Delayed capacity upgrades of up to three years to a number of stations along the Crossrail route to Heathrow have led to fears of overcrowding, delayed journeys and safety concerns.
All of the six stations concerned, four of which lie in Ealing and two in Hillingdon boroughs, were due to be completed in preparation for Crossrail opening on the line in May 2018. Some were due to be completed significantly earlier than this.
However, the vital works are now due to be completed by December 2019 to coincide with the rest of Crossrail opening.
The delays have led to fears that when Crossrail opens on the line, the existing stations will not be able to cope with the influx of passengers travelling through the stations.
A Network Rail funding deficit of £70M is being blamed for the delays.
Acton Main Line, West Ealing and Southall stations, which are all in the borough of Ealing, are being entirely rebuilt on land adjacent to the existing stations, to give the required space for capacity upgrades and step free access. At Ealing Broadway significant remodelling work is required for the capacity increase.
The ongoing works to lengthen the platforms at the stations will allow the nine carriage, 200m long Crossrail trains to be accommodated. These works will be finished for the opening of Crossrail in May 2018. Each of these trains has capacity for up to 1500 people. Currently the lines serve trains which are around four carriages long.
Ealing Broadway is set for a three year delay to the works being completed. A planning document seen by New Civil Engineer from Crossrail, dated November 2013, said works on the station were due to start in fourth quarter of 2015 and finish in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Ealing Council councillor Julian Bell said: “We are going to have new Crossrail trains running through our stations from May 2018. That will increase passenger numbers and, rather than having the stations completed in 2017 as promised, ahead of that 2018 start date, we’re now having to wait till the end of 2019 for those stations to be upgraded.
“That will be 18 months of trains with all those extra people coming through the old stations that are not able to cope.”
The council is now also facing knock on effects, with a £7M Crossrail complimentary measures funding stream to improve the area around the new stations now under threat of expiring before they are completed.
“We want to get on and use that money to enhance the areas around the station,” said Bell. “But we have a time constraint on that and there’s no point in doing the work only to find that they [Network Rail] then trample across it with construction vehicles and mess it up.”
Bell added that Network Rail was refusing to stump up the cash to demolish the existing stations when replaced by new ones. This would lead to a maintenance issue, eyesores and a place for potential anti-social behaviour, he claimed.
“Ealing Council has been having discussions with Crossrail and TfL, and we’ve been trying to have discussions with Network Rail about all partners putting some money into the pot to demolish the old stations,” said Bell.
“It would seem that everyone is willing to do that except Network Rail, whose stations they are. They’re saying they don’t have the budget.”
Network Rail has blamed major railway upgrades for the delay to the station upgrade works.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The Elizabeth Line will become operational between Paddington - Heathrow in May 2018 and Paddington - Reading in December 2019. The improvements to these stations will be completed by December 2019.
“This is later than originally anticipated because we have been focussed on the critical major railway upgrades, including construction of the new electrified lines between Paddington to Maidenhead by May 2017, to enable new passenger services to be delivered this year as well as keeping Crossrail on track.”