Steele stresses the need for passengers to be mindful of the significant benefits Crossrail will bring when travelling to or across central London, once the short-term pain is over.
“A successful weekend for us is when nobody knows you’ve been there and passengers see a normal passenger service on a Monday morning after we’ve had 600-800 people out there.
“We work really hard with our train operating colleagues - for example, Great Western Railway and Heathrow Express - to make sure we still provide the best service. This might mean keeping two tracks open in four-track sections, where possible.
“People need to recognise the benefits of Crossrail long term. Everybody living to the west or east of London has become used to Paddington or Liverpool Street being their terminus stations, but Crossrail will allow them to travel right into the heart of London.
“And it will make a massive difference even if you never get on a Crossrail train from Reading, Ilford or Romford, because once you change to the Underground, the Tube station will be less congested.”
Steele says the programme has brought structural benefits to Network Rail as well, through its close collaboration with Crossrail Ltd, Transport for London and the Department for Transport.
He also applauds NR for its Crossrail apprenticeship programme, which has created 450 roles and looks set to leave a legacy of a skilled workforce for many years to come. Crossrail has also participated in the Construction Youth Trust’s Budding Brunel programme, which allows school leavers to experience working on the railway during three-day placements, thus increasing their employability.
“We have built upon our expertise in delivering major programmes. Obviously we deliver Thameslink with other parties and this project was set up largely in the same way, but we have an additional interface with Crossrail Ltd, DfT and TfL. We have a protocol that lays out how we work together which we will regard as successful, and the knowledge transfer between the projects has been positive as well.
“Skills-wise it has been very important, and we have set up an apprenticeship programme with our suppliers. We also deliver the Budding Brunel scheme, which we are really proud of, and have put 140 students through site visits and work experience.”
Steele’s job may well be complete by the time the first services run all the way from Reading through to Shenfield or Abbey Wood by the end of the decade. But its hallmarks will be visible for a great deal longer.
- This feature was published in RAIL 792 on January 20 2016