The challenge – deliver £2.3 billion of infrastructure investment, all of which is on the operational railway in close proximity to Central London, and deliver it at a rate of half a billion pounds a year for the next three years. Writes Grahame Taylor

That’s the task for Network Rail, working with Crossrail in readiness for new services in 2017/8. Rob McIntosh is Network Rail’s Crossrail programme director and he jokingly observes that the Crossrail team has got the easy bit – nice new tunnels and green field sites.

Perhaps the tunnels aren’t quite so easy and maybe picking your way beneath an operational city without rattling the teacups might be tricky, but at least there aren’t any trains to contend with. There is no 24-hour railway – yet. Crossrail may be spectacularly ambitious, but don’t ever underestimate the scale of works needed on the National network for the whole scheme to work from end to end.

Activity in Rob’s area of responsibility has yet to peak. That comes this year as his third and final front becomes active. His team is already working in the approaches to Paddington and out in the South East near Abbey Wood, and has also embarked on planning what he terms ‘open heart’ surgery at Old Oak Common and the Paddington approaches.

Prior planning

So, how did it all start? This hasn’t taken anyone by surprise. Right from the beginning of the Crossrail project it has been known that there would be the tunnels for the cross-London link and there would be a need for infrastructure at each of the ends to take Crossrail Abbey.cam01.upscaled - 2500x1406 [online]trains over, under and through Network Rail infrastructure. These interfaces would involve the obvious visible structures, but they would also involve signalling and control systems, power supplies and a whole host of major projects many of which would be invisible to the travelling public.

Over a number of years, Network Rail worked with Crossrail to develop the scope and the requirements which now make up the contract that Network Rail has directly with Crossrail for the delivery of £2.3 billion of infrastructure. There are key deliver dates within the contract – all critical to ensure that each element dovetails with another.

“Network Rail is taking those designs through GRIP stages 3 and 4, with a number of them moving into stage 5 with both design houses and consultancies. A large part of them are now with build contractors.”

Who pays? Well, by and large, Crossrail pays – via a mature protocol that has been drawn up between the two parties. A target cost contract has been signed and any emerging changes go through a rigorous process of impact analysis before being adopted in the scheme. One such ‘late arrival’ was the approval of electrification of the Great Western main line though to Swansea. This has had to be added into the scheme, but that too was seen on the horizon before it finally arrived.

Disruption to Train Operating Companies has been calculated for each sub-project in accordance with existing, well-documented and robust compensation regimes.

Progress report

“There’s been some great progress so far. We’ve now opened up our work fronts on all but one of the areas on the programme. The area we’ve yet to mobilise onto site or to begin construction is what we call the North East Spur – the line out to Shenfield. We’re just in the process of finalising our evaluation of the tenders for that work and will soon award that contract.

“The South East Spur work, from Plumstead down to Abbey Wood, is really taking shape now. This past December I went down to open up our site offices there ready for our first infrastructural alterations. We have to do a track slew in May to enable the construction of the two dedicated Crossrail lines from the Plumstead Wall down to Abbey Wood Station.”

A contract has been awarded to VINCI Construction UK Ltd. for the design and upgrade of 13 stations in west London and Berkshire. This contract covers significant improvements to stations from Acton Main Line to Maidenhead. Many on the route are being refurbished or partially rebuilt in preparation for Crossrail. Improvements include new station buildings and ticket halls, new lifts to deliver step free access and longer platforms.

Balfour Beatty Rail has won a separate contract for overhead line equipment. Crossrail is electrifying from Stockley to Maidenhead, where it will butt up against the Great Western electrification programme. The same new ‘series 1’ electrification equipment that’s going all the way to Swansea will be used.

Coming soon

The next part of the programme is Stockley Junction with the construction of a new flyover. That’s due to be started on site soon so there’ll be a big, new visible structure appearing. A crossover just to the east of Stockley between the main lines was installed this Christmas to enable future traffic moves.

Acton’s really getting on at a pace. Acton has been going now for a number of years as a project to remodel the existing freight yard to enable construction of a new dive-under. The dive- under excavation by principal contractors BAM Nuttall is now well underway and over Christmas new track and S&C units was installed to take freight traffic off the relief lines and into the Acton yard on the new intersection bridge.

“Our central Crossrail team is based at Enterprise House in Paddington. But more often than not, I spend a lot of time at Crossrail’s offices in Canary Wharf….. and they spend quite a bit of their time at our offices here. We also have site offices now established from Reading into Maidenhead, at Acton and Stockley and out at Abbey Wood. A team is based at Stratford for the work starting in close proximity to the Crossrail tunnel portal.

CrossrailThe North East spur up to Shenfield will really start to pick up towards the end of this year. Network Rail will be appointing their contractor and will be going through the phase of finalising designs. Then construction work will commence in earnest around the autumn.

Eventually Crossrail will start turning things on, and after that they’ll start running trains. Rob’s role continues right through this transition and he’s now working closely with Crossrail to develop what that process needs to look like once the project moves from construction to commissioning. “Yes, we need to complete the construction of the infrastructure, but we then need to commission that infrastructure and introduce the new rolling stock. We will then test everything and demonstrate that there can be a suitable level of reliability so that we can commence timetabled services.

Keeping trains running

“Whilst we’re carrying out this level of investment, we’ve got to guarantee the train services going into and out of the three major arteries in London that we’re working on – the Great Western route, the North Kent lines into London Bridge and the Anglian route into Liverpool Street. The challenge that I face with all these projects is to make sure we deliver everything with the highest level of professionalism – and ensure that we do it all safely without hurting anyone and that we do it without disruption to existing trains.”

So, for every article you read about Crossrail, just spare a thought for Rob and his team who are making sure that, once the tunnels have been dug, everything else on Network Rail will be ready.