London, the city that invented the underground railway in 1863, had not welcomed a new underground line since 1979. The last line of the network came into service in 2022: the Elizabeth Line is a suburban line crossing the British capital from east to west. Its opening represents the end of the Crossrail project, one of the biggest mobility projects undertaken in Europe in recent decades.
The aims of the Elizabeth Line are to reduce journey times for passengers, provide better access to jobs and schools, and boost economic growth in the UK capital. Thanks to this line, 1.5 million people are now less than 45 minutes from central London, and the capacity of the city’s rail network has increased by 10%.
Key assignments for a major project
SYSTRA, in a consortium with Jacobs, provided project management support to Bechtel from 2009 to 2022. The form of contract chosen, a PDP (Project Delivery Partner), covered design, procurement, construction, testing and commissioning, as well as the management of the various consultants and builders at each phase of the project, right up to the handover of the works to the infrastructure managers for the central section linking Paddington to Canary Wharf.
We provided expertise in railway systems and operations. The teams at SYSTRA UK participated in most of the project packages while being in charge of all the major equipment such as signalling, communications, traction power, track and overhead line equipment, as well as expertise in tunnelling, noise and vibration control, BIM, planning, commercial management, project management and construction site management.
Benefits from our international experience
SYSTRA’s strengths? To take part in all aspects of the project as part of the integrated PDP team, and to contribute our international experience in metro systems and electrification. For example, we were involved in selecting the signalling system for the central section of the Elizabeth Line, managing the complex interfaces at each end of the tunnel and interconnecting the new ETCS (European Train Control System) level 2 signalling with the existing Network Rail network.
Our teams also played a key role in the delivery of the project, with a number of project managers involved in the rail systems as part of the Systemwide Main Works Railway Systems strategic package, as well as in the construction of the tunnels, the platform fronts, the power supply and management of high-voltage electricity, the garage, the maintenance centre and the storage tracks at Plumstead.
A structuring response to London’s rail challenges
The interconnection of the rail lines on the outskirts of London is made possible by a 21 km central section, bored in deep twin-tube tunnels with minimal impact on the surface, serving 40 stations, including 10 new ones. All of this will be operated by automatically controlled trains equipped to run on 3 different signalling systems. Crossrail will enable the construction of 180,000 new homes (70% of which are already under construction) by 2026, while property values are expected to rise in east London, where transport services have been lacking until now.