Jon Cruddas MP has received an update from the Crossrail Ltd Board following this week's announcement that the central section of the Elizabeth Line could not open in summer 2021.
The Board explained that delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risks associated with 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 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).
Jon Cruddas MP said: "this project has been pushed further down the tracks a number of times now, but that being said I have made site visits in recent years and have seen first-hand the work involved in creating new infrastructure. However, the added cost implications of a further delay are a matter of some concern which I will be raising with Crossrail on my next meeting with them."
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.
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. 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.
- 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.
Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, Crossrail explained that good progress continues to be made with completing the remaining construction works, with much of this work coming to an end along with software testing for the signalling and train systems.
In an email update a representative of Crossrail 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."
You can read the full update on the Crossrail website.