Human cost of Elizabeth Line project

Don't forget those who died building Crossrail

Monday, 30th May — By Tom Foot

camden Image 2022-05-30 at 9.58.35 AM (13)

Rene Tkacik

ANYONE getting overly excited by the Elizabeth line opening this week should go and pause for a moment’s reflection in Red Lion Square.

There is a bench there dedicated to Rene Tkacik who was, in 2014, crushed to death by one tonne of falling concrete.

He was 80 feet down helping to tunnel the Crossrail railway between Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon as a construction worker for a firm that would later be fined £1m for the tragedy.

Shortly after his death the New Journal obtained documents marked “confidential” that revealed a series of warnings about “hazardous and unsafe working conditions” for staff who were tasked with spraying wet concrete – known as shotcrete – onto the tunnel walls.

The whistleblower’s memo warned of a string of near misses in 2013 and said staff had been wrongly sent to work under freshly applied shotcrete.

A year after Rene’s death, at the same site in Fisher Street, Holborn, Terrence Hughes had one leg fractured and the other crushed by an excavator.

Six days after that, Alex Vizitiu was hit by pressurised water and concrete debris, and spent six days in hospital with head and hip injuries.

At Mr Tkacik’s inquest, his wife spoke about how he was vastly experienced and had been working hard to send his daughter to university.

Four people have also been killed by Crossrail lorries during the project.

And in a lesser reported story, Crossrail workers at the Bond Street station “downed tools” following the deaths of five colleagues.

The deaths of the workers “in their sleep” have not been proved to be related to the work but the coincidence was enough to spark an unofficial walkout.

In the end the Crossrail project became so toxic with construction tragedies, delays and a ballooning budget that it was rebranded the Elizabeth line by marketing whizzes looking to piggyback on the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

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