The people of London, England, are officially one year away from using a new underground railway. Crossrail is a new railway that links up to the renowned Elizabeth Line; since 2009 the teams involved have been working around the clock to make it happen.
Engineers behind the project are calling it the most “ambitious infrastructure project since the Industrial Revolution”. Upon completion, Crossrail will be 118 kilometers (73 miles) long. 10 stations are also being constructed. By December 2018 the railway will open to the public - after an investment of US$20 billion.
For all Britain's engineering successes, there are some aspects of the industry that require consideration. For example, Britain has the lowest number of female engineers in Europe.
The Crossrail project, however, has created opportunities for female engineers too. In fact, the Daily Mail reports that a third of the engineers attached to the project are female. Another impressive fact is that Crossrail Limited will have created more than 1,000 apprenticeships during the construction of the railway.
The female engineers attached to the project have been given the nickname the ‘Girlpower Tunnel Gang’.
Rachel, a 43 year old civil engineer working on the railway told the Daily Mail:
“When I was a little girl I was utterly ignorant of engineering. It never crossed my mind that engineering was a masculine industry. I grew up in a family of feminists where you do what you want to do. Now, I do get people asking me whether I boss lots of men around, which I don’t.”
The dedication to the project has been remarkable too – those involved will work through the festive season and New Year.
Another of the female engineers - who moonlights as a beauty blogger - spoke about the misconceptions some people have about females in the engineering industry. She said:
“People don’t expect someone like me to be an engineer because I like make-up and beauty. I don’t put my full make-up on all the time to go to work - I’m not going to get up an hour early just to do that. People might think if you look a certain way you are not serious, but I have studied hard.”
The project employed eight tunnel boring machines (TBM); each one at a cost of approximately US$13 million. These machines work around the clock and requires up to 20 people to operate them. Andrew Wolstenholme, the CEO of the Crossrail project spoke to Deutsche Welle, saying:
“I’ve travelled in many different continents in my career, and I see British engineering sitting right at the forefront. We’ve always been good at architecture, at engineering. I think we’ve put people and social issues at the heart of Crossrail, so we’ve attracted now more than 700 apprentices. These are young men and young women. I say young women because 30 percent of our apprentices are female, which we’re very proud of. They come from all sorts of different backgrounds, giving people the opportunity, some from disadvantaged backgrounds, to have engineering as their first choice in the UK.”
Social issues, and putting people first aside, the project still needs to meet deadlines and do it without overspending. Wolstenholme says everyone on the Crossrail project is disciplined and has the expertise to finish the project. With London’s growing population rates, the new railway is going to be a godsend for minimizing congestion in the city and reducing travel times.
Project Manager Camilla Barrow, a team leader in charge of 40 other employees at Crossrail, said:
“Having more women engineers is better for everyone - if you have diverse people on a project, you will get better ideas. If everyone thinks the same, you're less likely to get innovation. When you have a huge project like Crossrail, you need that creative thinking. For instance, we created from scratch a unique drilling rig - and it was designed by one of our young engineers.”
(www.dw.com), Deutsche Welle. “Tunnel Vision: Inside London's New Subterranean Railway | Business | DW | 20.11.2017.” DW.COM, www.dw.com/en/tunnel-vision-inside-londons-new-subterranean-railway/a-41444842.
Ruth Sunderland City Editor For The Mail On Sunday. “The Girlpower Tunnel Gang! Meet the Female Crossrail Engineers behind the Biggest Construction Job in Europe.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 9 Dec. 2017, www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5163163/Meet-female-Crossrail-engineers.html.