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CROSSRAIL: Connecting the Dots

Jeffrey Syken

First published by railroad worker George Dow, the concept of a large-diameter railway tunnel traversing Central London appeared on June 14, 1941 (Dow also anticipated a post-war “Thameslink” Line and proposed a North-South line, which would in later years take the form of “Crossrail 2”). The original proposal for the East-West link through Central London was Patrick Abercrombie’s “Greater London Plan,” of 1943. This led to a survey by the Railways Commission (a/k/a “London Plan”) which was laid-down in 1944 and reported in 1946 and 1948. The term “Crossrail” first appeared in the 1974 London Rail Study Report by the Ministry for the Environment and the Greater London Council. It took into account the future transport needs and strategic planning of London and the Southeast of England. The report included new lines and line extensions, including the Jubilee Line (a/k/a “Fleet Line”) to Fenchurch Street Station and the Jubilee Line Extension (a/k/a “River Line”) plan, which included Crossrail 2.

Crossrail was conceived to be akin to Paris’ RER and/or the S-Bahn, in Berlin. A direct service to London’s Heathrow Airport was also considered. Apart from its high cost, it was an imaginative concept. Preliminary studies recommended that feasibility and financial planning be of the highest priority. In 1989’s Central London Rail Study, the “East-West Crossrail” (East-West) plan was from Liverpool Street to Paddington/Marylebone. The study also included several other plans, including improvements to the Thameslink Metro Line and a new underground line; the Chelsea Hackney Line. In 1991, a separate bill was introduced in Parliament with plans to include a new underground line from Paddington to Liverpool Street. The bill was promoted by the London Underground and British Rail and was supported by the British Government, but was rejected in 1994.

After a long history of development and planning dating back to the mid-1970s, a bill was submitted to the UK parliament in 2005. It received Royal Assent in 2008 thus, the Crossrail Act of 2008 was born. The scheme anticipated a rail link running through twin-bore tunnels in Central London, stopping at key Tube stations such as Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Liverpool Street. Under the plan, Crossrail would provide 24 trains-an-hour in each direction and be capable of carrying 160K morning rush-hour passengers. A fleet of sixty-six Bombardier Class 345 trains - 1.5x as long as a typical Tube train – would shuttle passengers smoothly and efficiently to their destinations throughout Greater London. Though the “Tunnelling Marathon” whereby six TBMs bore their way under London went well, fit-out of the tunnels, accidents, testing and a worldwide pandemic would stymie the original opening set for December 2018. Completed in May 2022, Crossrail, renamed the “Elizabeth Line,” is a resounding success and a testament to British engineering and stick-to-it-ness.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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