The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway returns to BBC Two on Wednesday 13 February 2019. Full broadcast details and links to watch the previous series can be found on the BBC programme page. Explore all our related content below, plus download your free poster to accompany the programme.
Skip to content
My OpenLearn Profile
- Personalise your OpenLearn profile
- Save your favourite content
- Get recognition for your learning
The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway
Ten thousand engineers and construction workers race to complete the Elizabeth line.
Available on BBC iPlayerBBC Two on Wednesday
20th February 2019 at 9:10PM
In this series of The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway, we follow the 10,000 men and women tasked with building the new Elizabeth Line underground railway, formerly known as Crossrail, underneath the busy streets of Central London.
This fifteen-billion-pound construction project, one of Europe’s largest and most complex has only nine months left to finish fitting out and testing of all of its 10 new stations, 41 kilometers of twin-bored tunnels, and its fleet of 66 new trains, before the line is due to open to passengers. However, the closer the deadline gets, the more the schedule starts to slip.
We’re on the ground as the pressure and challenges facing its workforce begin to grow, from installing 10 tonne ventilation fans at Canary Wharf Station, fitting out platforms and concourses the size of an aircraft carriers under Oxford Street, and the mission to launch test trains into the tunnels - all while keeping London moving.
This series follows events leading up to the announcement that the Elizabeth Line will be delayed by over a year into 2020 and require a further £2 billion of funding. We’ll see how engineers must pull together, working on borrowed time, to restore their reputation, the reputation of the new railway, and the reputation of British engineering.
With exclusive access, this returning series follows the construction workers of Crossrail as they battle to finish the final stages of the new Elizabeth Line underground railway beneath the streets of London.
Costing over fifteen billion pounds and stretching 120km across the capital, this extraordinary construction project is one of the biggest in Europe and one of the most ambitious engineering feats in Britain since the time of Brunel.
Our cameras follow the engineers, technicians and train staff who are under pressure to complete their section of the project, including building and fitting out 10 brand new stations, learning to drive the new fleet of trains, and testing the 21-km twin tunnels beneath London, in a bid to make it safe for the public.
We join charismatic project manager Lih-Ling Highe, who is tasked with finishing construction of the new Tottenham Court Road Station - the largest station on the entire line and future gateway to 200,000 passengers a day. Coming from a long line of engineers, construction is in Lih-Ling’s DNA - in this episode, she must lead a team fitting out the station’s three-tonne platform screen doors to prevent passengers from falling under a train.
We also join new recruit Rochelle as she trains to become a driver of the new 200m long, 90mph trains that will carry up to 200 million passengers a year. We follow Rochelle through each nail-biting step of the course - from simulator training to getting behind the wheel of a real 265-tonne train.
This series follows a team of ten thousand men and women as they race to build the new Elizabeth Line underground railway - formerly known as Crossrail, beneath the streets of London. Costing fifteen billion pounds, it’s one of the biggest engineering projects in Europe and a hugely complex challenge to pull off.
Picking up immediately after the shock news of the Elizabeth Line being delayed by over a year and the increased overspend of hundreds of millions of pounds, we’ll discover how engineers must pull together, working on borrowed time, to restore their reputation, the reputation of the new railway, and the reputation of British engineering.
Charismatic Project Manager, Lih Ling Highe, is back in charge of installing thousands of kilometers of power cables throughout the largest station on the Elizabeth Line - Tottenham Court Road. If the cables are damaged or incorrectly wired, the station cannot be energised and the project will be delayed once more. At Bond Street Station, beneath London’s most expensive shopping street, engineers are tasked with installing three 65-metre-long escalators, the longest on the railway - in a tight shaft so passengers can get to the trains. Paddington Station Site Manager Cynthia Myndhardt is in charge of building and fitting out a 130m long great glass canopy to soar above the site and plug the building directly into Brunel’s original grade one listed station, a nerve wracking feat. We also join new recruit Rochelle as she continues her quest to become an Elizabeth Line driver. We follow her on her most nerve-wracking challenge to date, driving 1,500 passengers from Shenfield, Essex, to Central London in rush hour.
This series follows more than ten thousand engineers and construction workers as they race to complete the brand new railway directly underneath the city - Crossrail, London's new Underground - in time for the first trains to start running.
Costing fifteen billion pounds, it is the biggest engineering project in Europe. Linda Miller, an engineer more at home constructing space launch complexes at Cape Canaveral, must build what will become Britain's busiest station - Farringdon - an underground structure longer than the Shard skyscraper is tall. Linda and her team battle ancient fault lines that threaten the site with flooding, race to build emergency access tunnels to alleviate pressure on a congested construction site, and piece together a giant geometric jigsaw that will form a 'cathedral'-sized station entrance. Engineers in Whitechapel must drag the original Victorian station into the 21st century by building a brand new station on top of a bridge.
While construction workers build innovative 'floating' rail tracks directly under the Barbican Concert Hall to stop noisy trains from disturbing performances as they travel right underneath the building at 90mph. The episode ends with a very special visitor arriving on site to give it, the railway its new title - the Elizabeth Line.
The second episode follows the men and women racing to build London’s brand new underground railway – the “Elizabeth Line’’ - in time for the first train launch in May 2017.
