Demonstrating meticulous attention to detail on its Holborn London Crossrail project – Costain Skanska Joint Venture

“Being located in central London and constantly being surrounded by the public, traffic and residents meant that every single aspect of work on site had to be meticulously thought through.

“When complete, this project will be an essential part of helping Crossrail to make travelling in London and the South East safer. The project will help towards reducing crowding on London’s transport network, most notably the rail network which is projected to have a 10% increase in network capacity.”

Asha Mistry, Environmental Advisor, Costain Skanska Joint Venture

Costain Skanska Joint Venture’s C360 civils project is part of the Crossrail scheme and comprises the construction of reinforced concrete intermediate shafts and headhouses at Mile End and Eleanor Street (including all associated enabling works). It also involves the construction of headhouses at Fisher Street, Stepney Green, and Limmo Peninsula.

The Fisher Street site is located in Holborn, a densely built-up area in central London. The site itself has a footprint of approximately 790 square metres, is very constrained and is situated between listed buildings with a courtyard area to the rear.

Outlining the project, Asha said:

“The latter three sites were awarded to C360 after the project had commenced. The intermediate shafts at all sites provide access to the running tunnels for firefighting, emergency access/egress and general maintenance.

“The site offices used by CSJV at Fisher Street are a Grade II listed building, including basement. A hotel refurbishment is being carried out by McLarens adjacent to the project site. The main building fronts Southampton Row, however, access to the site for vehicles is via a smaller side street. Work at the project site is carried out on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week except Sunday evenings.”

Overcoming the various challenges of working in busy Holborn

Asha outlines the various hurdles encountered with the work, with the main issue being the lack of space at the Fisher Street site:


The hardest challenge was ensuring that the work on site (e.g. noise, dust, increased traffic etc.) did not cause a nuisance or affect the local community. Thankfully, real-time monitoring, early engagement with the local community and regular updates/meetings meant that the community have felt as if they have been kept informed. We have received very few complaints from the public regarding the Fisher Street site, which upon further investigation, were not found to be related to our site.


A separate principal contractor working as part of the Crossrail project needed to use Fisher Street for construction of their Floating Track Slab (FTS) in the tunnels (this is the concrete track slab with a supporting resilient layer or spring system).

In order to pour the FTS, a concrete pumping station had to be installed to pump from the surface down to the running tunnels. Due to the distance the concrete had to travel, very powerful pumps were needed. These pumps had high sound power levels which could potentially impact upon local residents. Additionally, the works had to be undertaken on nightshifts. This was to minimise the potential loss of concrete from delays to deliveries as a result of London traffic.

Reducing the noise

The biggest environmental challenge was ensuring that the noise from the pumps did not adversely impact local residents. We overcame this by constructing an acoustic noise enclosure. A noise assessment conducted by Skanska pinpointed how many decibels would need to be reduced to ensure the site’s noise was below levels stipulated in the Crossrail Act criteria.

The assessment showed that a 20dB reduction at the nearest receptor was required. The final design of the acoustic shed was amended to ensure that this was incorporated. The acoustic shed had deconstruction designed into it – this ensured its removal caused minimal disruption. All materials as part of the enclosure have either been reused or recycled, thus 0% of waste went to landfill.


In addition to the estimated number of site staff expected to use Fisher Street, 150 extra operatives per shift, working elsewhere on the Crossrail scheme, were required to use the site set-up.

The biggest challenge was ensuring the welfare facilities were adequate enough to accommodate the increase in operatives, especially in an area where space is limited. A reorganisation of the site layout and additional logistics, such as daily cleaning regimes were put in place to ensure everything ran smoothly.

How the Scheme makes a difference

Whilst our clients are looking for us to create a sustainable business which will be successful and profitable both now and in the future, increasingly we see that clients and other stakeholders are looking for more than just a constructor. They are looking for companies who are knowledgeable and proactive and manage their activities to provide a positive impact in and around the construction sites.

The Scheme helps to improve the image of construction by having clear guidance on what is expected of a site that has registered with the Scheme. This gives our clients and the public confidence that we really are pushing ourselves to be the best that we can.

As the CCS is such a well-recognised and respectable organisation, it helps gain buy-in from senior management. Even as a general member of the public, the differences that can be seen when walking past registered CCS and non-registered site are very noticeable. We found the experience of registering with the Scheme to be very easy and straightforward – it really couldn’t be any simpler.

