LONDON’S £16bn Crossrail project to build a railway under central London will now not open until the Autumn of 2019. It could be even delayed further.
The ambitious project that will connect Reading, Maidenhead and Heathrow Airport with Abbey Wood Shenfield was to see its central section between Liverpool Street and Paddington open this December (2018). The line, Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, has been branded the ‘Elizabeth Line’ in honour of The Queen.
However, infrastructure work has slipped behind schedule and an additional £600m is needed to complete the line and now Crossrail says there will be a nine-month delay to allow “a safe and reliable railway for customers from day one of passenger service”.
At present, a number of the new Class 345 EMUs which have been built for Crossrail services are already operating between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington in the west and Liverpool Street to Shenfield in the east, and the opening of the tunnel section under central London was to be the catalyst to a whole raft of new journey opportunities which would also ease overcrowding on London Underground. Trains are also being tested in the tunnels to Heathrow. Bombardier at Derby is contracted to build 70 ‘Aventra’ EMUs. These are being initially built as seven-car and run as such due to platform lengths but will be expanded as nine-car when through London services begin.
The original programme for testing has been compressed by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out activity in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software, including signalling. Further time is required to complete the full range of integrated tests.
Crossrail says the focus remains on opening the full Elizabeth line, from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, as soon after the central tunnels open as possible.
Simon Wright, Crossrail 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.”
When the central section of the Elizabeth line opens in autumn 2019, the railway will initially operate as three separate services as planned:
- 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