PM hails 'magnificent' Crossrail
David Cameron has marked the completion of tunnelling for Crossrail by hailing the £14.8 billion cross-London project as "an engineering triumph".
Clad in orange protective clothing and standing before a giant tunnel boring machine at Farringdon in London, the Prime Minister said Crossrail was "absolutely magnificent".
Addressing around 150 Crossrail workers deep under ground, Mr Cameron said the project made him "dead proud to be your Prime Minister".
Crossrail, running from Reading in Berkshire in the west to Shenfield in Essex in the east, is due to open in 2018 with full services running in 2019.
Boring machine Victoria's breakthrough at Farringdon meant all 26 miles of tunnelling through central London had been completed.
Accompanied by London Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Mr Cameron had walked through the tunnel at Farringdon to stand close to Victoria, which was one of eight boring machines used in the London work.
Mr Johnson described Victoria as a "monumental, muck-munching machine" and said the tunnel completion was "an historic day" and marked "a huge success for the whole of the UK economy".
He urged everyone to support Crossrail 2, a north-south London scheme which could cost as much as £27.5 billion.
Mr McLoughlin said Crossrail was "the most ambitious rail project this country has seen for decades" and showcased "British engineering at its best".
Ten new Crossrail stations are being constructed in central London, in London Docklands, and at Abbey Wood in south London.
The Abbey Wood link is one of the two spurs, with another running to Heathrow Airport in west London.
At peak, the tunnelling machines aimed for around 100 metres of tunnelling progress a week, while millions of tonnes of excavated material from the tunnels were being shipped to create a nature reserve for birds at Wallasea Island in Essex.
The tunnels weave their way between existing Underground lines, sewers, utility tunnels and building foundations from station to station at depths of up to 120ft.
Running on some existing track as well as the new tracks through London, Crossrail will serve 40 stations and increase capacity through London by 10%.
The fastest day of tunnelling was on April 16 2014 when boring machine Ellie completed 236ft (72 metres) between Pudding Mill Lane and Stepney Green.
Crossrail's tunnels are made up of more than 200,000 concrete tunnel segments. Each tunnel segment weighs 3.4 tonnes.
Trains will be at least 200 metres long and there will be up to 24 trains per hour between Paddington and Whitechapel during peak times.
It is estimated that Crossrail will generate at least 75,000 business opportunities and support the equivalent of 55,000 full time jobs right around the UK.
Begun in 2009, it is Europe's largest construction project with thousands of workers operating on dozens of different sites.
Also present in the Farringdon tunnel today was Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme.
He said Crossrail would "transform how people travel across the capital".
London's Transport Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy said the end of tunnelling was "an impressive milestone in construction" and that when Crossrail fully opened it would provide London with "much-needed new transport links".