Here are just some of the many different examples of best practice Costain Skanska implemented on this project:

  • The hoarding was regularly updated with any major achievements awarded to the site and there was a 24-hour commitment to remove any damage or graffiti found on the hoarding.
  • All site operatives were required to attend a mandatory Crossrail induction, a high level C360 induction as well as a site-specific induction and a Daily Start of Shift (SOS) briefing before being allowed on site. All three inductions and the daily SOS highlighted the importance of cleanliness and good housekeeping. 
  • C360 constructed a bespoke acoustic noise enclosure to ensure that the noise did not adversely impact local residents and was maintained at a level below the noise insulation/temporary re-housing criteria, as defined in the Crossrail Act 2009.
  • Where necessary, the Fisher Street site purchased coffee and sandwiches for all site meetings from the Paper and Cup coffee shop – a social enterprise coffee shop run by local charity Spital Crypt Trust (SCT).
  • Some of the Fisher Street’s most notable charitable work included donating used equipment and second hand PPE to local city farms and parks, a £6K donation to SERV UK which was raised by reporting observations (£1 is donated for every observation card handed in), holding Sports Day events, raffles and collections to raise money for Great Ormond Street hospital and Red Nose Day.
  • Upon starting on the project, all staff were required to attend SEATS (Site Environmental Awareness Training) or NEATS (Non-Site Environmental Awareness Training) courses carried out by an external consultant.
  • The site offices used by CSJV at FSS are in a Grade II listed building which includes a basement. This was directly below the area where the previously mentioned acoustic enclosure were erected. Consequently, CSJV were required to install temporary props within the basement of the listed building to support the weight of the equipment, acoustic shed and CSJV materials on the roof of the shed. As agreed with London Borough of Camden’s heritage advisor, a method which negated the need for drilling was used. This enabled zero-impact on the historic fabric of the building.
  • The acoustic shed had deconstruction designed into it. The lifting eyes were cast into the reinforced concrete slab. The benefits of this included time savings (deconstruction of the slab is 60% faster than using traditional methods via breaking up), and better relationships with adjoining properties as it is a lot quieter than other demolition methods. It was also lower risk and carbon efficient, as deconstruction would not leave any parties susceptible to possible flying debris and it removed the need for plant to carry out the slab break-up.
  • All materials as part of the enclosure were either reused or recycled, thus 0% of waste went to landfill; the Soundex mats were reused by Costain Thames Tideway project, the metal structure was dismantled and given back to Envirofab for recycling or reuse, and the slab sections were taken away by Tarmac for recycling as road aggregate.
  • Waste timber was collected and reused by the Community Wood Scheme – a company which helps to create sustainable jobs, as well as training and volunteering opportunities for local people.
  • The Fisher Street site had real-time monitoring for vibration, air and noise pollution. The monitors were connected to the internet which sent out alerts when an exceedance was recorded via email or SMS to appointed personnel 24hrs a day.
  • One hundred per cent of the project’s energy power supply was provided by ‘Good Energy’ which uses 100% renewable energy sources. The project also had an energy, water and carbon footprint tracker which included emissions generated from Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM).
  • To encourage members of staff to report incidents of non-compliance, near misses or good practices, a £1.00 donation was was made to charity (SERV UK) for every observation card completed. The trends were analysed and targeted training was organised if a particular issue was constantly identified.
  • Each month £10, £20, £50 vouchers and a fleece were given to people who submitted the best observation card or the person who filled out the most. C360 also developed a card scheme which included yellow, red and black cards for disciplinary action. Green cards were also awarded to recognize good practice on site with a £50 reward voucher given.
  • Where necessary, lessons learnt/best practice documents were produced following regular internal and external inspections, audits and reporting so that the findings could be shared among other sites and projects.
  • Safety stand-downs occurred whenever there was a major incident/fatality in another area of the business so the teams were able to learn from the event.
  • All staff members were required to attend mandatory Injury-Free Environment (IFE) training. This was an alternative take on the traditional idea of safety training in which discussions took place on the importance of creating an incident and injury-free environment at work and home, and the impact this has on family and friends. Attendees were sent home and unable to return to work for the rest of the day in order to reflect on what was covered. 
  • Every month the team was encouraged to nominate any colleagues on the following Crossrail values: safety, collaboration, integrity, inspiration and respect. The winners were presented with a monetary gift voucher by the project director.
  • Green cards were awarded to recognize good practice on site, with a £50 reward voucher given to the person who achieved this. When major milestones are met, the team were rewarded with pizza or an evening out to celebrate.
  • An occupational health nurse visited the project three times a week, carrying out wellbeing medicals including blood pressure, BMI, lung function tests and blood sugar levels.
  • Wrist-mounted arm vibration monitors were provided for operatives to prevent HAVS. Operatives were required to visit the nurse if found to be exceeding more than 100 points per day.
  • The project had six trained mental health first aiders and its 306090 SHE campaign focussed on a different health and wellbeing topic each month.
  • Following a ‘Breathe Easy’ campaign which focused on air quality, many members of the team started to use the city air app which helps Londoners lower their impact on, and exposure to air pollution. The ‘CleartheAir’ website emissions calculator which shows the impact of different transport methods was also been trialled.

Recently published