THE Crossrail board has heard confirmation that the central section of the line will not be opening next summer, and it has now been postponed until the first half of 2022.
Costs have also risen again. Crossrail said: ‘The latest cost estimate presented to the Board shows that the cost to complete the Crossrail project could be up to £1.1 billion above the Financing Package agreed in December 2018 (£450 million more than the upper end of the range announced in November 2019).’
Three reasons have been given for the further delay. One is ‘lower productivity’ in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals, while the second is the increasing complexity of the stations, with Crossrail admitting that ‘we have revised our previous schedule assumptions about the pace at which these large and complex stations can be handed over to TfL’. Finally, site works were held up for a time this year because of the pandemic.
Crossrail is expecting to start trial running ‘at the earliest opportunity’ next year, but also points out that ‘it will then take a period of time to fully test the Elizabeth Line before it can open’. The tests will develop later into trial operations, which at one time was known as ‘ghost running’ but will now also involve test passengers using the stations and trains.
Once the section between Paddington, Liverpool Street and Abbey Wood has opened to traffic the rest of the route to Heathrow, Reading and Shenfield will follow. Crossrail added that ‘introduction of full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change which occurs twice a year in May and December’.
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: ‘Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth Line as soon as possible. Now more than ever Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the line will bring, and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and quickly as we can. We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway and we are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity.
‘Delivery of the Elizabeth Line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risks and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks. We are working tirelessly to complete the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway and successfully transition the project as an operational railway to Transport for London.’
The chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Dr Alison Moore, described the news as ‘extremely disappointing’.
She continued: ‘Londoners will accept that Covid-19 has played a significant role in this delay, and that the complexity of this project and the need to complete the work safely have meant it’s had to be pushed back yet again. Understandably, that won’t take away any disappointment or any concern that costs are escalating.
‘Lessons must be learned from the way Crossrail officials originally planned for this major infrastructure project. Crossrail will be a fantastic asset to London once it is finally finished and the London Assembly Transport Committee will continue to keep a close watch on developments.’