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Crossrail is a project to build major new railway connections under central Londonmarker. The project's name refers to the first of two routes proposed by Cross London Rail Links Ltd, based around an east-west tunnel from Paddingtonmarker to Liverpool Street stationmarker. The second route is the Chelsea-Hackney line.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown officially approved the Crossrail project on 5 October 2007, after a funding deal covering the first line was worked out with various public and private sources. The Crossrail Act received the Royal Assent on 22 July 2008. In late 2008 the final funding agreement, which committed full finance for the project, was signed.

The first trains are due to run in 2017. 10-coach trains, roughly 200 metres long will run at high frequencies of up to 24 trains per hour (tph) in each direction during the peak periods through the central tunnel section, complementing the existing north-south Thameslink route. Crossrail ticketing is intended to be integrated with the other London transport systems, with Oyster Card Pay As You Go being valid on the entire line. Travelcards will be valid within Greater London with the exception of the Heathrow branch, which will continue to be subject to special fares. Crossrail has often been compared to Paris's RERmarker system due to the length of the central tunnel. Crossrail will be integrated with the London Underground and National Rail networks, and it is expected that Crossrail will appear on the standard London Underground Map.


The Crossrail line is based around a new set of east-west tunnels under central London connecting the Great Western Main Line near Paddingtonmarker to the Great Eastern Main Line near Stratfordmarker. An eastern branch diverges at Whitechapelmarker, running through Docklandsmarker and emerging at Custom Housemarker on a disused part of the North London Line, then under the River Thames, to . Trains will run from Maidenheadmarker and Heathrowmarker in the west to and Abbey Wood in the east, taking over the existing stopping services on those routes.

The principal works are:
  • The central tunnels, with new subterranean stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and the Isle of Dogsmarker, each offering interchange with the London Underground, National Rail or the Docklands Light Railway.
  • Another pair of tunnels, running under the Thames at North Woolwichmarker and including a new station at Woolwich. This connects the reused former part of the North London Line with the North Kent Line.
  • Most existing stations on the route will receive platform extensions, and a significant number will be completely rebuilt.
  • All new lines will be electrified at 25 kV AC 50 Hz, and overhead electrification will be installed between Heathrow Airport junction and Maidenhead.

The House of Commons Select Committee made an announcement of interim decisions in July 2006 which called on the Promoter to add a station at Woolwichmarker. The Government initially responded that it will not do so as that would jeopardise the affordability of the whole scheme but a subsequent agreement has made this possible.

There are proposals to extend the line to Readingmarker and Gravesend. Both routes have been safeguarded by the DfTmarker, although it has been made clear that there is currently no plan to extend Crossrail beyond the current scheme. Extending Crossrail to Reading is looking more attractive since the Government has announced that the Great Western Main Line will be electrified to Swanseamarker in Wales.

Technical details

The tunnelled section of the line will be about 22 km (13.75 miles) in length: a difficult and expensive piece of engineering, because of two factors: London’s geology, and the extensive tunnelling that already exists in central London. Its twin circular tunnels will have an internal diameter of 6 m (19.7 ft), compared with the 3.8 m (12.5 ft) diameter of existing deep Tube lines. Rather than the fourth rail electrification used by the London Underground or third rail on the existing North Kent line, Crossrail will use 25 kV, 50 Hz AC Overhead Line, as on the Great Eastern Main Line and the Great Western Main Line as far as Heathrow. The central tunnelled section will weave between existing Tube and road tunnels.

Rolling stock

Sixty five new trains are planned to be constructed for use on Crossrail. It is intended that these will be five-car electric multiple units, which will operate in pairs coupled together, forming ten-car trains. These are planned to have speeds up to 160km/h (100 mph) on the surface parts of the route and up to 100km/h (60 mph) in the tunnels. It is envisaged, as part of the government's rolling stock plan, that the stock for Crossrail will be similar to the new rolling stock planned for the Thameslink Programme and will displace other types of multiple unit currently used on the Great Eastern and Great Western routes for use elsewhere on the network.

