LCR is obliged under its Development Agreement with the Government to build Section Two of the CTRL.
Finance of £300M is already committed to design, land acquisition and preliminary works ready for a 1 July 2001 construction start.
In round figures Section Two is half the length of Section One and nearly twice the cost. It will take another 15 minutes off the London to Paris timetable and link the high speed line into the rest of Britain's railways north of the Thames at both Dagenham and just north of St Pancras.
Section Two will follow on from Section One near Pepper Hill in Kent; run down through a station and connection with the north Kent lines at Ebbsfleet; through twin 3km long tunnels under the Thames at Dartford; through Essex marshes on a viaduct and 16km of piled slab; and pass through a 19km length of twin bored tunnels running beneath east London via Stratford before emerging north of King's Cross and terminating in a massive high level extension of St Pancras Station.
Consents, land acquisition and contractor prequalification are currently dominating the work of Union Railways (North) on Section Two of CTRL. All are part of the rush to be ready for letting of the first main contracts in December.
'We have to identify 3,000 owners and send offer letters. Every one is a distinct administration package, ' says URN managing director Walt Bell.
Mining rights have to be acquired throughout the tunnelled route and vent shaft locations bought. 'Currently we have the right of way for 18% of the route. By the end of the year we will have 80%, ' he says.
LCR chief executive Rob Holden describes it as 'the largest land acquisition programme since the Second World War.' All the compulsory purchase powers expire in November next year.
The tender process for the main contracts begins in May. Some utility diversions in east London are already under way. Archaeological packages are being let for Swanscombe and Ebbsfleet. Bids are being invited for three bridges at Dagenham; two essential to the Ford Motor Works which will be bisected by CTRL, and a third, worth £6M on its own.
RLE technical director Mike Glover says that the Thames Tunnel is on the critical path, since railway installation work will move west from Ebbsfleet, but that the most complex job is St Pancras.
'The biggest challenge is the new station for Thameslink.' This will be in a 500m long 25m wide box constructed underground diagonally across the north end of St Pancras Station. It will become the new King's Cross/St Pancras Thameslink Station carrying West Anglia services currently terminating at King's Cross, as well as those of the Midland lines which already run through to south London.
The box will be the bottom layer of a complex structural sandwich built in and around the existing rail traffic. Put very simply the project involves: slewing the Midland Lines to the west side of St Pancras; constructing the east side of the high level deck extension to the station; moving the trains back onto the deck; digging out the box; and building the west half of the deck. In addition, a tunnelled burrowing junction across the railway lands will bring the King's Cross West Anglia lines into the Thameslink box.
The sequence can only work if existing Thameslink services are stopped for 25 weeks to build and splice the box into the tunnels carrying these trains. Box construction cannot start until the end of 2003, barely three years before the completed CTRL track, signals and power systems have to be ready for the line to open.
Passenger traffic from CTRL will increase the already vast load on the Underground system at King's Cross St Pancras - served by six separate lines through a grossly inadequate station.
Post-CTRL, the surface and Underground railway complex will handle 60M passengers a year. 'It will be the busiest transport interchange in Europe, ' says Ove Arup's Mark Bostock.
New ticket halls are to be built for London Underground between the two mainline stations and in front of St Pancras. The cramped existing station entrance will be upgraded.
Stratford's 1km long by 50m wide and 25m deep station box will be vast but relatively straightforward since there is plenty of space. It has to double as the worksite for the twin 7.15m finished diameter running tunnels driven both to east and west. Spoil will be used to raise levels of low lying areas in the land to be redeveloped.
The six month pre-construction period will allow the selected contractors to procure tunnel boring machine designs. Glover envisages earth pressure balance machines for these drives.
'Water and settlement are the biggest potential problems.' Much of the western tunnels follow the retained cuttings of the North London Line. Rotation of the brick walls and abutments of the old bridges has to be controlled.
The eastern drives pass into Thanet Sand Formation, where dewatering is envisaged to control the dense, low permeability material.
Twin bores of the T hames Tunnel are likely to be driven with a slurry machine. Water from the chalk, and possibly the river, was a major difficulty when the Dartford road tunnels were driven using compressed air at up to 3bar.
Crossing the marshes east of London on a 7km length of piled slab will be a geotechnical engineer's delight. The ground is about 4m deep peat and alluvium on Thames ballast and the railway will have a very high ratio of live to dead load. Pile tests are being commissioned this summer to help bidders. Involvement of contractors in refining the design is seen as particularly important because of the thousands of piles involved.
Mike Glover technical director RLE 'Section Two is really moving forward. Bidding will be in excess of £1bn, ' says Mike Glover who came from Ove Arup to be technical director at RLE.
'We will award contracts at the end of this year or early in 2001 then work with contractors up to July on on construction planning and value engineering. Our objective is is maximum efficiency, minimum time and cost.'
But Glover says that RLE will not 'rush at every idea' put up as alternatives. 'They need to be assessed properly first. We only want to go for ideas that are reasonable.'
Stephen Jordan managing director, stations and properties, LCR 'It may be 2012 before the profit comes in.' Stephen Jordan is someone looking a long way ahead.
In these days of short term planning and 'realising maximum shareholder benefit' it is good to know that there are people planning ahead.
Jordan's vision for the development potential of Stratford and King's Cross railway lands is infectious.
