Established in 2001, Crossrail Limited was set up to build the new £15 billion railway that will open as the Elizabeth line
In the 19th Century the Regents Canal Company, began plans for a new surface railway across London. They lobbied for permission to build a railway that would link Paddington with London’s docks, running alongside or even replacing the Regents Canal itself.
Parliament granted permission for the scheme in the 1880s, but it ultimately came to nothing. However, 50 years later, the Abercrombie Plan argued that better links were needed between the east and west of the UK’s capital city, and proposed building two new Tube lines.
Although much of the Abercrombie Plan came to pass the new Tube lines did not, the idea, however, was not forgotten and transport needs continued to develop and soon the need for a new line that provided better cross-Capital links began to seem more pressing.
In the 1974 London Rail Study, that line finally got a name – ‘Crossrail’. The genesis of the idea was a northern tunnel that would join British Rail’s Western Region lines west of Paddington to the Eastern Region lines east of Bethnal Green. The study recommended feasibility studies be undertaken as a priority, in 1980 a British Rail discussion paper, proposed an intercity link across London featuring three route options. Rather than focusing on the east and west, the scheme suggested linking the existing infrastructure north and south of London, possibly via a deep bore tunnel.
Although the route was very different from that which had been proposed in 1974, the overall objective was not massively dissimilar. The 1980 discussion paper ultimately led to nothing, Underground congestion that both it and the 1974 study had highlighted continued to develop and by the late 1980s, the existing Tube and rail capacity was approaching its limits.
The Government therefore commissioned and published the Central London Rail Study in 1989 – a report which took many of the schemes highlighted in the 1974 study and developed them into more concrete framework: East-West Crossrail, a line from Wimbledon to Hackney via Chelsea and Thameslink. In addition to all this, the Jubilee line extension was proposed in the East London Rail Study published a few months later.
In October 1990 the Government finally gave the go-ahead to British Rail and London Transport to develop the east-west Crossrail scheme. In November 1991, a private bill was submitted to Parliament but the recession in the early 1990s, combined with constraints on public finances, proved key factors that lead to Parliament rejecting the Bill.
Despite the decision not to proceed, the October 1990 announcement safeguarded (legally protected from conflicting development) Crossrail’s route, and in 1994 it was announced that the Crossrail project would be pushed forward under the Transport and Works Act (TWA) system, but in April 1996 the Secretary of State for Transport, Sir George Young, asked London Transport and British Rail to temporarily suspend their TWA application.
Crossrail, he stated, could only come about after the Jubilee Line Extension, Thameslink and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link had been dealt with. In July 2000 the Government once again asserted that an east-west rail link should go ahead.
The Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy also prioritised the relief of overcrowding on London Underground. The Government asked the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) to study the requirements for extra passenger capacity to and through London. The London East West Study that the SRA published recommended that both Crossrail and the Hackney to southwest London routes be resurrected and schemes developed to construct them. The London East-West Study was well-received and as a result Cross London Rail Links (CLRL), jointly owned by the SRA and Transport for London (TfL), was set up to undertake project definition work on a Crossrail link and a feasibility study of a possible Hackney-southwest London scheme.
Established in 2001, Crossrail Limited was set up to build the new railway that will open as the Elizabeth line. Jointly sponsored by TfL and the Department for Transport, once the railway is complete it will be handed over to TfL and run as part of London’s integrated transport network.
In 2004 the Government, committed to introducing legislation to enable Crossrail to proceed, and worked closely with TfL and wider stakeholders to develop a funding and financing package.
The Crossrail Hybrid Bill was presented to Parliament in February 2005 and The Crossrail Act 2008 finally gave Crossrail a confirmed route – Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, with new rail tunnels (and stations) under central London as required.
Crossrail Limited became a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL on 5th December 2008.After years of planning and development, Crossrail finally broke ground on 15th May 2009 at Canary Wharf and tunnelling later began on the project. Crossrail tunnelling began in May 2012 with eight tunnel boring machines (TBM) called Phyllis, Ada, Elizabeth, Victoria, Jessica, Ellie, Sophia and Mary.
Tunnelling ended at Farringdon three years later in May 2015 with the arrival of tunnel boring machine Victoria. The operational railway was renamed the Elizabeth line in February 2016 in honour of Britain’s longest serving monarch.
When completed, three separate services will operate:
• Paddington to Abbey Wood
• Paddington to Heathrow
• Liverpool Street to Shenfield.