Elizabeth Line: Opening of Central Section Delayed Until 2019

Elizabeth Line, London © Daniel Garrity, Crossrail Ltd

London: Crossrail Ltd has announced that the central section of the Elizabeth line, featuring the central tunnel, will now open during autumn 2019. The section between Paddington and Abbey Wood was originally scheduled to become operational in December 2018, but the company has decided that the complexity of the project mandates additional time to complete it.

Construction on the line is almost finished, but the central section still requires extensive testing to ensure that all of the systems meet the necessary safety standards. The first new train was tested in the central tunnels in February 2018, but other systems, including three different signalling systems and bespoke software, also have to be vetted before the start of services. In addition, technicians are testing the performance of the trains in the Heathrow tunnels.

Mark Wild, Managing Director, London Underground and Elizabeth line, said:

“We will continue to work closely with Crossrail Limited as they complete the remaining railway infrastructure work and testing needed to deliver the new railway. The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance.”

Elizabeth Line Layout

Crossrail exists in three parts. The Reading and Heathrow branches to Paddington in the west, the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood and the eastern branch between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. Two sections of the line are currently operational: between Shenfield and Liverpool Street (taken over by TfL in May 2015) – though not yet running on the final Crossrail tracks – and Paddington and Heathrow (since May 2018). The original plans for linking up these three sections after the central section’s opening in December 2018 was to connect the Shenfield line in May 2019 and the Reading/Heathrow section by December 2019.

Crossrail Ltd maintains that once it opens the entire line will initially operate as three separate 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

It is not clear yet when these three will begin operating as one service, given the delay.

Simon Wright, Chief Executive of Crossrail, 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 to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.”

It is estimated that the Elizabeth line will increase the capacity of central London’s rail network by 10%. The journey time between Paddington and Canary Wharf will be reduced to 17 minutes. More than 200 million people are expected to use the service every year, which should add approximately £42 billion to the economy. The construction of it was financed by the Department for Transport, Transport for London and private investors.

The franchise will be operated by MTR Corporation, which also has contracts in Hong Kong, Stockholm and Sydney. The company also recently expanded its presence in the UK by winning the South Western franchise in a joint−venture with First Group.

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