Only 64 weeks remain until London's grand new east-west rail artery opens. Only 8 weeks remain until trains start being tested along the completed track. And minus one days remain until Open House made available tours of Crossrail building sites deep underground. Three of the stations opened up to the public were Bond Street, Whitechapel and Farringdon, whose limited availability was very rapidly snapped up. Rather more tickets for Canary Wharf were available, because that's far enough advanced not to require a guided hard hat tour, indeed has been for some time. So I grabbed a slot down there, and got to see what you'll all be seeing next year, once it's all finally finished.
The first time I descended into Canary Wharf for Open House, five years ago, we spiralled down a rickety temporary staircase to a cavern with no platforms, tracks or tunnels. Today all these are in place, plus platform-edge walls, and most of the escalators now work. The escalators are veryyellow, almost unnervingly so, in what may or may not be a reference to the 'canary' part of the station's name. They are terribly photogenic.
Several banks of escalators are in place to speed you from platform level up to the ticket hall, and further banks then lead up to ground level. Some even have the Canary Wharf brand plastered across the glass up the side, perhaps as a subtle reminder that you're entering a private commercial estate and maybe you'd like to visit the shops and restaurants now you're here.
The layout's a bit like Canary Wharf on the Jubilee line, in that there's an intermediate level which runs the entire length of the station. It's nominally the ticket hall, but expect minimal ticket sales action to take place here, being more a vast circulation space between (as yet uninstalled) barriers. Various banks of electrical cupboards appear to run along some of the length, and not much else in the way of features, it's actually a bit drab... but after fifteen further months of fitting-out this could obviously change.
Platform level is where all the action is, or will be. Another broad concourse stretches 250 metres down the length of the station (board this end for Liverpool Street, and the other end for Moorgate). All that so far fills the central void are escalators and chunky liftshafts - any seating and roundels are yet to come. There isn't yet a proper floor to stand on either, we were walking around on timber planks, and the majority of the platform area remained out of bounds.
What's being installed at the moment are the platform doors. The entire length of the westbound appears to be complete, and covered up, but not yet the eastbound so we were able to have a good stare along that. Some of the mechanism above the doors was visible, and the screen itself didn't look quite as chunky as on the Jubilee line. In a few places the glass panels haven't yet been installed - perhaps this makes access to the track easier - and we were offered a clear-ish view down onto the rails you won't see.
Did I mention how yellow the escalators are?
It was great to be able to have a look round, and to meet with several of the workers and engineers who are helping to bring this project to its conclusion. Their enthusiasm and keenness shone through, and they probably can't wait to show off their handiwork to the rest of you. I've been particularly impressed across three separate visits to see this hole in the ground transform into proper infrastructure, so many thanks to Open House for the sequentialopportunity they've provided.
One day this construction phase will be but a memory, and these yellow escalators will be just another part of commuting in London. That day is 448 days away. Keep counting.