The financial fallout from the delay of the central section of London’s new £15.4bn Elizabeth Line is being assessed today, amid fears it could cost Transport for London (TfL) £143M in lost fare revenue alone.
Crossrail has 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.
The London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee, which is currently investigating TfL finances, said the delay announced on Friday leaves a huge hole.
Chairman Gareth Bacon said: “This is basically a shambles. Transport for London’s management have clearly known that they would delay the opening of Crossrail for some time and yet have been elusive when discussing their financial woes with the London Assembly and so with the people of London.
“TfL’s own business plan says that £143M of fare revenue was expected from the central section in 2018/19 alone. This now leaves an even bigger hole in TfL’s finances. It already has a £1bn operating deficit for this year. Hundreds of millions further will be lost in the coming year.”
A statement from TfL said: ”Crossrail Limited have just informed TfL and DfT about the delay. Crossrail Limited are working to establish any additional impact on funding from the revised schedule.”
The Sunday Times reported that the overall delay could cost up to £1bn, including paying for the extra work needed to complete the line.
Crossrail 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.
Questions have also been raised about why the delay to the project was announced at such a late stage, just weeks before its planned December opening.
The Chair of the London Assembly Caroline Pidgeon said: “It is scarcely believable that the Mayor, TfL and Crossrail did not know of a likely delay a long time ago and chose not to let Londoners know sooner.”
Former National Infrastructure Commission chairman Lord Adonis Tweeted yesterday: ”Serious mismanagement of Crossrail is a poor reflection on TfL as well as Grayling. What particularly concerns me is the failure to tell the public until the last minute. These problems have been known about for months. Those running public services have a duty to be open.”
In July the Department for Transport (DfT) told Parliament that “engineering and technical challenges” have forced Crossrail bosses to revise the project’s final cost to £15.4bn, some £600M above the project’s target cost set out in 2010.
Meanwhile, London City Airport has said that Sir Terry Morgan is stepping down as chairman as he takes on his new role as chair of HS2 Ltd. Morgan is still chairman of Crossrail.