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Bechtel’s Impact Report


London, U.K.
Crossrail tunnelling

Working with Crossrail to deliver the Elizabeth line

Crossrail's Elizabeth Line is Europe's largest construction project – a 100km-plus rail line that will pass through 40 stations, from Heathrow and Reading in the west, to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east, via 42km of new tunnels under central London. The railway opened its central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood on May 24, 2022. 

Bechtel has been supporting Crossrail's management of the project to deliver the 42km of central tunnels, and eight new subsurface stations.

Network Rail also selected Bechtel as its delivery partner for managing the extensive upgrades to the existing rail network outside London to make it compatible with the new line. Our integrated teams manage the extensive engineering and construction programs to build this much needed new railway.

The new railway is forecast to carry 200m passengers a year, providing a ten percent increase in central London's rail capacity. Not only will it provide more frequent and reliable train journeys for London's growing population, but it will also add an estimated £42bn to the UK's economy.

Project facts

  • The Elizabeth line will be London's first full new underground line in more than 30 years
  • It will increase by 1.5m the number of people able to travel to central London within 45 minutes
  • Crossrail's eight tunnel boring machines, each weighing 1000 tonnes, spent three years burrowing under London to construct 42km of new tunnels.
  • The project includes 40 stations served; 8 new subsurface stations, 2 new above-ground stations; 42km of new tunnels; 200 meter-long new trains; and 40 public space improvements around London.

Tunneling overview

Tunnel boring machine
One of the biggest challenges was tunneling. The running tunnels, which were completed in 2015, included 42km of tunnels beneath London. Huge tunnel-boring machines worked around the clock, moving through ground honeycombed with networks of sewer lines, water and gas mains, building foundations and London Underground tunnels dating to the 1860s.

Years of careful study, planning and ground reinforcement efforts minimized the risk of ground settlement affecting buildings and infrastructure above the tunnels. More than 2000 structures above the new twin-bore tunnels running beneath central London were monitored for stability. Major utility relocations also took place across London to protect vital services for residents and businesses.


Image Gallery


Building Crossrail

Europe's largest construction project, right in the heart of London.

An Engineering Triumph

David Cameron addresses the tunneling team.

LEGO boring machine

Bechtel built a moving replica of a tunnel boring machine from 50,000 LEGO bricks. The 6.5-foot- (2-meter-) long model shows all the components of a working tunnel boring machine and demonstrates how these mechanical moles dig and build tunnels all over the world. The model was created to celebrate Bechtel's involvement with FIRST LEGO League, an international robotics tournament for students ages 9 to 16.


Sustainability Leadership

Setting new standards for rail

Crossrail has set new standards in sustainability practices. For example, as a result of collaboratively working with the Building Research Establishment, BREEAM assessment criteria for environmental performance in underground stations have been developed. An ambitious community investment program, with legacy driven objectives, has also been established.

Crossrail Reading station high speed train

Fast Facts

  • 96 percent of all Crossrail contracts have been awarded to companies within the UK
  • an estimated 75,000 new business opportunities have been created across the UK — enough work to support 55,000 full time equivalent jobs
  • 62 percent of Crossrail suppliers are based outside London
  • 62 percent of Tier 1 contracts have been won by small and medium-sized businesses
  • 4544 job starts by local or previously unemployed people

Dedicated to advancing the practice of sustainability, the Crossrail project team piloted the use of hybrid diesel-electric excavators, hydrogen fuel cell-powered lighting and noise monitoring stations, and used LED lighting instead of traditional halogen or fluorescent lights to reduce energy consumption.

Through a combination of new engine performance standards, retrofitting of particulate controls, hybrid technologies and training, Crossrail has significantly reduced particulate emissions across some 40 construction sites, and 250 machines, with 84 percent of equipment compliant with this requirement. Moreover, Crossrail was recognized as the first infrastructure project in the United Kingdom to adopt these strict emissions controls across all of its work sites. It has also introduced newer, cleaner machines across London, and encouraged suppliers to upgrade their equipment. The success of this program on Crossrail has helped to support the Greater London Authority's intent for a wider-scale introduction of these controls.

More than seven million tonnes of material excavated from the tunnels has been used to build nature reserves and breathe new life into recreational facilities, agricultural and industrial land.

Benchmarking for the future

Bechtel has managed Crossrail's adoption of two widely recognized sustainable design and construction assessment methods and accreditations:

  • Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) — the UK standard for best practice in low carbon and low environmental impact design, construction and operation
  • Civil Engineering Environmental Quality (CEEQUAL) — a comprehensive sustainability rating system for assessing environmental, economic and social performance.

The Crossrail project represents the first time the BREEAM standard has been applied to evaluate underground stations, and it is establishing a benchmark for other stations. All of the station designs have achieved 'very good' ratings at design stage under BREEAM, and the tunnels, portals and shafts have attained an 'excellent' rating at design stage under CEEQUAL.