Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

West End Spectacular

Tottenham Court Road in London’s busy West End is one of Crossrail’s first construction sites. Preparatory activities are under way with station work due to begin in early 2009.

Tottenham Court Road station is about to change forever and the redevelopment combined with the Crossrail station will make it one of the most important transport hubs in central London. Starting in 2017, there will be 24 Crossrail trains an hour in each direction in the morning and evening peak period through the station, providing substantial new passenger capacity and crowd relief as well as faster and new journey opportunities. “While the entire Crossrail project will be the biggest construction project in Europe, no one should underestimate the scale and extent of the work taking place at Tottenham Court Road. This will be one of the biggest station redevelopment projects that has ever been undertaken in central London,” says David Sweetman, who is project manager for the Crossrail element of the Tottenham Court Road works.

Click here for image of the most important hub in central London

Ralph Freeston, London Underground project manager for the redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road station, agrees that the project presents an enormous challenge. “The London Underground works at Tottenham Court Road are extremely complex and are taking place in a very busy part of London where other works are also taking place,” says Freeston. In fact it is the busy nature of the area that is in part driving the redevelopment. If works to improve the station are not undertaken then it will soon have to close regularly due to excessive congestion.

Click here for timeline

When the station first opened in July 1900 it was designed to serve only the Central line. A separate station was opened in 1907 to serve the Northern line. Both stations eventually merged to become Tottenham Court Road in the 1930s. Today more than 150,000 people use the station every day and this is expected to grow to 200,000 when Crossrail opens in 2017 and becomes a combined London Underground and Crossrail station.

Over the next eight years the station will be transformed. The compact Tube ticket hall will be made five times larger (up from 186m2 to 920m2) by extending it under Charing Cross Road and using the space currently occupied by a pool and fountain outside the nearby landmark Centre Point building.

New spacious station entrances will be built at Dean Street and at the corner of Oxford Street, and in a new plaza space outside Centre Point. Once the redevelopment of the station is complete, the existing cramped station entrances will be replaced with new, more spacious openings to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of passengers who will enter and exit the station each day. “The position of the enlarged ticket hall along with new lifts and escalators is determined by the position of existing infrastructure,” explains Freeston.

“The Northern line runs north/south under Charing Cross Road while the Central line runs east/west under Oxford Street. This, and other constraints such as the existing ticket hall, Centre Point tower and the Northumberland sewer, mean that the best solution is to locate the extended ticket hall under Charing Cross Road.” However, this means that a large number of existing services will have to be diverted to make way for the extended ticket hall and this work has already begun.

A programme of utility diversions started in March 2007 which include the need to divert a local Victorian sewer and an Edwardian utilities tunnel, alongside power, gas, water and telecommunications services. “In all up to 50 separate diversions at depths ranging from 300mm to 10m were made,” says Freeston. More than 1,000m3 of material has already been excavated from the ground with 50% of it being recycled. “To minimise local disruption, up to four utility companies have worked using the same space at the same time,” adds Freeston. “Engineers also had to be mindful of the impact that these utility diversion works would have on other utilities infrastructure such as the Post Office tunnel railway and an original Bazalgette sewer which runs directly above the busy Central line.”

To facilitate the redevelopment of the station, a total of 13 buildings will be acquired and demolished. Property Acquisition Notices were issued in October and for Freeston and Sweetman they represent a major step forward in the redevelopment programme. When the properties transfer to the Secretary of State for Transport in early 2009 work will immediately begin to prepare the buildings for demolition, which is likely to take place very quickly after possession is gained.

Before demolition and the station redevelopment can start, some key roads must be closed and this will mean a number of local bus services will have to be re-routed over a period of up to seven years. This has required careful planning as there are up to 300 bus movements an hour in the Tottenham Court Road area. Once the demolition sites have been cleared construction can begin in earnest.

The initial work will involve forming the box for the new escalators to the Northern line. At the moment, a single bank of escalators provides access to the Central and Northern lines, meaning that passengers from both lines intersect at the bottom, resulting in congestion. After the redevelopment the existing bank of escalators will be used solely by Central line passengers. The excavation will be contained within a box formed from secant piles sunk up to 55m deep to support future over-site development with the majority around the 30m level. From this box an 8m-diameter concrete spray-lined tunnel will be driven to form the lower circulating area. Three new overbridges and staircases to provide access to the southern end of the Northern line platforms and the Crossrail platforms will also be constructed.

