The prime minister David Cameron has hailed the completion of the 26 miles of tunnelling work for London's Crossrail scheme as an ‘engineering triumph’.
The tunnelling for the line, which will run from Reading in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex, used eight boring machines to dig the central London section and has seen millions of tonnes of excavated material shipped to Wallasea Island in Essex to create a nature reserve.
The final breakthrough came in Farringdon on Wednesday night, completing the tunnelling through the capital after construction began at Canary Wharf in London Docklands in 2009, with tunnelling work starting in May 2012.
‘I am really proud to be here but above all you should be proud of what you have achieved,’ Mr Cameron said.
‘This feat, boring 26 miles underneath the streets of London it ranks alongside the channel tunnel, it ranks alongside the great western railway line. It’s an engineering triumph and everyone involved should be hugely proud.’
Mayor of London Boris Johnson joined the prime minister at a ceremony to celebrate the completed works and used the occasion to make an impassioned plea for the skills learned during the project to not be lost but transferred to Crossrail 2.
‘The very, very important reason we need it on time and on budget is we need to mount an overwhelming case to the Treasury that all this talent, all these skills, all this expertise needs to be transferred immediately on completion of this heroic task to Crossrail 2,’ he said.
Crossrail is Europe's largest construction project, involving thousands of workers and building ten new stations in central London, London Docklands and Abbey Wood, south London.
Serving 40 stations in total, it is estimated the scheme will generate at least 75,000 business opportunities.
Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) president, professor David Balmforth, said: 'It is fantastic to see Crossrail reach this significant milestone. The project really is a true feat of engineering - giant 1,000 tonne machines each 150 metres long carving miles of twin tunnels under London with the aim of improving the well-being of those in the Capital, creating jobs and boosting the economy.'
Crossrail services are expected to commence on the central section by late 2018, followed by a phased introduction of services along the rest of the route over several months.