The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway

Urban Heart Surgery

Series 1 - Episode 1 Urban Heart Surgery



The graphics in this series about Crossrail are wonderful. Slick animated diagrams show how tunnels for London’s new underground line have to weave between existing bits of the network.

At one stage engineers talk about “the eye of the needle” at Tottenham Court Road: the 900-ton digging machine has to bore its way through a gap between the Northern Line and an escalator shaft with less than a metre’s leeway either side.

“It’s like conducting open-heart surgery while the patient is still awake,” says one of the project managers. The drama here occasionally flags (watching cranes craning is only so interesting) but it makes you appreciate the ingenuity of the engineering.


Documentary following the work of more than 10,000 people as they race to build Crossrail - a new 73-mile train line linking east and west London, costing £15billion. As they excavate the 26 miles of tunnels, engineers must make sure that listed buildings don't crack, London Underground trains keep running, roads don't have to be shut and the City stays in business. Crucially, they must drive one of their gigantic 1,000-ton tunnel-boring machines through a narrow gap at Tottenham Court Road station without disturbing the passengers on the platforms below.

Cast & Crew

Executive Producer Carlo Massarella
Series Director Joby Lubman
Series Producer Jane Fitzgerald
Documentary Education