London’s troubled Crossrail project may not be fully operational until 2021, pushing back the £17.6bn project’s already-delayed opening still further, it has been claimed.
Earlier this month, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee expressed doubts that the rail link could be delivered to its agreed budget – already a £2.8bn increase on 2010’s planned cost – and the 2020 opening pledged after last December’s long-promised opening was pushed back.
In a further blow to a project described for years as “on time and on budget”, the BBC today reported sources suggesting that a “worst case” scenario would not see services operating through the new line’s central tunnelled section until Spring 2021.
The report said the opening date would depend on progress made on matching the line’s signalling system with software on the new trains that will operate its services – which will run every three minutes through the central section at peak times.
Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London. Earlier this month, the PAC criticised DfT's governance of the project and demanded to know what consequences the “highly paid executives” of delivery body Crossrail Limited had faced for the cost overruns and delays.
PAC chair Meg Hillier said “serious risks” remained with the programme, and pointed out that a revised schedule and cost for completing the work were “still to be agreed”.
Crossrail Limited has yet to set at new opening date for the line’s main tunnelled section, but has indicated that it will be in 2020. The PAC said it was “not convinced” services would start to run in 2020, or that the department knew how much it would cost to complete the project.
Crossrail Limited chief executive Mark Wild is due to set out a revised “opening window” for the project later this month.
Today’s BBC story attributed the worst-case scenario of 2021 to a “senior source associated with the project”. Their best-case estimate for the line’s opening was Spring 2020, meaning that their “opening window” for Crossrail would be between Spring 2020 and Spring 2021.
Crossrail is designed to deliver extra rail capacity for London by linking Reading and Heathrow in the West to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in South East London via 26 miles of new tunnels and 10 new stations. It will be called the Elizabeth Line when services are operational.
Services using Crossrail trains are already running from Shenfield into Liverpool Street, and services from Reading into Paddington are expected to commence in December.
However, any meaningful “opening” of the project would need to involve the cross-London services that are the project’s core purpose.
A spokesperson for Crossrail said that “dynamic testing” was under way on the tunnelled section on the line, with trains running speeds of up to 62mph ahead of planned trial running and trial operations phases. The line’s 10 new stations are at differing stages of completion, however.
“London needs the Elizabeth Line completed as quickly as possible and brought into service for passengers,” they said.
“We are working very hard to finalise our new plan to deliver the opening of the Elizabeth Line at the earliest opportunity and we will be providing more details later this month.”