OCT 13 2015   l   edition.cnn.    l  Lidz-Ama Appiah, CNN
La obra de ingeniería más grande de Europa

Set to open in 2018, the Crossrail expansion of London's rail network is the largest civil engineering project in Europe.

Once complete, 56 kilometers (35 miles) of new tunnels, stations and interchanges will connect the outer suburbs to the city center and Heathrow airport, nearly 40 meters (131 feet) below the city.

It is a huge feat of engineering with a budget of more than $20 billion.

For those involved, the biggest challenge has come from working in a densely packed city such as London, steeped in 1,000 years of industrial history.

"It's not just buildings or the underground, but utilities corridors. It has been the biggest challenge of my career," project manager Linda Miller told CNN.

At Farringdon station in central London, those working on the project refer to it as "the heart of the Crossrail."

Of the eight tunnel boring machines that set off from different parts of the city, four of them ended up in Farringdon: "Sometimes in this job it feels like you have landed on the moon, it's so unrecognizable" explains Miller, "(but) it's going to move from looking like the moon to a transportation system".

See an interactive panoramic view of London from above a Crossrail construction site

Work on the Crossrail began six years ago, with a team working 24 hours a day beneath the city.

But even a millimeter of movement in the soil can cause problems for buildings above the ground.

Engineers need to compensate for this by pumping grout through pipes to stabilize buildings on the surface.

The vast amounts of material removed to make way for the tunnels is being used to create a 1,500-acre nature reserve in Essex.

The project is also a challenge for those managing it: "Anytime you have a big project like this it's all about how you divide it up and put it into manageable bits" explains Bill Tucker, central section delivery director, who manages 650 staff and 22 contractors.

Tucker likens the skill involved to that of a conductor in an orchestra: "I'm up there with the sheet music, making sure everybody is on the same note, at the same bar and the same tempo."

Watch the video above and browse the gallery below to find out more.

1/8 London's Crossrail, Europe's biggest infrastructure project, is a rail system currently being constructed which will go across London, and reach Heathrow and Reading in the West and Essex in the East of England.  When complete in 2018, ten new stations in central and southeast London will increase the capitals rail capacity by 10 per cent and bring an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of central London 2/8 Crossrail is an addition to the London's burgeoning transport infrastructure, designed to modernize the UK's rail network and relieve pressure on existing transport, such as the 'Tube'. 3/8 The Crossrail project is a scheme which has been toyed with for many years. In 1974 the London Rail Study gave a name to the idea of 'Crossrail', but it was decades before it became a reality 4/8 In 2000 the Labour government approved the construction of an east to west rail link in London in a long term transport plan. In 2003, then Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling was presented with the Crossrail Business Case, indicating strong support from London's movers and shakers. 5/8 Work began on Crossrail in 2009 at Canary Wharf in East London's Docklands. It has meant significant development to some of London's most well-known stations, such as here at Paddington. 6/8 Work on Crossrail has also led to some rather grizzly discoveries. This skull was found during works at Liverpool Street Stations. It is thought to be one of more than 20,000 burials from Bedlam hospital between 1569 and 1738. 7/8 Tunneling work, all 26 miles of it, was completed in June 2015 after three years of effort. 8/8 The cost of the project has increased over the years. In 2002, it was believed that it could be done for £10bn. This was revised to £14.8bn after a Government Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.



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