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Crossrail bosses lift lid on reasons behind delay

crossrail farringdon sign
  • Bosses still thought central section could open on time in July, despite concerns
  • At an extraordinary meeting of Crossrail board in August delay was finally confirmed
  • Mayor of London Sadiq Khan only told of delay two days before it went public
  • TfL boss Mike Brown to meet with Department for Transport and Treasury this afternoon to explore how extra costs can be met

A failure of voltage transformers led to a delay in the dynamic testing of trains in Crossrail tunnels from October last year to February this year, which in turn kicked off the chain of delays which led to Crossrail’s opening being put back up to a year.

At this stage, Crossrail bosses confirmed that they are still trying to work out a revised schedule for final delivery. This is stages 4 and 5 which is joining up the surface sections with the tunnel sections in the east and the west.

Last week Crossrail confirmed that Elizabeth Line services between Paddington in central London and its Abbey Wood in the south east of the capital will not open until autumn 2019. The line was originally scheduled to open this December. 

Two voltage transformers failed during the during the initial energisation of electrical equipment at Pudding Mill Lane sub-station last year.  

Speaking at a special meeting of the London Assembly this morning, Crossrail chief executive Simon Wright said problems getting the three different signalling systems on the west, central and east parts of the scheme to co-ordinate was the major challenge for the scheme. 

He said the delay meant that when dynamic testing did start, it was “less than productive” because of incomplete infrastructure and immature software systems which are “still in evolutionary stages”.

Wright added that although they had some “good days” on testing, which gave them optimism, by July they had to tell the board the extent of the problems and were asked to make an assessment and report back to an extraordinary meeting of the Crossrail board in August.

“When you’re in this situation you fight extraordinarily hard to maintain the schedule, because everybody knows how important it is,” he said. “In June we started to feel that we had a significant schedule challenge…. but still thought we could deliver by December.”

It wasn’t until the extraordinary meeting of the Crossrail board in August that the team finally admitted that they couldn’t deliver the line on time for the December 9 deadline.

Crossrail chairman Sir Terry Morgan told Assembly members he was “disappointed and sorry” about the delay. He said that as they mitigated one risk, others started to materialise, including the lack of productivity on testing. “It was the combination of construction hadn’t quite been completed but the challenge of getting reliability and the safe operating system on the railway was one that we concluded just wasn’t possible to deliver,” he said.

Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown said that the body would only lose £20M in revenue from new customers. Other revenue was expected from customers switching from other lines, such as the Central line. 

Brown confirmed he has a meeting this afternoon with the Department for Transport and the Treasury to explore how they can address any extra funding obligations.

Meanwhile Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told the Assembly that he was only told about the delay two days before it was made public. 

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