Crossrail - London’s ‘catalyst’

Friday 23 February 2018

Crossrail represents a catalyst to respond to some of London’s congestion challenges, increasing capacity by 10% through carrying 200 million passengers a year and adding to London’s ‘bottom line’ with homes, offices and shops in the process.

Those were some of the main points to emerge from the ‘Crossrail: above the ground’ breakfast talk held at NLA this morning.

Crossrail’s land and property director Ian Lindsay said that the line represents ‘one of the most amazing, large, and complex projects ever undertaken in the UK’, with its 118km length exceeding that of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and involving two 21km tunnels under the centre of London. The £14.8bn ‘Elizabeth Line’ project draws a third of its costs from the private sector, and with the ‘tunnelling marathon’ now done, it is 90% complete, said Lindsay. But the scale of the project is worth remembering, its 250m long platforms typically featuring escalators at each end leading to two separate ticket halls, and the diameter of the tunnels at 6.25m dwarfing the 3.5m tube equivalents. And yet it is above ground that the line will also make a key difference to Londoners, said Lindsay, with upgrades of outer London stations like Ealing Broadway, Ilford and Hayes and Harlington acting as a ‘stimulus’ to development and helping create better ‘places’. ‘These areas need to work as effectively as transport interchanges and must be pleasant places to spend time in’, he said. Crossrail hopes to implement £90m of improvements by the end of this year, and will create 3.5msq ft of new homes, offices and shops. ‘Our ambition is to deliver high quality places and a lasting legacy for London’, said Lindsay. ‘It’s the right thing to do but will also add to our bottom line.’

In the West End, after more than 150 years, we finally have a ‘catalyst’ to try to and resolve some of the pressures of overcrowded spaces, said Alexander Jan, director, city economics, at Arup. Oxford Street and surrounding streets attract some 300 million visitors per year, and there will be significant flows in and out of stations along Oxford Street, he said. But projects to pedestrianise Oxford Street and improve comfort levels for the pedestrian in other areas such as Tottenham Court Road are geared to providing similar levels to those experienced in shopping centres. ‘It’s very important we act together to deliver coherent series of interventions for people who will use the space once Crossrail opens’, he said.

The conference also heard from Raffaella Rospo, senior associate at WestonWilliamson, about the similarly complex Paddington Station project her practice has worked on, noting how difficult it was to pedestrianise a street in London and the importance of retaining the design architect into delivery. And AHMM’s Simon Allford showed his scheme at Soho Square, which features a new theatre built within a metre of three jet engines’ worth of cooling fans for Crossrail below, with consequent noise and vibration issues. The scheme has had a long gestation and many iterations, to date over 11 years having generated 1,200 drawings and 1.2 Terabytes of data. ‘Crossrail has prematurely aged all of us.’ 

By David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly 

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Crossrail: Above the ground


As London prepares for the opening of the Elizabeth Line, NLA brings together those who have been working to reconfigure the capital’s urban realm and utilising this major infrastructure project to improve London’s pedestrian routes and public spaces.