Woolwich Arsenal and the surrounding area has seen extensive regeneration over the past decade. The Elizabeth line station is key to its ongoing socioeconomic transformation, providing quicker, easier, and more convenient travel into the city.
We were design partners for Woolwich Station. We started by developing a detailed model using BIM (building information modelling, which was cutting-edge technology at the time) to achieve design accuracy, identify buildability issues and create a digital asset that would be useful for long-term asset management.
We linked the BIM model with 3D cameras placed strategically to give an overview of the site and specific activities, so that construction could be viewed in real time. This ‘digital twin’ enabled progress to be reviewed off-site and any buildability issues to be identified before they arose.
Crossrail was an early adopter of 3D design. All civil engineering, MEP services, alignments were ‘built’ in a 3D model that has been used across the whole of Crossrail. Smoke, fire, pedestrian and tunnel ventilation modelling was also carried out.
At the time of the Crossrail Hybrid Bill submissions in 2005, 3D design was uncommon. Crossrail’s early support of 3D design software helped to create the market and skillsets that have allowed the wider industry to push forward with 3D design such that it is now common practice. Woolwich Station was designed, approved, constructed and assured using the 3D model which fits into a Crossrail programme federated model. The overall BIM approach was led and mandated by Crossrail Ltd.
Information and details were shared between multiple contracts digitally, with some 4000 documents being issued and tracked thorough document control systems.
The move to working from home using Teams during COVID-19 lockdown assisted progression of the rail assurance case and the project teams swiftly adopted remote working and video conferencing whilst final construction, and testing and commissioning were completed.
Inspired by the past
The station’s design subtly references the site’s military past as the Royal Arsenal, home to gun, munitions and medal factories, a military academy and firing range. A motif of rifling from old cannons features on the bronze cladding and outside there is an information totem about the Dead Man’s Penny, a coin minted at the arsenal and given to the next-of-kin of all British and Empire service personnel killed during the First World War. Inside, the regimental colours of the Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery adorn the columns. Textured brickwork creates continuity with the outside, and rooflights bring daylight in. High ceilings provide a sense of spaciousness on the long platforms.
In it together
The scale of Crossrail called for multidisciplinary inputs from Mott MacDonald teams worldwide. Colleagues based in India played crucial roles in designing Woolwich Station, and the digital twin was particularly important for them, providing a thorough appreciation of the site and particular construction challenges, and helping them to develop solutions efficiently.
Woolwich Station has created a ‘living legacy’ of expertise. A particular feature were the many design team early career professionals starting their careers on this project and who stayed with it throughout its eight-year duration. Staff churn throughout the project was low. Many have emerged as chartered professionals who are now taking the skills they’ve learned on to metro projects worldwide.