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Crossrail has revealed the scheme will not be ready until 2022 at the earliest, as total costs reach £19bn

The Crossrail Ltd board met yesterday (20 August) and considered the latest update from the leadership team concerning progress to complete the Elizabeth line.

It said: “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.

“The board’s latest assessment, based on the best available programme information right now, is that the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will be ready to open in the first half of 2022.

“As work to complete the railway progresses, there may be opportunity to review and bring forward the opening of the central section, subject to progress during the intensive operational testing phase.”

The latest cost estimate presented to the board shows that the cost to complete the Crossrail project could be up to £1.1bn above the Financing Package agreed in December 2018 – £450m more than the upper end of the range announced in November 2019.

Crossrail says the schedule delay is due to three main factors:

  • Routeway: we have had lower than planned productivity in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals. The shafts and portals form a critical part of the routeway and contain many of the complex operating systems for the Elizabeth line. We have now completed handover of eight of the ten shafts and portals to TfL and will complete handover of the final two this autumn.
  • Stations: as more detailed plans for the completion and handover of the ten central section stations have developed, we have revised our previous schedule assumptions about the pace at which these large and complex stations can be handed over to TfL. The completion and handover of all the stations in the central section is a monumental task – in our updated plan we have phased the transfer of stations to take account the scale of this undertaking.
  • COVID-19: Covid has further exacerbated the schedule pressures due to a pause of physical activity on sites during lockdown to keep the workforce safe and significant constraints on ongoing work and productivity due to the reduced numbers that can work on site to meet strict social distancing requirements. We now have a maximum of around 2,000 people on our sites, less than 50% of our pre-Covid complement.

Next steps

Crossrail is planning to start intensive operational testing, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity in 2021.

From the start of Trial Running it will then take a period of time to fully test the Elizabeth line before it can open for passenger service.

This includes a final phase known as Trial Operations involving people being invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios to ensure the readiness of the railway.

Following the opening of the central section, full services across the Elizabeth line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will be introduced.

The introduction of full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change which occurs twice a year in May and December.

Crossrail and sponsors are currently reviewing Crossrail’s governance arrangements to make sure the right decisions are taken as the project moves towards completion, and that it successfully transitions to TfL as soon as possible.

Mark Wild, chief executive of Crossrail Ltd, 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 Elizabeth 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 Elizabeth 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 risk 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.”

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