London Underground is also providing easier access to the western end of the current Central line platforms by driving a new concrete spray-lined tunnel parallel to the Central line tunnels with two new overbridges, staircases and a lift to the platform as part of accessibility improvements. “The biggest challenge is ensuring that the Tube continues to operate throughout with major construction such as piling and deep excavation taking place adjacent to existing infrastructure,” says Freeston.

As the project continues there will be two main construction sites – one by the new entrance at Dean Street and the other by Centre Point. The Dean Street site will sit between Oxford Street, Dean Street, Diadem Court and Great Chapel Street. Access to the site will be controlled and separated from other traffic on Oxford Street and Fareham Street will be closed during some of the works. The Centre Point site will be the area between Oxford Street, Charing Cross Road, Goslett Yard and Falconberg Court, where two new entrances and a ticket hall are being built.

Not only is there a consideration as to how normal traffic and bus services will continue to access the area but also how construction traffic will impact the surrounding area. Crossrail and Transport for London have been working closely with local authorities to manage the proposed traffic routes for construction purposes. Some pavements will be closed and some roads will be narrowed at both worksites with temporary pedestrian routes around the perimeter of the site where needed.

All construction traffic will have to use the same routes to avoid causing congestion in an already busy part of central London. A lorry holding area is to be provided in Newman Street where travel will need to be temporarily reversed so construction vehicles can move southbound across Oxford Street into the work site. “When you are working in an area as busy as London’s West End it is essential that there is joined-up working between all contractors who are working across the wider area and not just those involved with the redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road station to minimise disruption to residents, businesses and all road users in terms of the construction programme,” says Sweetman. “You cannot undertake a project on the scale of Crossrail without there being some degree of disruption but you can seek to keep disruption to a minimum.”

All the client groups are working together to ensure that there are clear and consistent messages delivered to local residents, businesses, stakeholders and passengers. A communications working group has been established, consisting of representatives from London Underground, Crossrail and TfL Surface Transport, who will work closely with the local authorities to ensure consistency of messages and overview of all works. This includes the production of joint letters, leaflets, public exhibitions and local community liaison panels. A public exhibition was held in the summer to inform and engage with local residents, businesses, stakeholders and passengers about the transport improvements and how the works will be managed. More than 1,500 visitors attended with plans and information provided well received. The intention is to build on the success of this approach and look at replicating it across the more complex sites along the Crossrail route including Bond Street.

But the question that all London Underground passengers want to know is: how will this construction affect their journeys over the next seven years? “We plan to carry out all these works while keeping the station open as much as possible although it may be necessary at times to close the station at weekends or earlier in the evening or to restrict interchange between the Central and Northern lines whilst some of the work is carried out,” says Freeston. “Over the last few years the level of modernisation work has increased dramatically on the Tube as stations are modernised and lines are upgraded. We’ve learnt that just as much thought needs to go into communicating with passengers about the works that are taking place as goes into planning the actual works that are going to be undertaken. We’ve developed comprehensive information packages to communicate with passengers to explain what work is taking place and how it will affect them as part of our ongoing ‘Check before you travel’ campaign.” “The fact that the project has been nearly two decades in the planning and is only now a reality just demonstrates the sheer complexity of the scheme,” adds Sweetman.

“The benefits that will be delivered will be felt by Tube passengers for decades to come and combined with Crossrail this just underpins the significance of the project. When you ask people what is the most important station on the Jubilee Line Extension the vast majority will tell you it is Canary Wharf. In 10 years time, people will say this of Tottenham Court Road and Crossrail.”

The improved station

● An enlarged ticket hall five times the size of the current one
● Overall station capacity will increase by 200%
● Two new entrances and upgrade of existing
● Five new lifts to provide stepfree access
● Additional escalators
● More CCTV cameras
● Improved customer information, including new help points and a new public address system
● Tactile strips on platforms and stairs, and contrasting handrails to assist partially sighted customers
● Enhanced safety and security for staff and passengers
● Better station lighting
● Additional access points to the Northern and Central line platforms to reduce congestion

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.