And this perspective is well rounded by enthusiasm for the superb Victorian relic at St Pancras which was once the Midland Grand Hotel and is soon to be restored.
Jordan recalls how appalled he was years ago in his first job.
Meeting the boss outside the station he was greeted by the remark: 'It's about time they knocked that lot down!'
Walt Bell managing director Union Railways (North) 'We believe the critical path is through St Pancras. There is so much to be done there.' Heavy engineering, and railways in particular, are Walt Bell's speciality.
The archetypal Bechtel man, Bell came to the CTRL 16 months ago with a brief to punch Section Two into shape ready for its planned start on site in July next year. His previous assignment was project director for programme management on the 420km long TGV technology high speed railway from Seoul to Pusan. The line will pass through Korea's industrial heartland. 'It is 40% hard rock tunnel, 40% on structures and the rest is on fill. A major undertaking.'
In the Bechtel hierachy Bell recently held the key job as senior vice president in charge of all the company's civil engineering and construction work in North America. He retired last year as he had reached 65.
Bell's summary of his present work - leading Section Two's start up: 'A great way to retire!'
S2 CONTRACTS St Pancras:
C102 Gasholders and governor
C103 Civils works on King's Cross railway lands
C104 Trackwork staging
C105 Deck extension St Pancras Station and train shed refurbishment St Pancras Station, including Thameslink tunnels London Tunnels & Stratford: C220 Stratford to London Portal
C230 Stratford Box
C232 Stratford Station
C240 Stratford to Barrington Road C250 Ripple Lane to Barrington Road C260 Precast concrete tunnel linings Thames & Ebbsfleet:
C302 Ford service diversions (let to Alfred McAlpine/Amec)
C303 Ford and Choats Manor Way bridges
C310 West Thames
C320 Thames Tunnel and route civil works
C340 Ebbsfleet Station
C342 Highway works connecting A2 and Ebbsfleet Station
C360 National Grid cable diversions
C361 Gas and sludge mains diversions
C364 Supply of pressure reduction stations
C365 pipe jacking for utilities at Ripple Lane (let to Amec) Coming in to land Urban regeneration brought about by a fast inter-regional transport system was at the heart of the strategy to route CTRL through north Kent and east London.
The anticipated completion of the railway in December 2006 will change the geography of the whole south east region by bringing its centre of transport gravity east of central London. For half a century the presence of Heathrow Airport has stoked up the already strong economy of west London.
But CTRL will enable Stratford and St Pancras to usurp Heathrow's predominance for short haul traffic to and from the Continent. It will also have a dramatic effect on north Kent which when 200km/h suburban trains are introduced will be just 17 minutes from St Pancras.
That is one driver behind development plans for three very large tracts of brownfield land: King's Cross Central and Stratford's old railway yards, and the former chalk quarries at Ebbsfleet, beside the M25 motorway.
London & Continental Railways and the Government will share the development gain from 48ha of land at Stratford and 20ha at King's Cross/St Pancras. In effect it is the security against which the money is being borrowed to build the railway.
'You need to think out of the box with King's Cross. This is one of the best sites worldwide, ' says LCR's property director Stephen Jordan. He enthuses about the possibilities for this last great tract of development land in central London. And marketing information put out to promote interest worldwide overlays the site on several major cities to demonstrate the huge opportunity that is involved.
'Mixed use' is the key phrase that keeps cropping up, both with King's Cross Central and Stratford. The sites might be on the scale of Docklands but LCR is not looking to set up in opposition. 'Stratford will not be a lookalike of Canary Wharf, ' he declares. 'The idea is a metropolitan development of retail, leisure, some hotels and some commercial and residential.'
For Stratford LCR has engaged Chelsfield and Stanhope with Ove Arup doing the masterplanning. Work on the ground could start in 2004 to 2005 once the heavy engineering for CTRL's station box at the focus of the development is completed.
One strategy for opening up the extensive site bordered on its northern side by the A12 link from the M11 is an extension of the Docklands Light Railway, which currently terminates on the south side.
Some sort of linear transport system will be needed for the corridor from the station box to the Central Line and the Stratford end of the Jubilee Line - which becomes an even more significant eastern link into the Docklands area.
At Ebbsfleet, LCR is planning for 9,000 car parking spaces at its station. The main development proposed will be adjacent, owned by Whitecliff Properties-Blue Circle working with Lend Lease, developer of nearby Bluewater.
Plans at King's Cross Central are slightly less advanced.
LCR is about to announce its preferred developer from its shortlist of Argent Group with St George, and Lend Lease.
The choice says Jordan: 'is about the process, not a masterplan that says exactly what you would put there.' He sees the site as being 'a people attractor. A new quarter for London, that is a real destination.
'It has to be permeable. This is a neighbourhood not a cantonment, ' emphasises Jordan. Small businesses have to be catered for and sensible internal transport solutions worked out.
'We're not going to have cherry picking. No forgotten parts. These are the ground rules.'
Separately from this development, the gothic building of St Pancras train shed - the former Midland Grand Hotel - is set to come alive again with a major refurbishment by Whitbread's Marriott Hotel franchise and Manhattan Loft.
Years of neglect and abuse of parts used as offices have left the hotel in a magnificently sad state.
The hope is that micro services and carefully worked out fire control measures coupled with sympathetic restoration can create a superb hotel and loft apartments fit for the 21st century.