Last Saturday I was lucky enough to be able to visit one of London’s key Crossrail sites on the Limmo Peninsula as part of Open Doors Weekend – an industry programme which aims to get young people interested in pursuing careers in engineering and construction.
The Limmo Peninsula is an unusually desolate place – one of those increasingly rare post-industrial spaces on the margins, in this case occupying the land between the back of Canning Town station and the Bow Creek loop of the River Lea. There was method in Crossrail’s madness however – this rather inaccessible site does have easy access to the Thames allowing for the removal of excavated earth on huge barges rather than by road (1.2 million tons removed from the Limmo Peninsula is being used to create a new RSPB wetland out on the Essex coast) and, on the return leg, the barges stop off at Chatham to pick up the concrete segments that make up the tunnel walls.
This part of the Crossrail operation centres around two vast shafts that plunge 40 metres into the ground. One (which will eventually be backfilled) is currently used for removing the excavated earth, inserting the concrete tunnel sections and piping in grouting that seals them all together, while the other was the entry point for the huge Victoria and Elizabeth tunnelling machines and will act as a ventilation shaft once the network is completed.
Londoners interested in history might be interested to know that archaeologists were also involved in the Crossrail project here – as they descended through the topsoil the remains of the Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company were uncovered, the company responsible for the construction of the world’s first iron ships, including HMS Warrior launched in 1861 – the first all-iron warship.
As you can see from the photographs, these spaces are vast and breathtaking – it’s a little sad to think that when the network starts running in 2018 passengers speeding through the tunnels under the Limmo Peninsula won’t even give a thought to the vast monuments to engineering that they pass by…
Fun facts about Crossrail:
- The Crossrail network will comprise 40 stations, including 10 brand new ones
- The lines will run over 100km from Reading in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east
- It is estimated that Crossrail will allow 200 million additional journeys across London annually
- The project will provide over 400 apprenticeships