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European firms big winners for Crossrail tunnel contracts worth £1.25bn

European firms are well represented among the winners of £1.25bn worth of tunnelling contracts awarded by Crossrail today.

Crossrail has revealed that a joint venture (JV) of Spanish construction giant Dragados and Irish contractor John Sisk had won the eastern running tunnels contract while the team of Bam Nuttall, Spanish firm Ferrovial and Kier (BFK) would take on both the Western running tunnels and station shafts and sprayed concrete lining works for Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road stations.

Alpine BeMo Tunnelling, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, Morgan Sindall, and Vinci Construction Grands Projects together won the remaining key central tunnelled section works for access shafts and sprayed concrete lining works at Whitechapel and Liverpool Street stations.

Crossrail said that combining the award of both the BFK contracts will allow it to take advantage of cost-efficiencies in that section.

Kier and Dutch giant Bam have resurrected their High Speed 1 (HS1) joint venture (JV), which built the twin tunnels between Barking and Dagenham. Spanish firm Ferrovial has been brought into the JV, bringing with it experience of deep station work on Spanish metro schemes.

However, others with HS1 expertise missed out as Costain and Skanska failed to land any of the major work.

Crossrail said “significant competition” for the tunnelling contracts had delivered “highly competitive” bids, which made a major contribution to £1bn project savings. The government recently confirmed the project would go ahead but subject to at least a year delay to the opening date - now set to start in 2018 - while costs were reduced to £14.5bn from £15.9bn.

The four contract awards:

C300 – Western Running Tunnels (Royal Oak to Farringdon)

Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman (UK), Kier Construction JV

C305 – Eastern Running Tunnels (Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon; Limmo Peninsula to Victoria Dock; Stepney Green to Pudding Mill Lane)

Dragados and John Sisk & Son (Holdings) JV

C410 – Early Access Shafts and Sprayed Concrete Lining Works for Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road stations tunnels

Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman (UK), Kier Construction JV

C510 – Early Access Shafts and Sprayed Concrete Lining Works for Whitechapel and Liverpool Street stations tunnels

Alpine BeMo Tunnelling, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, Morgan Sindall (Infrastructure), Vinci Construction Grands Projects JV

The contracts will deliver the construction of 18km of twin-bore tunnels underneath central London of the nearly 21km of twin-bore tunnel for the whole of Crossrail. Tunnelling activity will begin in late 2011 with the first tunnel boring machine (TBM) starting out on its journey in spring 2012.

The contracts being awarded today are the first of nearly thirty major contracts that will be awarded by Crossrail over the next 18 months. A further series of tunnelling contracts will be awarded in 2011 including the Thames Tunnel between Plumstead and Woolwich and remaining contracts for tunnel portals and station platform tunnels.

“Crossrail has now reached a very significant milestone with the award of the main tunnel contracts,” said Crossrail chief executive Rob Holden. “The value of the contracts, combined with the length of tunnel to be constructed, is on a scale not seen in the UK since the Jubilee Line Extension or the Channel Tunnel Rail Link [HS1].”

Tunnelling programme

In spring 2012, the first two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will start on their journey from Royal Oak towards Farringdon. This will be followed later in 2012 by the launch of two further TBMs in Docklands that will head towards Farringdon under central London. Further shorter tunnel drives will take place in the Royal Docks and East London.

To construct the 21km of twin-bore tunnel required for Crossrail, seven TBMs will be used and will undertake ten individual tunnel drives and construct the 6m diameter tunnels. Each TBM will be up to 120m in length.

The Western and Eastern running tunnels will have tunnel portals at Royal Oak, Pudding Mill Lane and Victoria Dock. The TBMs will commence their eastbound journey under London from Royal Oak and westbound from the Royal Docks. Construction of the tunnel portal at Royal Oak is now underway.

The TBMs will be purchased by the main tunnels contractors from European manufacturers. There are no UK-based companies that manufacture TBMs.


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