Dropped routes

Various routes have been included in earlier drafts of the Crossrail scheme, but no longer feature. These include:
  • Paddington to Kingston upon Thamesmarker via Richmondmarker was part of the "preferred route" published in 2003, but was dropped in 2004 due to a combination of local opposition, uncertainty over the route, cost and an insufficient return on the envisaged investment. This would conceivably have run either overland or via a tunnel to the existing track through Gunnersbury and Kew (which would no longer be used by the District Line), and thence to Richmond and Kingston on existing mainline track.
  • A south-eastern route beyond Abbey Wood to Dartfordmarker and Northfleetmarker, connecting with High Speed 1. This was rejected due to the need to share track with existing services, leading to potential performance pollution. However much of this route has been revived in the safeguarding directive for Abbey Wood-Gravesend.
  • A north-western route to Aylesburymarker, taking over Chiltern services. This originally used the Dudding Hill Linemarker, and later involved a new tunnel. Other branches in this direction to High Wycombemarker and Watford Junctionmarker were also proposed. None of these made it past the 2003 route consultation.

Previous proposal

A report by a committee chaired by David Barran in 1974 recommended, alongside the development of the Fleet Line to and the River Linemarker project, two new deep-level railway lines, one linking Paddingtonmarker and Liverpool Streetmarker, via Marble Archmarker and Ludgate Circusmarker; and another linking London Bridgemarker and Victoriamarker. The cost of these two links, along with the re-opening of the Snow Hill tunnelmarker to form Thameslink, was estimated at £300 million.

An east–west route was again proposed in the early 1990s. A Bill was introduced into Parliamentmarker, promoted by London Underground and British Rail, and supported by the government, but was rejected by the Private Bill Committee in 1994. This service even went as far as preparatory work on rolling stock, with concept drawings for what was planned to be Class 341 trains released. A number of alternative routes on the west side were considered, including regional services to Amershammarker and Watfordmarker in the north-west, Readingmarker in the west. All have now been dropped in favour of the core proposal.

Current status

A hybrid bill for the scheme received the Royal Assent on 22 July 2008. The Bill is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement, plans and other related information. The bill gives Cross London Rail Links the powers necessary to construct the line.

On 4 December 2008 it was announced that Transport for London and the Department for Transportmarker had signed the Crossrail Sponsors’ Agreement. This commits them to financing the full cost of the project, alongside contributions from Network Rail, BAA and the City of Londonmarker. The accompanying Crossrail Sponsors' Requirements commits them to the construction of the full scheme.

In 2009 building work commenced. First of all preparatory work was started at Tottenham Court Road stationmarker as this is one of the critical sites, with work expected to take seven years to complete. Buildings (including the Astoria Theatremarker) have been compulsorily purchased and demolished. Work on the route itself officially began on 15 May 2009 with the commencement of piling works at the future Canary Wharf stationmarker.

On 7 September 2009 the project received £1bn in funding. The money is being lent to Transport for London by the European Investment Bank.


Some East Londonmarker politicians objected to the scheme, which they saw as an expensive west to east commuter service that will primarily benefit Citymarker and Docklandsmarker businesses and bring enormous disruption to East London. As a result, the tunnelling strategy was changed to remove excavated material by barge from Leamouthmarker rather than the originally proposed complex conveyor system in Mile Endmarker.

Some freight train operating companies, including English, Welsh and Scottish Railway Ltd (EWS), opposed the current plans because they claimed that they would use up much of the remaining rail capacity within the London area and do not provide the necessary extra capacity on connecting lines. This would make it harder to route freight services from the southern ports to the north and will increase freight transit times. EWS reserved its right to pursue legal action, citing violations of both UK and EU law.

There had been complaints from London music fans, as the redevelopment of the area forced the closure of a number of historic music venues. The London Astoriamarker, the Astoria 2marker, The Metro, Sin nightclub and The Ghetto have been demolished to allow expansion of the ticket hall and congestion relief at Tottenham Court Road station in advance of the arrival of Crossrail.

There was considerable annoyance in Readingmarker that Crossrail would terminate at Maidenhead, not Reading. However both the promoters and the government had always insisted that there was nothing to prevent extension to Reading in future if it could be justified. In February 2008 it was announced that the route for an extension to Reading was being protected. This has become more likely now that the government has announced that the Great Western Main Line will be electrified all the way to Swansea. Parties are in discussion to establish whether it now makes more sense to take Crossrail all the way to Reading as the line will be electrified to Reading and beyond.

The threat of diseases being released by work on the Crossrail project was raised by Lord James of Blackheath at the passing of the Crossrail Bill. Lord James told the House of Lordsmarker Crossrail Bill select committee that 682 victims of anthrax had been brought into Smithfieldmarker in Farringdonmarker with some contaminated meat in 1520 and then buried in the area. On 24 June 2009 it was reported that no traces of anthrax or bubonic plague had been found on human bone fragments found during tunnelling work for the Crossrail project.

