Kindly Crossrail invited me to site tour only a few weeks ago, so it was interesting to see the difference between the Royal Oak portal site from when other journos, bloggers and myself were stomping around it in protective footwear & hard hats, to the fanfare that accompanied the Mayor's visit yesterday.
What the tunnels looked liked on my visit
What they looked like for Boris's Visit
Yesterday the first of eight enormous machines, each 150 metres long and weighing 1,000 tonnes, had their official outing and next week, they will start tunnelling 6.4 km (four miles) east to Farringdon via Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. The machines are equivalent to 14 London buses end to end with enough force to lift over 2,900 London taxis.
When Crossrail opens in 2018, it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10 per cent. Crossrail said "More than 3,000 people are currently working directly on Crossrail, which is Europe’s largest construction project, and thousands more across the UK are working to provide materials and services.
Over the next three years, eight tunnel boring machines will construct a total of 21 km (13 miles) of twin-bore tunnel under the capital. The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 118 km (73 miles) from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east."
After the machines were turned on, with a National Lottery style button, Boris spent some time being interviewed by loads of journalists and you may have seen some of this on TV.
The names of the first boring machines names were also announced. The first tunnel boring machine will be named Phyllis after Phyllis Pearsall who created the London A-Z. She walked 23,000 streets and a total of 3,000 miles to compile the map. The second tunnel boring machine will be named Ada after Ada Lovelace who was one of the earliest computer scientists. She worked with Charles Babbage on his "analytical engine", and is regarded as having written the first computer program.
Boris had a chat with the girl who came up with the names and mentioned that Ada Lovelace was Byron's daughter too. A number of names were suggested and were put to a public vote. The other winners were Victoria and Elizabeth and Sophia and Mary - these names will be used to name the next four tunnel boring machines.
It was fairly interesting to see how Boris operates in these situations. He likes a large public audience. His speeches were accompanied with all the usual buffoonery, jokes and words that sound as if he made them up on the spot. Afterwards his assistants skillfully move him on from national broadcast journos, to radio reporters and make time for him to talk to the girls who suggested the names & their mums
Unfortunately he never got to speak to us "trade transport press & bloggers", but as I'd been treated to cups of tea & bacon rolls & pastries in the Crossrail marquee, I was quite happy to not stand around in the cold much longer.
I also got to have more of chat with the Crossrail guy who had given us our Health & Safety Briefing before touring the site before and he was happy with the progress of the work and expected to the tunnelling to start around the 20th March 2012.