Engineers must construct and fit out a new station at Paddington, erect a 130m long great glass canopy to soar above the structure, and plug directly into Brunel’s original grade one listed station – a nerve-wracking feat. At Tottenham Court Road, workers are building underground platforms and concourses the size of an aircraft carrier in the heart of the world’s busiest shopping district. The team must carefully remove enormous props that hold apart the station walls, as convoys of concrete trucks drive down Oxford Street where half a million shoppers and tourists visit, every day. In Derby, a father and son team – third and fourth generation train builders – race to construct sixty-six trains to ferry passengers across the 30 miles of Crossrail line. Every site and engineer must pull together as they race to deliver this new fifteen billion pound railway - one of Europe's largest construction projects - in time for the first trains roll out.
Why do we look on with adoration and amazement at some engineering creations while others leave us feeling indifferent? Dr Ian Johnston examines why some structures are worthy of their iconic status.
Read now ❯Iconic engineering: The Forth Bridge and Concorde
Download your free 'A City in the Making' poster to accompany the OU/BBC series 'The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway'.
Read now ❯Download your free 'A City in the Making' poster
Why do we look on with adoration and amazement at some engineering creations while others leave us feeling indifferent? Dr Ian Johnston examines why some structures are worthy of their iconic status.Read now ❯Iconic engineering: The Forth Bridge and Concorde
Download your free 'A City in the Making' poster to accompany the OU/BBC series 'The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway'.Read now ❯Download your free 'A City in the Making' poster
This foundation degree combines academic skills with the needs of your workplace. Boost your career if you're working in an engineering-related job at a technical level. Build on your existing skills and experience to support your professional development plans. You'll apply the study of engineering fundamentals to the solution of real-life problems. Topics include design, electronics, energy, manufacturing, materials, mechanics and structural analysis. It also develops your maths skills, which are key to successful study of engineering.Learn more ❯Foundation Degree in Engineering
This online module will change your way of seeing and solving complex problems for ever. Through a mix of academic and practical work, you'll develop an understanding of design, acquire new design skills, and build a portfolio of design projects as a strong foundation for future study or work experience. It looks at common principles of design and thinking that lead to creative ideas and solutions in all design disciplines. Within a specially created online design studio, you'll complete practical activities and interact with tutors and other students, experiencing a completely different way of learning.Learn more ❯Design thinking: creativity for the 21st century
This introductory module examines the range of human activity that is 'engineering', setting current practice in a historical context and looking forward to new developments that will help shape the future. Key scientific principles, mathematical techniques and design methodologies are introduced and explained, to equip you with a basic toolkit on which to build further study. Mathematics is presented in an engineering context to emphasise relevance and build your confidence in framing problems, addressing design challenges and formulating solutions. Reflective practice is encouraged throughout and you will have the opportunity to share and discuss aspects of your work with other students.Learn more ❯Engineering: origins, methods, context
This module builds on the concepts and techniques in (T192). It begins by focusing on invention and innovation, and the advisory or legislative frameworks used to promote good practice and ensure safety. Examples of patents, standards and an energy case study are examined, providing a basis for introducing key topics in engineering and mathematics. Next, it takes you on a tour of modern manufacturing methods, and explores how these are related to properties of materials, product design, environmental sustainability and profitability. More advanced mathematical techniques, including basic calculus, are introduced and applied in an engineering context.Learn more ❯Engineering: frameworks, analysis, production
Our free courses
Urban processes are increasingly held to be responsible for causing a variety of problems environmental destruction, social injustice, global financial instability. They are also identified as harbouring the potential to meet these challenges through urban experiments in sustainable living, creative culture and alternative economies. This free course, Changing cities, explores how contemporary processes of urbanisation challenge how we think about political agency, providing a framework for the analysis of the causes, implications and responses to issues of common concern.Learn more ❯Changing cities
This free course, An introduction to design engineering, looks at the way in which engineers use ideas and approaches from the discipline of design thinking to inform their work. The complexity that people bring to design problems is introduced, along with some basic methods of dealing with such complexity.Learn more ❯An introduction to design engineering
The I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis in August 2007, resulting in at least 13 deaths, illustrates the importance of structural integrity. This free course, Introduction to structural integrity, looks at the investigation that followed the collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River in 1967 which demonstrates how the study of safe design and the assessment of components and structures under load is of increasing importance in engineering design.Learn more ❯Introduction to structural integrity
Dr Ian Johnston
Lecturer in Engineering and STEM Open Media Fellow
Dr Ian Johnston is an academic engineer and applied mathematician with a passion for taking science to the masses. His official research is in superconductivity, in which he has gained his doctorate. Hewas academic consultant to "Electric Dreams" and "Bang Goes The Theory".
Prof Jeff Johnson
Professor of Complexity Science & Design, STEM
Jeff is interested in the application of systems thinking and design in environmental, social and economic policy. He has worked on modules and courses in many areas including design, mathematics, artificial intelligence, robotics and engineering.
Dr Nick Bingham
Senior Lecturer in Geography, FASS
Nick's interest in taking seriously the role that non-human entitles (whether they are insects and microbes or technologies and data) play in social life has involved him researching topics as diverse as food safety, the bee crisis and smart cities.
Dr George Revill
Senior Lecturer in Geography, FASS
George has worked on a number of OU environmental and social science modules. Current research brings issues of sound, mobility, communication and landscape together in terms of acoustic geographies of space, place, landscape and environment.