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Crossrail: Tunneling Beneath London

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When one digs beneath London, England, one digs through history. Crossrail, the largest construction project in Europe, is tunneling under the British capital to provide a new underground rail link across the city, and has encountered not only a maze of existing modern infrastructure, but historic finds including mammoth bone fragments, Roman roads (with ancient horseshoes embedded in the ruts), Black Plague burial grounds, and 16th century jewelry. The $25 billion (15 billion pound) project is due to open in 2018, connecting London's Heathrow airport to the county of Essex -- five tunnel boring machines are creating a kilometer of new tunnel under London every two weeks. The millions of tons of soil from the Crossrail construction are being shipped to Wallasea Island in the Thames Estuary, allowing the island to be transformed from levee-protected farmland into a thriving wetland. [28 photos]

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A worker emerges after a tunneling machine made the breakthrough into the station structure at Canary Wharf, in east London, on June 11, 2013. Crossrail is the largest infrastructure project in Europe, built to provide a new link across London. (Reuters/Andrew Winning)
A worker emerges after a tunneling machine made the breakthrough into the station structure at Canary Wharf, in east London, on June 11, 2013. Crossrail is the largest infrastructure project in Europe, built to provide a new link across London. (Reuters/Andrew Winning)
Tottenham Court Road Crossrail work, September 15, 2011. Original here. (CC BY EG Focus) #
A technician sprays concrete to support caverns built to house the converging railway tunnels at Crossrail's Stepney site beneath east London, on December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
An access point to the Crossrail site at Farringdon Station, in London, on January 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson) #
Crossrail workers operate a 150 meter long tunnel boring machine, creating an 8.3 km tunnel from the Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon, on April 24, 2013 in London. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #
A worker walks inside a section of a tunnel boring machine in one of the tunnels at Crossrail's Limmo Peninsula site beneath east London, on December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
Workers renovate the Crossrail Connaught tunnel between the Royal Albert and Royal Victoria docks in east London, on May 29, 2013. (Reuters/Luke MacGregor) #
Archaeologists working on the Crossrail project uncover a historical burial ground at Charterhouse Square, Farringdon in central London. Scientists were called in to investigate bones found during the digging of a new railway in central London, after 13 skeletons were found. The skeletons were be tested to see if they died from the Black Death plague which killed between 30 and 60 percent of the European population in the 14th century, and scientist hope to map the DNA signature of the plague bacteria. (AP Photo/Crossrail Project) #
An archaeologist with Crossrail works in a recently-uncovered historical burial ground in central London. (AP Photo/Crossrail Project) #
An archaeologist digs out a skull from the site of the graveyard of the Bethlehem, or Bedlam, hospital next to Liverpool Street Station in the City of London, on August 7, 2013. The dig is on the site of the future ticket hall for the Crossrail station at Liverpool Street. Archaeologists have a window of time to dig through parts of London's first municipal graveyard from the 16 and 17th century; and through to the Roman ruins beneath; before the site is handed back to contractors building the ticket hall for the Crossrail station. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
Crossrail workers in a 40 meter deep shaft at Limmo, from where they are constructing an 8.3 km tunnel from the Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon, on April 24, 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #
Workers line up rails for the tunneling machine at Crossrail's Stepney site in east London, on September 25, 2013. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
A worker inspects the Tunnel Boring Machine at the Pudding Mill Lane Crossrail construction site, on May 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) #
A service train carries Crossrail workers to a 150 meter long tunnel boring machine, on April 24, 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #
Crossrail workers strengthen, deepen and widen the Connaught tunnel to accommodate new trains on April 24, 2013 beneath London. This 550 meter Connaught tunnel was built in 1878 and has not been in passenger use since December 2006. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #
Under-construction escalators in the Ticket Hall level of the Canary Wharf Crossrail station in the North Dock of the Isle of Dogs in London, on November 26, 2013. The construction of the station, which began in May 2009 and is costing 500 million GBP, features four stories of retail space above the ticket hall and platform levels. The station has been created by constructing a concrete box in the North Dock 250 meters long and 30 meters wide. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #
Concrete shatters as a tunneling machine makes the breakthrough into the station structure at Canary Wharf, in east London, on June 11, 2013. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson visit a Crossrail construction site underneath Tottenham Court Road, on January 16, 2014. (Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images) #
Workers stand in an access excavation at the entrance of the tunnels at Crossrail's Limmo Peninsula site in east London, on December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
Crossrail workers in a 40 meter deep shaft at Limmo, on April 24, 2013. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #
A worker operates a mechanical digger 40 meters underground in the access excavation at the mouth of the tunnel at Crossrail's Limmo Peninsula site, on December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
An archaeologist displays a 16th century Venetian gold coin, perforated to be worn as jewelery, which was dug out from the Crossrail site next to Liverpool Street Station in the City of London, on August 7, 2013. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
A worker stands on the tunnel boring machine creating the Crossrail tunnel being built from Paddington towards Farringdon under central London, on March 13, 2013. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
Excavators feed tons of earth generated by the construction of Crossrail into screeners before it is put on a bulk freighter in east London, on December 17, 2013. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
A ship delivers soil to Wallasea Island on September 17, 2012 near Rochford, England. The Crossrail railway tunnel project in London has started to deliver 4.5 million tons of soil from it's construction to Wallasea Island in the Thames Estuary. This will allow Wallasea Island to be transformed from levee-protected farmland into a thriving wetland twice the size of the City of London. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) #
A member of the crew of a bulk freighter prepares his ship to receive tons of earth generated by the construction of Crossrail, at a jetty on the Thames in east London, on December 17, 2013. (Reuters/Andrew Winning) #
A digger makes adjustments to a levee at the eastern end of Wallasea Island on September 17, 2012 near Rochford, England. The Crossrail railway tunnel project has started to deliver 4.5 million tons of soil from it's construction to Wallasea Island in the Thames Estuary. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) #
A Crossrail employee looks at Wallasea Island on September 17, 2012 near Rochford, England. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) #

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