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Advanced planning for Crossrail 2

London's Crossrail project has been famously dogged with delays and budget overruns. The idea of building an underground route named the Elizabeth Line, connecting Reading in the west, Shenfield in the east and Abbey Wood in the south east was first suggested in the late 1980s. Over two decades later in 2012, tunnelling work finally began. Although the line is now tantalisingly close to becoming operational, no official opening date has yet been announced.

In the meantime tentative plans for Crossrail 2, running north to south, have been put back on the shelf because Transport for London (TfL) simply cannot fund such a project. However, the management of the British Library at St Pancras, itself once a controversial project, have been thinking in the very long term and are drawing up their plans for a massive extension to the current premises. In partnership with Stanhope, Mitsui Fudosan, engineers Arup, architects DSDHA and consultants Gerald Eve, the British Library has submitted plans to Camden Council which include a 4,300 square metre provision for basement works in connection with any potential Crossrail 2 project.

The extension is intended to turn the library into a focal point for this already heavily regenerated area, and it will certainly represent a massive expansion of its facilities. However it is the basement plan which gives the project its innovative character. The extension would be built directly above the site of any new Crossrail tunnels, and by dedicating basement space in this way the British Library would make it much easier to build station infrastructure before work on the line itself were to begin.

The plans have yet to be approved, but if the council gives the go-ahead then site preparation would last until 2025 and construction would take another four years, with the new building opening in 2029. Given the track record of the original Crossrail, it is likely that the basement space will remain untouched for many years after that. That said, it must be comforting for TfL to know that there is a little piece of St Pancras waiting for them when they're ready.

Network Rail framework

Following the recent announcement of its £2 billion construction framework for Wales and the Western region, Network Rail is now planning to put something similar in place for its Eastern region. It is inviting contractors to apply for places on its £4 billion renewals and minor enhancements framework.

The Eastern region covers a large area, including East Coast, Anglia, East Midlands and North & East routes. The region will be divided into north and south, with each having its own dedicated partnership appointed. The partnerships will be assembled with collaborative practices and compatible objectives as priorities. They will be empowered to carry out work according to the scope of their allocated lot, and also as required under the work orders of other partners. In addition Network Rail may ask suppliers to carry out supplementary work where it makes sense to combine it with the primary task, such as adjusting the track of overhead lines in the process of replacing a bridge. Partners may also be required to deliver emergency works and services.

The framework will last from 2024 to 2029 but can be extended to 2034. It is planned to appoint 14 suppliers across five lots. A second supplier will be appointed to each lot but outside the formal partnership. The contract values of the five lots range from £300 million for Signalling and Telecoms North and South jointly, to £850 million each for Structures, Geotechnics and Buildings North and South. The overall value, should the arrangement remain in place for the maximum of 10 years, is estimated at £4 billion.

A total of 19 suppliers will be appointed and the deadline for applications is 13th May 2022.

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