[kraws-reyl, kros-]

Crossrail is a project to build major new railway connections under central London. The name is also used to refer to the first of two routes proposed by Cross London Rail Links Ltd, and is based around an east-west tunnel from Paddington to Liverpool Street station. The second route is known as the Chelsea-Hackney line.

The Prime Minister Gordon Brown officially approved the Crossrail project on 5 October 2007, after a funding deal covering the first line was worked out with various public and private sources, though this is not yet finalised. Following Royal Assent on 22 July 2008, it was announced that Crossrail's promoter, Cross London Rail Links Ltd, would become a fully owned subsidiary of Transport for London (TfL) in the autumn 2008; to date it has been a joint venture between TfL and the Department for Transport.

The first trains are due to run in 2017. Trains would run at metro-style frequencies of up to 24 trains per hour (tph) during the peak periods through the central tunnel section, complementing the existing north-south Thameslink route. Crossrail ticketing is intended to be integrated with the other London transport systems, with Travelcards being valid within Greater London and Oyster Cards being valid on the entire line (except for the Heathrow branch which will continue to be subject to special fares). Crossrail has often been compared to Paris's RER system due to the length of the central tunnel. Crossrail will be integrated with the Tube and national rail networks - it is expected that Crossrail will appear on the standard tube map.


The Crossrail line is based around a new pair of east-west tunnels under central London connecting the Great Western Main Line near Paddington to the Great Eastern Main Line near Stratford. A second eastern branch diverges at Whitechapel, running through Docklands and emerging at Custom House on a disused part of the North London Line, then under the River Thames. Trains will run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, taking over the existing stopping services on those routes.

The principal works are:

  • The central tunnels, with new subterranean stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and the Isle of Dogs, each offering interchange opportunities with existing London Underground, National Rail and the Docklands Light Railway services.
  • Another pair of tunnels, running under the Thames at North Woolwich and including a new station at Woolwich. This connects the reused former part of the North London Line with the North Kent Line.
  • Most existing stations on the route will receive platform extensions, and a significant number will be completely rebuilt.
  • Overhead electrification to be installed between Heathrow Airport junction and Maidenhead.

The House of Commons Select Committee made an announcement of interim decisions in July 2006 which called on the Promoter to add a station at Woolwich. The Government initially responded that it will not do so as that would jeopardise the affordability of the whole scheme but a subsequent agreement has made this possible.

There are also campaigns to extend the line to Reading and Ebbsfleet. The Ebbsfleet and Reading routes have been safeguarded by the Department of Transport, although it has been made clear that there is currently no plan to extend Crossrail beyond the current scheme. Updating the existing safeguarding of the land to allow an extension to Ebbsfleet is still being considered.

Technical details

The tunnelled section of the line will be about 22 km (13.75 miles) in length: a difficult and expensive piece of engineering, because of two factors: London’s geology, and the extensive tunnelling that already exists in central London. Its twin circular tunnels will have an internal diameter of 6 m (19.7 ft) , compared with the 3.8 m (12.5 ft) diameter of existing deep Tube lines. Rather than the four rail electrification used by the London Underground or third rail on the existing North Kent line, Crossrail will use 25 kV, 50 Hz AC Overhead Line, the same system as is present on the Great Eastern Main Line and the Great Western Main Line (only as far as Heathrow). The central tunnelled section will weave between existing tube and road tunnels

Rolling stock

As many as 65 new trains are planned to be constructed for use on Crossrail. It is intended that these will be five-car electric multiple units, which will operate in pairs coupled together, forming ten-car trains. These are planned to have speeds up to 160 km/h (100mph) on the surface parts of the route and up to 100 km/h (60mph) in the tunnels. It is envisaged, as part of the government's rolling stock plan, that the stock for Crossrail will be similar to the new rolling stock planned for the Thameslink Programme and will displace other types of multiple unit currently used on the Great Eastern and Great Western routes for use elsewhere on the network.

Dropped routes

Various routes have been included in earlier drafts of the Crossrail scheme, but no longer feature. These include:

  • A route from Paddington to Kingston upon Thames via Richmond was part of the "preferred route" published in 2003, but was dropped in 2004 due to a combination of local opposition, uncertainty over the route, cost and an insufficient return on the envisaged investment. This would conceivably have run either overland or via a tunnel to the existing track through Gunnersbury and Kew (which would no longer be used by the District Line), and thence to Richmond and Kingston on existing mainline track.
  • A south-eastern route beyond Abbey Wood to Dartford and Northfleet, connecting with High Speed 1. This was rejected due to the need to share track with existing services, leading to potential performance pollution.
  • A north-western route to Aylesbury, taking over Chiltern services. This originally used the Dudding Hill Line, and later involved a new tunnel. Other branches in this direction to High Wycombe and Watford Junction were also proposed. None of these made it past the 2003 route consultation.

Previous proposal

A report by a committee chaired by David Barran in 1974 recommended, alongside the development of the Fleet Line to Fenchurch Street and the River Line project, two new deep-level railway lines, one linking Paddington and Liverpool Street, via Marble Arch and Ludgate Circus; and another linking London Bridge and Victoria. The cost of these two links, along with the re-opening of the Snow Hill tunnel to form Thameslink, was estimated at £300 million.

