The Mayor of London Boris Johnson and transport secretary Justine Greening have officially launched the start of Crossrail tunnelling during a ceremony at Westbourne Park near the Royal Oak portal, a short distance from Paddington station.
Two tunnel boring machines, named Ada and Phyllis, will now begin an 18 month journey beneath London. In autumn 2013 they will meet up with other boring machines, that will commence tunnelling from Docklands later this year.
Each machine weighs 1000 tonnes and is 150 metres long.
Over the next three years, eight tunnel boring machines will construct a total of 13 miles of twin-bore tunnel under the capital. The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 73 miles from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
The two TBMs are named after Ada Lovelace, one of the first computer programmers, and Phyllis Pearsall, who walked 23,0000 streets and 3,000 miles to create the London A-Z road gazetteer.
The next two machines will be named Victoria and Elizabeth, after Britain’s longest reigning queens.
Mary and Sophie, will be named after wives of great engineers. Mary was the wife of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sophie the wife of Marc Isambard Brunel who built the first tunnel under the Thames.
In a spirited attack on political opponents of the £14.8 billion project Mr Johnson said, ‘I remember there was a period of appalling, nail-chewing suspense when the new government was trying to understand how to deal with the colossal mess they’d discovered the country was in, and one distinguished Cabinet Minister, no names, no pack drill, I’ll only say he wears Hush Puppies, was heard to say that we’d save a lot of money by cancelling this project.’
The coalition government, the London Mayor and business and community leaders have united with the rail industry to deliver Europe’s biggest rail infrastructure project. Trains are expected to start running along the 73 mile route in 2018.