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Revealed | The true extent of Crossrail completion work

Whitechapel crossover

Plastered on the hoardings outside each of Crossrail’s 10 central stations, written in bold, blue capital letters are the words “OPENING DECEMBER 2018”.

Christmas has, however, come and gone and the hoardings remain in place as a haunting reminder of a deadline forever moving in the wrong direction.  

In fact, “many, many thousands of hours” of work are still required to get Crossrail’s central London stations over the finish line, according to the project’s new chief executive Mark Wild.

No end date in sight

With no end date in sight, those managers in charge of Crossrail’s stations are still busy at work inside Transport for London’s plush new Stratford offices.

The official line is that Crossrail bosses are “reviewing as a matter of urgency the work still required to complete the new stations and rail infrastructure along with the critical safety testing” in order to “establish a robust and deliverable plan to open the railway”.

New Civil Engineer understands that the station contractors are working towards full tier one demobilisation by April or May, with final fit out and testing, including track systems to drag on until the end of the summer.

The amount of work to be done varies from station to station with Bond Street furthest behind the pack.

Long rumoured to be the most problematic site on the project, there is now a very serious likelihood that it will be left out of the maiden voyage of trains passing through the central  – whenever that may be.  

Fit outs underway

At the other nine stations, work to complete mechanical and electrical installation, testing and commissioning activity and final fit-out is underway.  

Tier one substantial demobilisation (TOSD) was achieved at Woolwich on 19 December 2018, with Balfour Beatty the first of the main contractors to move out.

Shortly before Christmas, the Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial and Kier joint venture wrapped up at Farringdon and Laing O’Rourke demobilised at Custom House on the same day.

TOSD was also achieved in Crossrail areas at Woolwich as recently as 18 January. 

That means main contractors are still beavering away at central Crossrail stations including Tottenham Court Road, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and Bond Street with over 6,000 people still employed by the tier one contractors on site.

Station contractors are working towards full tier one demobilisation by April or May

As exclusively reported in last month’s issue, Crossrail is renegotiating lump sum payments with its contractors to incentivise them to get the job done.

Getting tier ones out the door effectively means that final fit-out is underway, when the focus can switch to integration, testing and commissioning of the stations’ systems.

And while testing and commissioning has begun at most of the central London stations, there is “a lot more work to do” at Bond Street, according to a Crossrail source.  

Heavy mechanical and electrical equipment installation is still some way from completion at the problem station, with final fit-out and months of testing still to come.

With 95% of final designs now signed off, the source told New Civil Engineer that the main ticket item left to finish at Bond Street is the installation of two tunnel ventilation fans.   

Ventilation fan delivery challenge

These are being supplied by Crossrail’s systems wide contractor ATC, but getting the fans on site has been a major challenge.

“The tunnel vent fans are a big area of complication,” the source said.

“They are supplied by systems wide contractor ATC but the station is built by CSJV [Costain and Skanska joint venture]. So we have two different contracts that we have to make sure are properly coordinated together.

“They are both focused on their own works and it will frustrate another contractor who needs to come in and use the same space, which has created a bit of difficulty to get the tunnel vent fans installed and sealed off.”  

The source added: “They are the biggest thing down there – they kick out a lot of heat so we have to have air conditioning units down there to keep them cool.”

Knock on delays

Because of the delay to the tunnel ventilation system, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning plant rooms at either end of the station have also been late going in. Before the plant rooms are installed everything else has to be cleared out so that workers have room to manoeuvre.  

Floor and wall finishes, as well as installation of the precast glass reinforced cladding system have yet to be completed to cover the spray concrete lined walls in the platform tunnels, cross passages, central concourse and on the escalator inclines.

There are still services to be installed and systems testing has to be done before those finishes are put to bed.

Completing the civils works at the station has delayed mechanical and electrical equipment installation by about a year, New Civil Engineer understands.  

The civil works were delayed and it does have a knock on effect on mechanical and electrical installations

All the tunnelling was completed on schedule, but erecting internal structures, such as floor slabs, took much longer than expected, delaying the start of the final mechanical and electrical and fit-out work.

Bond Street’s location at the heart of London’s congested West End has also been a big hindrance, impacting almost every stage of construction.

“Bond Street is in a difficult area, it is a difficult location to get to,” the source said. “You can’t have vans parked outside, everything has to come straight in on time. It is difficult enough to get down to the site itself.

“Putting the shafts in at Bond Street and all the civils work was difficult because of the location of where it is.

Delayed civil work

“The civil works were delayed and it does have a knock on effect to the mechanical and electrical installations. All [civils works are] finished now but flooding it with staff to get the fit out done was delayed by about a year.”  

At the other nine central London stations, most of the fit out is complete, with cladding and finishes to break-out areas needed to complete interfaces with the existing London Underground (LU) network.  

At Tottenham Court Road and Liverpool Street work on the new ticket halls has yet to be completed with the installation of ticket barriers and third-party areas such as pop-up shops and advertising boards still to be finalised.

It is a similar story at Farringdon where there are a number of interface issues with LU at its eastern entrance near Barbican station that require finishing off.  

Whitechapel is in very much the same shape, but with only one entrance, the finishing touches should be a quicker job.   

For Whitechapel, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Tottenham Court Road testing and commissioning of the fire alarm system, emergency lighting systems and all safety critical assets is now underway.  

For each system there are three stages of testing. With systems at most stations now largely being controlled locally, the last thing “hanging out” is ensuring the stations can be operated remotely from the monitoring facility in Romford.    

After that, Crossrail’s central London stations should be ready to go. As for when trains come into operation, perhaps wait before putting a date on the hoardings just yet.

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Readers' comments (7)

  • Philip Alexander

    Has anyone asked which company drew up the master program for Crossrail? This is a fiasco of monumental proportions.

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  • Michael Thorn

    And what happened to the project workplans and Gantt charts, which all students are required to produce as part of their degree projects? They are supposed to identify and resolve conflicting elements and how one thing needs to be completed before another can happen. I know that some students have a tendency to produce over-complex Gantt charts, and then (because they are complicated) ignore them in the delivery of their project. Maybe they are all working for Crossrail!

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  • Maybe senior management should have got out of their ivory towers occasionally and had look to see if they were being told the truth. Not too much to ask, surely!

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  • Probably not the original programme but its reporting over the years that's wrong,!

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  • James Wren - as an engineer working in infrastructure on large scale Rail projects, I can tell you that it is highly likely that Designers / Site Engineers did point out that the project is over-running a long time before anyone took action. It's the normal course in today's society run by accountants and lawyers - lowly engineers raise concerns, management ignore them until they can't be ignored anymore. And then blame the engineers / installers / anyone they can other than themselves for the delays.

    It is also a symptom of the lack of technical expertise in the construction sector (especially in client organisations). Sure - there are LOTS of highly qualified and competent people but there not enough of them to deliver all the work efficiently. This also tends to dilute their inputs to the point where they don't feel it's worth delivering good work anymore.

    The sad part is...I don't see this getting better any time soon. There is a severe lack of accountability in our field, staff retention rates are low (especially on large scale infrastructure projects) and good engineering practice is often only followed on paper.

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  • Shades of IKB!

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  • Philip Alexander

    It's appalling and heads should roll. For this amount of work to be left to complete after the contract date of December 2018, it is certain that those in charge of the project would have known how late it would be and how much over budget at least a year before December 2018. It's such a scandal that it is obvious to me that a full Public Inquiry needs to be held to bring those responsible to account and to ensure that the taxpayer doesn't get ripped off in the same way in the future. So who believes those responsible for delivering HS2 that their budget is right and the program can be achieved? No-one.

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