Crossrail has confirmed that Elizabeth Line services between Paddington in central London and Abbey Wood in the south east of the capital will not open until autumn 2019.
The line was originally scheduled to open this December.
The body has said that the revised schedule is needed to complete the final infrastructure and testing, after fit-out of the central tunnels ran over and because of delays to the development of railway systems software. It said it was not looking to single out individual contracts or contractors for failure.
It means that the full service with trains running from Reading in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield to the east is unlikely to begin until 2020. Crossrail said that it would be aiming to open the full route “as soon as possible” but stressed that the priority was to run a service that is safe and reliable for passengers.
In a statement it said: “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. Testing has started but further time is required to complete the full range of integrated tests.”
Crossrail chief executive Simon Wright said: “The Elizabeth line is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and is now in its final stages. We have made huge progress with the delivery of this incredible project but we need further time to complete the testing of the new railway. We are working around the clock with our supply chain and Transport for London (TfL) to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.”
Elizabeth line trains are already operating between Shenfield and Liverpool Street in the east and between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington in the west.
From autumn 2019 Crossrail says the Elizabeth line will initially operate as three services:
- Paddington (Elizabeth line station) to Abbey Wood via central London
- Paddington (mainline station) to Heathrow (Terminals 2, 3 and 4)
- Liverpool Street (mainline station) to Shenfield
The delay to opening does not come as a complete surprise. Last month transport secretary Chris Grayling confirmed that the budget for the project had increased from £14.9bn to £15.4bn because of “engineering and technical challenges”.
In March, Crossrail Ltd developed a “revised delivery schedule” to save the December 2018 opening date of the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood from being pushed back after suffering design flaws and testing problems.
Energisation tests which were due to be carried out in November 2017 were delayed until February after explosions occured during initial trials.
And in May the opening of the project’s Old Oak Common depot was marred by cost and programme concerns with TfL saying that there were still “significant cost and schedule pressures”.
All year Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan has been warning that the project’s budget and programme were extremely tight. Morgan has himself recently taken on the additional role of chairman of High Speed 2 promoer HS2 Ltd but Crossrail today stressed that Morgan would be remaining at Crossrail in a dual role until the project is completed.
Former National Infrastructure Commission chairman Lord Adonis wasted no time in criticising transport secretary Chris Graylig for the delay. Adonis Tweeted: ”Govt just announced, on day 39 of Parliament on holiday, that Crossrail is being delayed by a year and they have big problems with signalling & cost over-runs
”This is huge story and smuggling it out on last Friday of August a classic ruse. More Grayling catastrophe.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Crossrail is a world-class infrastructure project that will transform journeys across the South East, driving forward regeneration and adding up to £42bn to the UK economy.
“We are disappointed by the delay to the opening of the Crossrail central section. However, the safety of passengers and staff and reliability of services is the overriding priority and we accept Crossrail Limited’s assessment that more time is needed to fully test the railway before passenger operations can commence.
“We remain confident that Crossrail will deliver a great improvement to passengers’ journeys once it is fully operational.”
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