Crossrail Central Section to Open in First Half of 2022

Following a meeting by the Crossrail Board, it has now been announced that the new aimed-for opening date of the central section of Crossrail will be in the first half of 2022.

The Board announced last month that the central section would not open in summer 2021, the most recent rescheduling following a number of pushed back dates.

The delays have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. The Board suggested, there might be an opportunity to bring forward the opening of the section between Paddington and Abbey Wood, depending on progress during the intensive operational testing phase.

The most recent estimate put to the Board says that the cost to complete the new Elizabeth Line could be up to 1.1 billion GBP more than the Financing Package agreed in December 2018 (450 million GBP more than the upper end of the range announced in November 2019). These cost estimates are being finalised.

Trial Running

Crossrail is aiming to begin intensive operational testing as early as possible in 2021. This trial running phase is necessary before the line can enter passenger service. As part of this, there will be trial operations where people are invited to travel on the trains to test real-time service scenarios.

Once the central section does open, full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change. Once completed, it will be handed over to TfL.

Reasons for the Delay

There are three main reasons for the delayed opening of the central section, according to Crossrail Ltd:

  • routeway: lower than planned productivity in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals. 8 out of 10 have been handed over and the final two are to be handed over this autumn
  • stations: Crossrail Ltd has revised its previous schedule assumptions about the pace at which it could complete and hand over the ten central section stations to TfL. It will do this in a staggered manner
  • coronavirus: the halt on physical activity has led to additional delays and only around 2,000 people are working on the sites, which is less than 50 percent of pre-coronavirus levels

Recent Progress

Over the past six months all central section stations with the exception of Bond Street have now been certified as ready to support trial running. Eight out of the ten shafts and portals are completed and have been handed over to the operator. The first central section station, Custom House, has also been handed over to TfL. Lastly, the first full-length Class 345 Bombardier-manufactured train has been introduced into passenger service between Paddington and Heathrow as has been a viable signalling software product for trial running.

Crossrail Ltd expects to complete software testing later in 2020. After that it will start an enabling phase for trial running. A larger number of trains will be tested in the tunnels. This will provide insight into how well the system is working in operational-like situations.

Mark Wild, Chief Executive, Crossrail Ltd, said:

“Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible. Now more than ever Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the Elizabeth line will bring, and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and quickly as we can. We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway and we are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity. Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risk and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks. We are working tirelessly to complete the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway and successfully transition the project as an operational railway to Transport for London.”

The Office of Rail and Road is the body that can grant the go-ahead for trial running to Crossrail Ltd, once it is satisfied with the safety case.

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