Management aspects

Crossrail Limited is the company responsible for creating Crossrail. It was jointly owned by Transport for London and the Department for Transportmarker until December 2008, when full ownership was transferred to TfL. Crossrail has a £15.9 billion funding package in place for the construction of the line. Services will begin in 2017 providing there are no delays caused by unexpected legal, construction or financial difficulties.


To give legal authorisation to Crossrail, a Hybrid Bill went through Parliament. In February 2008 the Bill moved to the House of Lords where it was debated, amended and scrutinised by a Committee of peers. The Act received Royal Assent on 22 July 2008 as the Crossrail Act 2008.

In November 2008, while announcing an agreement for a £230m contribution from BAA, transport minister Lord Adonis confirmed that funding was still in place in spite of the global economic downturn.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown started the construction of Crossrail on 15 May 2009.


West of Paddington

Maidenhead Branch

The route from the following stations is also protected, as of October 2009

Heathrow Branch

The Maidenhead and Heathrow branches join at Airport Junction, between West Drayton & Hayes and Harlington.

Central section (tunnelled)

Due to the size and positioning of new platforms required for these stations some will be directly connected to multiple underground stations.

East of Whitechapel

Romford Branch

Abbey Wood Branch

  • (new station under construction) Formerly called 'Isle of Dogs'
  • Custom Housemarker (additional facilities)
  • (not expected to be opened straight away, but a possible station at a later date)
  • (new station)
  • for Thamesmeadmarker (existing tracks will need re-alignment)
These stations are on the protected route extension to Hoo Junctionmarker as of October 2009:

Alternative proposed routes

Aylesbury Branch

This branch would have taken over Metropolitan and Network SouthEast lines from Baker Street and Marylebone to Aylesbury (including Chesham branch). Crossrail would run via the Dudden Hill line or a tunnel to Neasden Junction, where it would run to Harrow using the fast mainlines. The fast lines north of Harrow would be exclusively used by Crossrail trains. A new station would have been built at Northwood to allow an interchange between Met and Crossrail lines. The Metropolitan line would have terminated at Rickmansworth instead of Amersham. A few NSE services to Aylesbury left would have been routed via High Wycombe and Princes Risborough.

Richmond Branch

This branch would have taken over the District line from Turnham Green to Richmond, and then to Kingston in tunnel. However, opposition from residents and politicians in Richmond, the expected cost and an insufficient return on the envisaged investment caused this proposed route not to be pursued in the hybrid Bill

Hounslow Branch

Following the decision to halt progress on development on a Richmond branch, Hounslow council have attempted to get a route from Paddington through to Hounslow using an existing railway route (so no tunnelling is required).

Maidenhead to Reading extension

The Great Western Electrification project, announced in July 2009, will complement the Crossrail project and provide electrification to the Great Western Main Line westwards from Maidenhead to Reading and beyond. The UK Government and Transport for London are now considering extending Crossrail services from Maidenhead to Reading from the outset.

Chelsea-Hackney line (Crossrail line 2)

Cross London Rail Links Ltd has inherited London Underground's aborted "Chelsea-Hackney Line" plans, sometimes also referred to as the "Merton-Hackney". A route for this has been safeguarded since 1991, and a 2007 consultation to renew the safeguarding gives the following route:

Currently this line is known as the Chelsea - Hackney line and will not be built until after Crossrail. The current scheme is somewhat vague as to whether it will be built to National Rail or London Underground standards and take existing commuter services. The route protection also includes a branch south from Victoria Stationmarker underneath Battersea Parkmarker in the direction of Clapham Junctionmarker although not reaching that station. Clapham Junction is shown as an interchange with Crossrail 2 on TfL's East London Line route map.

See also


  1. Crossrail to Reading would keep it on track
  4. Crossrail information: Rolling Stock
  5. DfT Rolling Stock Plan
  6. Full text of the Bill.
  7. Work officially starts on Crossrail - PHOTOS,, accessed 2009-05-17
  10. Additional stop for Crossrail
  11. Department for Transport - Britain’s Transport Infrastructure - Rail Electrification - July 2009
  12. Crossrail Chelsea-Hackney Line site
  13. Crossrail Chelsea-Hackney Line Safeguarding Directions Consultation Drawings

External links

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