Crossrail revisited: Whitechapel

Amanda Clack FRICS

Past President 2016/17 (RICS)

Treading in the footsteps of past-President Louise Brooke-Smith, I recently visited Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, at the Whitechapel station site. My visit really brought home the value of infrastructure investment and the contribution of our professionals.

Crossrail visit

The first completely new underground line in London in more than 30 years will connect the City, Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow Airport to commuter areas to the east and west of London. Crossrail looks to create capacity for the future as well as the present. The trains will be almost twice the length of the average tube train at 200 metres and the new service will reduce journey times, as well as ease congestion on the existing network.

Crossrail whitechapelIn our PPE equipment at the Whitechapel station site

2015 to present day: Progress made

Back in 2015, past-President Louise Brooke-Smith visited the Finsbury Circus site when tunnelling was well-underway for the new line.

Crossrail visit by the President and her teamCrossrail back in 2015

Visiting Whitechapel station now shows how far the project has come in the intervening two years. The platforms are going in, the escalator shafts are being prepared and the steel for the sweeping concourse roof is already having an impact.

This is one of the most complex Crossrail construction sites, largely due to live Overground and Underground lines that must be kept in service throughout the significant upgrade work.

Crossrail roofCrossrail's Whitechapel station site in progress

Despite the restrictions these create on the site, such as work having to be completed during "engineering hours" (a few hours in the early morning when lines are closed), the project is, incredibly, still on-track to open as part of the Elizabeth line in 2018.

The project in numbers:

  • 60,000m³ The excavation required for the two shafts on site
  • 18,000m³ The amount of concrete required
  • 1200 tonnes The quantity of structural steelwork
  • 13 million The number of passengers expected to use the Elizabeth Line station at Whitechapel each year from 2018
  • 10 minutes The average journey time from Whitechapel to Bond Street on the new line (compared to 23 minutes currently)
  • 100 million The number of working hours that have been completed on the entire Crossrail project so far
  • 40 The number of Crossrail stations, including 10 new stations
  • 1.5 million How many extra people will be brought to within 45 minutes of central London by the Crossrail development
  • £42 billion The estimated extra capital that will be brought into the UK economy by the Crossrail project.

The vision realised

Seeing the project come together in its final stages also makes me reflect on the huge contribution chartered surveyors have made throughout the entire lifecycle of the project. One of the key reasons that it is held up as a world-class example of infrastructure delivery is due to the extraordinary efforts of professionals, such as Martin Rowark FRICS, formerly Procurement Director at Crossrail.

I look back at my five years as Procurement Director on Crossrail very fondly, where I worked within a truly informed and intelligent client team. In my role, it was vital to maintain a focus upon the supply markets’ appetite to compete and in turn deliver contracts, the highly complex packaging strategy (particularly determining the interfaces to be managed) and the contracting strategy (the appropriate allocation of risk to the supply market).

Equally the programme has maintained a focus upon the significant economic benefits for Londoners and the transformation of East/West travel within our great city.

The ripple effect: New developments in Whitechapel*

  • In addition to the station improvements and tunnelling, Crossrail is also building a new station at Whitechapel and completely transforming the existing ticket hall.
  • Crossrail has been working with Tower Hamlets Council on proposals to improve public space in the local area. The works at Whitechapel station have served as a catalyst for wide-ranging investment in the area, including new homes, a new shopping centre, and new offices, as well as a focus on regeneration.
  • Whitechapel is already a hot-spot for rising house prices, with predictions of a 50% increase between 2014 and 2020, because of the "Crossrail effect".

*Source: JLL, Crossrail — Identifying Opportunities, 2015

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