Work on the first of the Crossrail tunnels is scheduled to begin in March and preparation work on the momentous project is already well underway. The giant tunnel boring machines that will be used to dig out thousands of tonnes of earth from beneath the city of London have been constructed in Germany by Herrenknecht, and testing of the huge machines is now complete. The first of the TBMs is on its way to the UK, ready to be reassembled in time for tunnelling work in a few short weeks, and the next machines will soon be following suit.
Once tunnelling on the Crossrail project begins, teams of twenty operatives will be working night and day in rolling shifts to ensure the work is completed on time. It has been estimated that the TBMs will progress at a rate of one hundred metres per week, and by the time the Crossrail project has reached completion, a whopping six million tonnes of soil will have been excavated, most of which will be transported to Wallasea Island in Essex, where it will be put to good use in the construction of a new nature reserve.
As progress is made on the Crossrail tunnels, concrete reinforcement rings will be put in place to line each tunnel. These are being constructed at a factory in west London and each segment is so large that it takes a month to set hard. A further two factories will have to be built in order to accommodate the demand for concrete segments to line the Crossrail tunnels—a quarter of a million will be used by the end of the project.
Work on the Crossrail project appears to be relentless, but although plenty of people stand to benefit from the increased employment opportunities, some local business are not happy at having to make way for Crossrail construction work.