Deputy Project Manager – Crossrail
In case you hadn’t noticed there’s a little project called Crossrail going on in Canary Wharf. It’s hard to miss the iconic Crossrail Place structure, already home to numerous restaurants and shops. But one thing Camilla Barrow is hoping has gone unnoticed is all the work behind the scenes.
She is deputy project manager but also a local, who grew up on the Isle Of Dogs and moved back when she heard Crossrail was to be built. It is her job to ensure the smooth running of the project – now in its final stages.
“The biggest challenge has been mitigating the impact on the surrounding environment, “ said Camilla. “There is a lot of work going on to make it all happen and the logistics of getting it all in and out through the roads and tunnels without impacting the communities around it, that’s been the biggest thing.
“We have six 10-tonne fans, three at each end that ventilate the tunnel. They are big old things and we had to use air skates to put them in and think about what routes we could use, we had to bring them over from the East India side, avoiding busy times. That was a massive logistical challenge in itself and there was a lot of coordination with partners in the local area. There is a lot of infrastructure that has been delivered, hopefully without too many people noticing.”
Camilla had been working as a civi engineer for 11 years, after being sponsored through university by the Royal Engineers, when she heard Crossrail was being planned for her “back yard”.
“I have always worked in rail in the Middle East and America and this was a fantastic opportunity,” she said. "With all mega projects like this comes the need for driving innovation and change so it’s a really exciting project to be on and to play a key role.”
She joined the project two years ago, after Canary Wharf Group had finished building the main structure, and has oversaw the creation of the platform, ticketing hall and the rail systems themselves. That has involved working with the 40-strong Crossrail project team and the thousands of workers on site ever day. The project as a whole has had over 10,000 people involved across its 40 different construction sites and about 100million working hours have been completed so far.
“It’s not as stereotypical as just being in a hard hat all day and I think that’s what puts a lot of people off,” said Camilla. “I’m in a lot of meetings and looking at long-term strategy and ahead to make sure we eliminate challenges early. But I do then go out on site abut three times a week with my hard hat on to make sure I know what is going on, how things are progressing and the challenges being faced.”
But there are also some undeniably fun parts of the job.
“I have been on rides through the tunnels quite a few times, including on the big 460m-long concreting train, which helped install all the standard track slab in the tunnel. We have about 10-15 engineering trains going out every day and then again at night.
“Being out on them through the tunnels has not normalised with me, even though I have been doing it a couple of years. It gives a bit of perspective to what we have built over the last five years. Day-to-day you put your head down and get the work done but it’s also ways nice to have a bit of a step back, as it allows you to appreciate the magnitude of this."