Further testing prompts postponed Crossrail opening
CROSSRAIL trains will not be running through central London this December, as had been planned.
Instead, trains will start running in autumn 2019. Crossrail said the delay was needed “to complete the final infrastructure and extensive testing required to ensure the Elizabeth Line [as it will be known] opens as a safe and reliable railway”.
Services had been due to run from Abbey Wood to London Paddington low level station from December 2018, serving new stations at Bond Street, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road, Whitechapel and Woolwich.
London Underground Managing Director Mark Wild said: “We will continue to work closely with Crossrail Ltd as they complete the remaining railway infrastructure work and testing needed to deliver the new railway. The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth Line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance.”
Spokesman Peter MacLennan told RAIL on September 4 that Crossrail had formally notified the Department for Transport about the delay on August 30, following a decision by the Crossrail board the previous day.
The project’s costs had already risen from £14.8 billion to £15.4bn in recent months, and MacLennan added: “Crossrail will now work closely with Transport for London and Department for Transport to establish whether the revised schedule has any potential additional impact on funding.”
He said the extent of the situation became apparent as teams progressed further through the testing phase, adding: “A final view was formed in August following a comprehensive review of the remaining programme.”
No one single element has caused the delay, he said. “The Elizabeth Line is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and brings together multiple contracts, new rolling stock and three different signalling systems.
“The original programme for testing has been compressed by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out activity in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software.”
Transport Select Committee Chairman Lilian Greenwood said: “Passengers have already waited a long time for the benefits that Crossrail will bring, and will be deeply disappointed by news that the opening of the line will be delayed.
“Clearly the timetable has slipped, and it is best to spend time ensuring it can open successfully rather than rushing to bring it into service with a greater risk of it not working properly.
“TfL and the Department for Transport are both project sponsors, and a significant amount of public money has been spent on Crossrail. It’s vital that both take steps to understand what has led to these delays, so that lessons can be learned and applied in other large and complex transport infrastructure projects.”
London Assembly Transport Committee Chairman Caroline Pidgeon MBE said: “It is disappointing that the decision
to delay the launch of Crossrail has been announced at such late notice. It is scarcely believable that the Mayor, TfL and Crossrail did not know of a likely delay a long time ago and chose not to let Londoners know sooner.
“The opening of the Elizabeth Line is rightly heralded as the biggest leap in London’s transport capacity for a generation. It will improve connections to the east and west of London and relieve crowding in central London. Passengers will be left to wait even longer for these benefits.
“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Mayor’s Office, TfL and Crossrail to find out what has led to this delay and get some answers on behalf of Londoners.”
London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee Chairman Gareth Bacon added: “This is basically a shambles. Transport for London’s management have clearly known that they would delay the opening of Crossrail for some time, yet have been elusive when discussing their financial woes with the London Assembly and so with the people of London.
“TfL’s own business plan says that £143 million of fare revenue was expected from the central section in 2018-19 alone.
“This now leaves an even bigger hole in TfL’s finances. It already has a £1bn operating deficit for this year - hundreds of millions further will be lost in the coming year.”
When open, the line will add 10% to central London’s rail capacity, and boost the capital’s economy by around £42bn.
When the central section of the Elizabeth Line opens in autumn 2019, the railway will initially operate as three separate services as planned: Paddington (Elizabeth Line station) to Abbey Wood via central London; Paddington (main line station) to Heathrow (Terminals 2, 3 and 4); Liverpool Street (main line station) to Shenfield.
On May 10, TfL Rail 345014/020/024 stand inside Old Oak Common depot. The ‘345s’ have been ordered for the Crossrail project, and were due to begin carrying passengers through central London from December, but that has been delayed by at least nine months.