Crossrail Begins to Get Visible – Part 2


Having enjoyed the fruits of the Crossrail’s aerial survey we now return to Docklands to watch the new railway appear in front of our eyes. Eschewing the chance to vegetate before his tinsel decked telly, Unravelled recently followed in the footsteps previously trodden by John Bull to capture the progress being made on the former NLL North Woolwich branch south of Canning Town.

The way we were (but not for long)

Custom House Station

Custom House Station. Photo taken by Nigel Cox, obtained via Geograph

Custom House’s North Woolwich branch line’s station is seen here in this picture by Nigel Cox shortly after the closure of the line in 2006. Now hidden by the ExCel centre on the right, the Victoria (as it was then before the acquisition of the Royal appendage) Dock opened in 1855 and the Eastern Counties Railway Company (ECRC) built this station. The ECRC quickly merged with other lines to form the Great Eastern Railway. On the 14th May 1985 the eight mile stretch from Dalston Kingsland to North Woolwich via Stratford Low Level was incorporated into the new orbital North London Line. The 750 volt dc electrification costing £7.7m and came in £2.2m under budget. The Sparks effect resulted in an increase of 80% in passenger usage. On the 9 December 2006, the line south of Stratford closed for the construction of the second DLR link to Stratford north of Canning Town.

The road on the left is Victoria Dock Road and the red brick building is The Flying Angel which was originally built for the Anglican Mission for Seamen. It is now used as residential flats and it provides a key point of reference for unravelling Unravelled’s photographs.

Unravelled travelled

Unravelled began his expedition at Royal Victoria where the DLR line to Beckton has been slewed to the south to allow extra clearance for Crossrail’s Royal Victoria Portal.

Royal Victoria

Looking west towards Canning Town along the DLR engineers’ siding at Royal Victoria built in part over the alignment of the former NLL branch

Old Alignment

Looking east towards Customs House In the summer of 2012 the Royal Victoria portal site just to the east of Royal Victoria station looked like this. Note the streetlights now standing over the building site and preparatory work and the moving of existing utilities underway. The DLR would also have to be slewed to enable the building of the tunnel portal.

Prep Works
Prep Works
Track view

This was executed during a blockade over Christmas 2012.The extent of the slew can be clearly seen. Although not Crossrail’s largest civil engineering project this deviation neatly links the existing DLR tracks and avoids both the “to be built” portal and the existing electricity pylons.

Site during blockade

As compared with the summer 2012 picture Unravelled’s shot shows that a substantial noise abatement fence is now to being erected to protect local residents.

Custom House today

In this shot, taken from the same position as Nigel Cox’s 2006 picture but with tighter cropping, Unravelled shows the former North Woolwich line platforms at Custom House as of January 2013 looking towards Prince Albert. Their demolition is imminent.

In August 2012, Crossrail announced the award of the contract to build the new Customs House station to Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd. The new Crossrail station will be built on the site of the former North London Line station which closed to passengers in December 2006. The new station will include a new ticket hall, interchange with Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and step-free access between the street and Crossrail platforms. When Crossrail opens, passengers will be able to reach Canary Wharf in 4 minutes, Bond Street in 17 minutes and Heathrow Airport in less than 45 minutes.” When finished it will appear as pictured below. As opposed to the more radical interventions on Crossrail, this station and the track section between the Dockland tunnel portals will be the civil engineering equivalent of key-hole surgery.

Custom House Crossrail Station

Image courtesy of Crossrail

Our chums at Construction Enquirer reported on the 11th January 2013:

Laing O’Rourke will start work on the new £35m Crossrail station at Custom House in east London next week. The new station will be mainly manufactured off-site at O’Rourke’s factory near Sheffield. Work is due for completion in December 2015 and will include a new ticket hall, an interchange with the Docklands Light Railway and step-free access between the platforms and street level.The station will have a roof made from the transparent plastic material, EFTE, similar to the material that was used at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Hoardings will go up around the site next week ahead of demolition of the old North London Line station.

Custom House in January

The image above was taken in January 2012, looking west from Prince Regent towards Custom House station with the “Flying Angel” mission prominent on the right.

Prince Regent

The above was taken looking west alongside Prince Regent DLR

Crossrail and Connaught

Crossrail’s plan for the western end of the Connaught Tunnel

Crossrail’s plan for the western end of the Connaught Tunnel

Looking east towards the Connaught Tunnel from Prince Regent DLR, Unravelled has neatly caught the flying buttresses commonly deployed by Victorian Rail Engineers to stabilise cuttings in soft ground.

Connaught Tunnel

In April 2012 Crossrail began a major programme to lower the water table in the tunnel area by drilling wells at the Connaught Tunnel to draw down the water table ahead of works to deepen and widen the 135 year old tunnel in east London. Once the de-watering work is completed works will commence to widen and deepen the central section of the Connaught Tunnel so it can accommodate Crossrail’s larger trains. The water table is also being lowered to allow for the pump house shaft to be deepened by another seven metres to 25 metres in order for it to accommodate modern pumping equipment that will work to keep the tunnel dry. Works in Connaught Tunnel are well underway with the ballast – loose stone ground cover – and rail tracks already removed. Major piling works are complete at the Custom House end and on-going at the Silvertown end in order to strengthen the ground, as can be seen from Unravelled’s images of the southern approach and Factory road.

The slope down to the tunnel
Connaught Work

As we reported earlier, survey work to identify potential unexploded ordnance from World War II has been completed in the tunnel’s western approach with the all clear given. Crossrail’s archaeologists have since opened their fourth and final trench for the site, searching for possible evidence of human activity dating back 6,000 years.

The Pumphouse

The Pumphouse, courtesy O.F.F.

The project involved the relocation of a 130 year old pump house which was removed brick by brick to facilitate reconstruction in the local area at a later date. The attractive Victorian building, captured here by O.F.F. was too small to accommodate the larger modern pumping equipment that will be installed as part of the tunnel’s refurbishment. SS Robin is in discussion with a number of parties about the relocation of the Pump House. It’s currently being stored and protected on the south dock inside the Crossrail site boundary.

Our thanks and copyright acknowledgements to Nigel Cox and OFE for the use of their images and Nick Mann of Crossrail

Written by Mwmbwls