has already hinted other spare paths may be scarce. I think the plan is that the core will be available for pre-service testing for a fair number of months where Crossrail will be able to run a shadow service and do all the other things they need to do including some bedding down of the 9 car units, trial evacuations, emergency service familiarisation etc. Some of that requires stations to be in an operational state not with sparks and carpenters still working. I assume they will aim to rotate trains between the Heathrow Connect replacement service and running the “shadow service”. Trains out of Liv St are all 7 cars until the Shenfield line is connected in. That then allows some rapid work on extending the 7s to 9s to balance up the fleet. Worth remembering there is some level of risk to splitting open units and then inserting extra cars and expecting them to run as perfectly as before. You can get a “mini bathtub curve” happening but Bombardier should be more than aware of that given experience with the 378s. It also allows more 9s to be delivered to Old Oak. This is all from my reading of the Crossrail concession agreement where the rolling stock build up is explained. I did post an explanation in another thread as to how it works. I accept that can be and may well be changed if circumstances require. I’m also making an assumption that Crossrail would want the stations to be handed over from the project to operations by the time the shadow running phase commences. That, again, can be changed if circumstances force it.

    I am merely musing about possible scenarios and I would expect the Crossrail project and operators to be well ahead of me by now in looking at the risks, evaluating them and then mitigating them or, at least, understanding when some key decision points are required. It’s not really necessary to try to disprove every one of my musing by putting forward an alternative proposition. 😉

  227. ngh says:

    re Anonymously,
    Picking up on WW comments a bit further.

    CR will need “not in service” paths for 4 main reasons:
    – Testing units to identify faults so they can be rectified.
    – Fault free running for X thousand miles.
    – Driver training (2 categories: route training for existing drivers* new to the route and completely new drivers)
    – Testing new /modified infrastructure

    It will be quite hard to satisfy those needs if some of the track/infrastructure isn’t available.

    * From TfL rail (ex Anglia), Heathrow Connect and GWR all of whom will have to learn lots of new route…

    Bombardier have been quite clever lately when they opened a test centre on the West Coast mainline at Bletchley for new train fault finding and accumulate the required fault free mileage before hand over. The question is whether this is planned to be used for the 345s…
    It has enabled then to run lots of trains to high mileages very quickly. (Dual voltage units running Crewe – Brighton loops)
    If so things might be bit easier.

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