Behind the Scenes at Crossrail's Canary Wharf Station 

Sonya Veerasamy, Head of Marketing for ENGIE UK (Cities & Communities) and Events Chair for WTS London

Crossrail is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe. It will deliver an additional 10 per cent rail capacity for central London in 2018, carrying 200 million passengers a year. I joined a small group of WTS London members on a site visit to the new station being constructed at Canary Wharf as part of the scheme. 

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Dan Slipper, Public Affairs Officer at Crossrail, provided a fascinating overview of the £14.8 billion project that will be launched as the Elizabeth line next year. Camilla Barrow, Deputy Project Manager, and Adam Usher, External Relations, accompanied us on a tour of the station.  

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The construction of Crossrail is 82 per cent complete and new rolling stock is currently being tested ahead of the phased introduction of the new railway: 

  • May 2017:  New trains enter the TfL Rail service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. 
  • May 2018:  TfL Rail service opens between Paddington to Heathrow, replacing Heathrow Connect. 
  • Dec 2018:  The Elizabeth line opens. Services will run between Paddington and Abbey Wood, Liverpool Street and Shenfield and Paddington and Heathrow. 
  • May 2019:  Elizabeth line services run from Paddington to Shenfield, Abbey Wood and Heathrow. 
  • Dec 2019:  Elizabeth line is fully operational including services to Reading. 

For me personally, it's an incredibly exciting project that will have a direct, positive impact on my daily commute from Chadwell Heath to Canary Wharf - two of the 40 stations that form part of the 118km scheme. My local station has been transformed with step-free access, CCTV, lighting, signage and a new ticket hall as well as improvement works to the footways and pedestrian crossing points serving the station. 

I’m looking forward to commuting on spacious, air conditioned trains in less than two months time. Built in Derby by Bombardier, the 66 new lightweight trains are 200m long with capacity for 1,500 passengers, nine walk-through carriages, 454 seats, 10 multi-use spaces and 4 dedicated wheelchair spaces. Capable of travelling at 90mph on outer sections, the trains are equipped with smart energy management and will have the lowest CO2 emissions of all transport on TfL’s network apart from bicycles. They also have Wi-Fi and 4G - meeting the needs of digital commuters who can stay connected on board. 

A major part of Crossrail is “The Culture Line”, a privately funded project, which will promote art on the new route, maintaining a long tradition of iconic design on London Underground. The Crossrail Art Foundation will help deliver an exhibition of public artworks, which are sympathetic to the location of the relevant station. Artist Michal Rovner has been commissioned to produce artwork for Canary Wharf. 

One of 10 new stations being constructed; Canary Wharf will be one of the largest on the network and is at the most advanced stage of construction, giving us a preview of what the public can expect when it opens next year. It also gave the group an insight into the challenges of building a large capacity station.  

The 250 metre-long station box, approximately the same size as One Canada Square (the UK's second tallest building) laid on its side, is surrounded by the water of West India Quay dock. Designing a station to be built 18 metres below water level, with optimum access to and through the Canary Wharf Estate, while retaining a navigable channel for boats within the dock, presented significant design challenges.  

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The 250 metre platforms (double the standard length) at each station mean wayfinding will be essential. The station ticket hall at Canary Wharf will be accessed via eight long-rise escalators from the promenade level entrances at either end of the building. Visual identification of routes out of the station will be reinforced by the use of colour and light including distinctive yellow escalators. 

Canary Wharf Group has developed four levels of retail and leisure space above the station box and a spectacular roof-top park, partially covered by a semi open-air timber lattice roof. The overall appearance is designed with a nautical reference to a docked ship and makes for a striking feature within the Canary Wharf estate. 

Trains will run at the rate of 24 per hour in the central sections and 12 per hour on the rest of the route. The new station will connect Canary Wharf to the City of London, the West End and Heathrow whilst acting as a bridge to Poplar to the north with significant journey time benefits. From the Shenfield branch, commuters will be able to change at Whitechapel for services to Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood – with one shared platform, the interchange will take seconds. 

Gender diversity

During his presentation, Dan shared Crossrail's recent findings that found over a third of teachers would not recommend a career in STEM to girls. Ruth Cadbury, Chair of theAll-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Transport, recently highlighted that women make up just 22 per cent of the transport workforce and emphasised our collective responsibility to tackle the gender stereotyping that acts as a barrier to the sector. The site visit group represented women working in 10 different organisations in a wide variety of roles including planning, operational, technical and consultancy, illustrating the many opportunities for fulfilling and demanding jobs in transport. 

Crossrail has set itself a stretching target aiming for gender parity in its workforce by 2030. It has partnered with Women in Construction, an independent, not-for-profit organisation, which aims to recruit women into all areas of construction, from entry level trades roles through to professional construction placements. Women form 29 per cent of  ‘Team Crossrail’, and women working across its sites represent 12 per cent of the supply chain. 

One of the women in that supply chain is ENGIE Contract Manager, Patricia Conran, who I met last month when I joined the group. ENGIE delivers total facilities management services to all Crossrail premises and staff across the entire estate, which covers over 300 buildings and Patricia leads this team. The team is an integrated part of Crossrail; adopting its uniform, ID and equipment to blend seamlessly into the Crossrail working environment. ENGIE has set its own target of 25 per cent representation of women in its group workforce for 2020 alongside a range of initiatives to increase gender diversity. 

The subject of quotas was hotly debated at the recent WTS London Winter Reception with speakers including Valerie Todd, Talent and Resource Director for Crossrail. In Crossrail and ENGIE we can see two organisations that are experiencing benefits from implementing gender targets. 

Our thanks go to Dan, Adam and Camilla and the rest of the Crossrail team who helped facilitate our tour. 

More on Crossrail

WTS London members have been privileged to glimpse behind the scenes at Farringdon, Bond Street and Pudding Mill stations during the construction of the project. I was thrilled to finally see behind the scenes and am excited about boarding the first operational trains in May 2018 – follow us @LondonWTS on Twitter to share the experience. 

Crossrail is sharing the learnings from the project online at and is running a conference to meet the people behind the project on 28 March 2017. Find out more here

If you would like to see some of the objects unearthed by Crossrail that span 8,000 years of human history, you can visit the free exhibition Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail at the Museum of London Docklands until 3 September 2017. 

For more information about Crossrail visit: 

WTS London has a great line up of events including our Autumn Reception on 19 September where we will be addressing the skills gap for the next generation of major infrastructure projects with Sir Terry Morgan, Chairman of Crossrail, as our guest speaker.