The continuing saga of who didn’t tell who what about the non-opening of the Elizabeth Line on 9 December might cause us to forget what a vast and still-impressive feat of construction the Crossrail project is. One of the more ambitious station transformations is that of Paddington, where a whole new Crossrail section is being put together beneath Eastbourne Terrace and Departures Road on the side of the main station building, where for years black cabs have picked up and dropped off rail passengers.
I took trains to and from Paddington for my Easter holiday travel and tried to get a look at the works-in-progress while I was there. I couldn’t see a lot, but imagining it was easier thanks to having attended an excellent London Society event about Paddington’s past and future and also to this short film from Crossrail, produced in 2017.
There were two speakers at the London Society event. Dr Steven Brindle is an English Heritage historian and author of Paddington Station, its History and Architecture. From him I learned, among much else, the extent to which the roots of the Great Western Railway are in the west of England rather than London, what a difficult man Isambard Kingdom Brunel was (unlike his friend Robert Stephenson), and why there’s a great big hotel at the front of the station instead of fine, display entrance. (It’s because the Midland Railway Company had one at St Pancras and the GWR bosses didn’t want to be outdone).
The second speaker was Rob Naybour from architects Weston Williamson & Partners, which has worked on a number of important station projects. There’s lots of material about the Paddington Elizabeth Line design on the company’s website.