London Crossrail Elizabeth Line DELAYED until autumn next year missing December deadline by nine months

The opening of London’s new east-west railway Crossrail has been delayed and services will not begin until autumn next year.

The £15bn scheme to run trains through the capital, which will ease overcrowding on current routes, was due to begin in December.

However, the project – which will eventually be called the Elizabeth Line – will now open about nine months later than planned as further tests are carried out to ensure it is “safe and relaible”.

When it finally opens, the new 97km (60-mile) line will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through 42km (26 miles) of tunnels under London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

One of the new Elizabeth Line trains that entered service last year

There had been speculation that the first sections of the line wouldn’t open on time. It was confirmed by a spokesman for the project on Friday.

More time is needed to complete “final infrastructure and extensive testing” to ensure a “safe and reliable railway” is delivered, according to Crossrail Limited.

The new railway, operated by Transport for London, will be fully integrated with London’s existing transport network.

It will stop at 41 accessible stations – 10 of them brand new – and is expected to serve around 200 million passengers each year.

An artist’s impression showing a new area inside Tottenham Court Road station

Crossrail route

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Services were due to begin running by the end of the year, but the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will not be opened until autumn 2019.

Rail minister Jo Johnson announced last month that the scheme’s budget has been increased from £14.8bn to £15.4bn due to “cost pressures”.

The railway is known as Crossrail during the construction phase but will become the Elizabeth line once services begin.

Crossrail Limited described the 10-year project as “hugely complex”, stating that the original timetable for testing has been reduced by contractors needing more time to complete work in the central tunnels and develop software.

Trains will stop at 41 accessible stations, 10 of them brand new

The firm insisted that “the focus remains” on opening the full east-west line “as soon after the central tunnels open as possible”.

Simon Wright, Crossrail Limited chief executive, 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.”

TfL said it was working closely with Crossrail to ensure all necessary work was completed.

The Queen unveiled the new roundel for the line in February 2016

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A spokesman for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “It’s obviously disappointing that Crossrail Limited have advised that they need more time than anticipated to complete the final pieces of infrastructure, and to carry out the extensive testing required before the next phase of the Elizabeth line can open.

“This has been a 10-year construction project and is one of the most complex engineering schemes ever undertaken. It is essential that a safe and reliable railway operates from day one, and this has to be the top priority.

“When complete, the Elizabeth line will transform travel across London and the South East, with new state-of-the-art trains taking millions of people more quickly across London, providing a boost to the economy worth billions of pounds.”

Mark Wild, London Underground and Elizabeth line managing director, 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.”

The new railway will be called the Elizabeth Line when it opens

In January, a report issued by TfL said construction was “now 90 per cent complete”.

July board meeting minutes said: “Progress is being made across all areas of the programme; however significant cost and schedule pressures remain across the project.”

Crossrail received £11.7bn pounds from the Department for Transport and TfL between July 2008 and May 2018, according to the British parliament’s website.

Keith Prince, the Conservatives’ transport spokesman in the London Assembly, claimed Mayor Sadiq Khan should “take responsibility” for the Crossrail delay.

He said: “Make no mistake, when Sadiq Khan inherited Crossrail it was on time and on budget. He now needs to take responsibility and explain to Londoners how he will clear up this mess.

“Sadiq Khan’s financial plans were hugely reliant on Crossrail opening on time, on budget and meeting incredibly optimistic passenger targets.

“But he was warned in February that budget and time overruns were very possible, yet he seemingly has no contingency plan in place. It is Londoners who will have to pay the price for his incompetence.

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“The mayor is now devoid of any financial credibility. Thanks to deeply irresponsible policies such as his partial fares freeze, the TfL budget is now almost £1 billion in deficit.

“This delay will only make this financial black hole even bigger. If Khan was a CEO he would be sacked by now. London deserves better.”

Janet Cooke, chief executive of watchdog London TravelWatch, said: “This news will be disappointing to passengers who would have been looking forward to additional journey options from December but will now have to wait until next autumn.

“But passenger safety is of paramount importance so we understand TfL’s (Transport for London) decision and are pleased that they have not left it to the last minute to announce the delay.

“We are however concerned at the implications this might have for bus passengers.

“TfL have been planning major bus changes which assumed that the Elizabeth line would be in operation.

“We urge TfL to delay these changes to avoid causing inconvenience to passengers, particularly those travelling in central London, on services like the 427 in the West and various services in south-east London.”

Sponsored by TfL and the Department for Transport, Crossrail Limited was formed in 2001, and received permission to build a new railway across the capital when the Crossrail Act was passed in 2008.

It broke ground at Canary Wharf in May 2009 and began tunnelling in May 2012.

The Queen unveiled the new logo for the Elizabeth Line in February 2016, and new trains that will be used on the railway entered service in June last year on TfL Rail.

Three separate services were due to open in December: Paddington to Abbey Wood in south-east London, Paddington to Heathrow and Liverpool Street to Shenfield, Essex.

Direct services from Paddington to Shenfield and Paddington to Abbey Wood were due to begin in May 2019, with the remaining sections of the line opening in December 2019.

Britain has a chequered past when it comes to delivering large infrastructure projects on time and within budget, including high-profile overspends such as the Millennium Dome and the 2012 Olympic Games.

It has taken decades for politicians to decide on building a new runway at Heathrow Airport.


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