An east–west route was again proposed in the early 1990s but was rejected by Parliament in 1994. This service even went as far as preparatory work on rolling stock, with concept drawings for what was planned to be Class 341 trains released. A number of alternative routes on the west side were considered, including regional services to Amersham and Watford in the north-west, Reading in the west. All have now been dropped in favour of the core proposal.

Current status

Crossrail Line 1 has been backed by the Government, which introduced a hybrid bill for the scheme: the full text may be found here The Bill is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Statement, plans and other related information; it received Royal Assent on 22 July 2008. Construction will take from 2010 to 2017.

Although Crossrail has long had support from most of London's politicians and business community, it has been held up for a long time due to wrangling over finance. It is currently proposed that the £16 billion cost of the scheme will be met through a combination of public and (mostly) private finance, with London businesses contributing much of the funding.


Some East London politicians object to the scheme which they see as an expensive west to east commuter service that will primarily benefit City and Docklands businesses, and bring enormous disruption to East London. As a result, the tunnelling strategy was changed to remove excavated material by barge from Leamouth rather than the originally proposed complex conveyor system in Mile End.

Some freight train operating companies including English, Welsh and Scottish Railway Ltd (EWS) are opposed to the current plans because they would use up much of the remaining rail capacity within the London area, and do not provide the necessary extra capacity on connecting lines. This will make it harder to route freight services from the southern ports to the north and will increase freight transit times. EWS have reserved their rights to pursue legal action citing violations of both UK and EU law. Such a legal action could delay Crossrail for several years.

There is considerable annoyance in Reading that Crossrail will terminate at Maidenhead, not Reading. However both the promoters and the government insist that there is nothing to prevent a later extension to Reading in future if it could be justified.


To give legal authorisation to Crossrail, a Hybrid Bill was sent through Parliament. This Bill was debated and amended by a Select Committee, the membership of which was named on December 5, 2005. The members were Katy Clark, Kelvin Hopkins, Sian James, Alan Meale, Linda Riordan and Sir Peter Soulsby (Labour); Brian Binley, Philip Hollobone and Ian Liddell-Grainger (Conservative) and John Pugh (Liberal Democrat). In February 2008 the Bill moved to the House of Lords where it was debated, amended and scrutinised by a Committee of peers. The Bill received Royal Assent on 22 July 2008 as the Crossrail Act 2008.

Some commentators have noted the apparent absence of Crossrail from the Government white paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway published on July 24 2007. However, the paper itself notes that the scheme is beyond its scope, which only covers projects to be delivered as part of the 2009-2014 "High Level Output Specification" period.

Management aspects

Cross London Rail Links Ltd is the company responsible for creating Crossrail. It is jointly owned by Transport for London and the Department for Transport. Crossrail has a £15.9 billion funding package in place for the construction of the line. Services will begin in 2017 providing the are no delays caused by unexpected legal, construction or financial difficulties.


West of Paddington

Maidenhead Branch

Heathrow Branch

The Maidenhead and Heathrow branches join up at Airport Junction, between the stations of West Drayton & Hayes and Harlington.

Central section (tunnelled)

East of Whitechapel

Romford Branch

Abbey Wood Branch

Alternative proposed routes

Aylesbury Branch

This branch would have taken over Metropolitan and Network SouthEast lines from Baker Street and Marylebone to Aylesbury (including Chesham branch). Crossrail would run via the Dudden Hill line or a tunnel to Neasden Junction, where it would run to Harrow using the fast mainlines. The fast lines north of Harrow would be exclusively used by Crossrail trains. A new station would have been built at Northwood to allow an interchange between Met and Crossrail lines. The Metropolitan line would have terminated at Rickmansworth instead of Amersham. A few NSE services to Aylesbury left would have been routed via High Wycombe and Princes Risborough.

Richmond Branch

This branch would have taken over District line services from Turnham Green to Richmond, and then beyond onto the railway station of Kingston via a tunnel. However, opposition from residents and politicians in Richmond, the expected cost and an insufficient return on the envisaged investment caused this proposed route not to be pursued in the hybrid Bill

Hounslow Branch

Following the decision to halt progress on development on a Richmond branch, Hounslow council have attempted to get a route from Paddington through to Hounslow using an existing railway route (so no tunnelling is required).

Chelsea-Hackney line (Crossrail line 2)

Cross London Rail Links Ltd has inherited London Underground's aborted "Chelsea-Hackney Line" plans, sometimes also referred to as the "Merton-Hackney". A route for this has been safeguarded since 1991, and a 2007 consultation to renew the safeguarding gives the following route:

Currently this line is known as the Chelsea - Hackney line and will not be built until after Crossrail. The current scheme is somewhat vague therefore it has not been decided whether it will be built to National Rail or London Underground standards and take existing commuter services. The route protection also includes a branch south from Victoria Station underneath Battersea Park in the direction of Clapham Junction although not reaching that station.

See also


External links

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