by Christine Hurley
Recently, a small group of Women in Transport members had the privilege of being invited to a preview of the new Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station, before it opens its doors to the public in December this year. We were also very fortunate to be accompanied for part of the tour by the Project Manager, Lih Ling Highe, who gave us a real insight into her work with Crossrail over the past 9 years.
The new station at Tottenham Court Road stretches from a new plaza in front of Centrepoint westwards to Dean Street, running directly below Soho Square. Like many of the new Elizabeth line stations, Tottenham Court Road has two entrances and ticket halls; one in Dean Street which serves the Elizabeth Line and links to the existing Tottenham Court Road entrance and the Northern and Central Lines.
When complete, Tottenham Court Road will be one of London’s busiest stations, offering an interchange between the Northern, Central and Elizabeth Line services with more than 170,000 passengers passing through the station every day.
One of the most notable and impressive things about the Crossrail project is its sheer size. Everything has been designed on a massive scale to cope with the increased capacity, not just for now but in years to come.
Our tour began in the Western ticket hall in Soho's Dean Street. It is dark and cinematic, reflecting the nocturnal economies that characterise the area. Here black is the colour of choice for the glass and stainless steel inside the station. Bespoke light drums help moderate the acoustics and model the stage lights of London's West End theatres.
In contrast, white glass and stainless steel dominate at the Elizabeth Line eastern ticket hall, which is bright and well lit, reflecting the 1960's architecture of the nearby Centre Point.
The one thing you won't find at the new station is a ticket office – but there are plenty of self-service machines.
The escalators from Dean Street to the platforms are longer than any you will find elsewhere on the London Underground network but there are also 6 lifts providing step-free access.
Everything about the new TCR station is light bright and spacious.
A closer look at the artwork on the station walls revealed that the dotted design is actually a street grid of Soho and St. Giles. There are roundels to show station entrances and a house icon indicating Soho Square.
From the start, art has been a major part of the Crossrail project. The Crossrail Art Foundation has worked with local artists, as well as Turner Prize winners, to create a diverse programme of artworks reflecting both the Crossrail railway and the city it serves. As this was outside the scope of the core funding, the Foundation was tasked with raising the £1 million per station needed for individual artworks from corporate sponsors which has been matched by the City of London Corporation.
At TCR, we got to see a geometric pattern, painstakingly painted on the ceiling above the escalators by Turner Prize Winning artist Richard Wright, but unfortunately no photos were allowed.
All walkways have sweeping curves that will ease passenger flow. The cladding creates smooth fluid lines and also works well acoustically, absorbing sound.
Another thing we got to see but, unfortunately, couldn't photograph was one of the new trains. Like everything about Crossrail, it was bigger and better than any underground train that's gone before. The trains are 200 metres long with nine walk-through carriages, air conditioning, CCTV and real-time travel information. Each train will be able to carry up to 1,500 people.
To accommodate the length of trains, platforms are longer too. At 234 metres, platforms are double the standard length. Platform edge screens stretch from floor-to-ceiling, a critical safety feature creating a physical barrier between the platform and the track.
At TCR, trying to read obscured hanging information boards has become a thing of the past. Wayfinders, travel and surface information is clearly visible above the platform edge screens.
We all agreed that our visit to TCR had been a morning well spent. We hope to be able to offer at least one more Crossrail visit to our members before the Elizabeth line comes into operation in December. As group size for these tours is always strictly limited please do keep checking our events and sign up as soon as you receive an invitation. It's well worth it.