Costs set to rise as Covid-19 plays a part in delaying troubled project further


Crossrail Ltd has announced a further delay to the project following a board meeting last week.

It means the central section of the route between Paddington and Abbey Wood is now scheduled to open in the first half of 2022.

It has also revealed that costs have continued to rise and could now be up to £1.1bn above the financing package agreed in December 2018. The company hastens to add that work is ongoing to finalise these cost estimates.

The company’s board adds that delays have increased as a result of three factors – firstly lower than planned productivity in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals; while the second is the complexity of completing and handing over the 10 central section stations; thirdly the Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated issues with the need to ensure social distancing for the workforce. The latter means that Crossrail now has a maximum of around 2,000 people on its sites, less than 50% of the pre-pandemic complement.

However, Crossrail reports that good progress is being made elsewhere.

Work continues to complete the remaining construction works, with much of this work coming to an end along with software testing for the signalling and train systems.

It is also now planning to commence trial running next year and this will evolve into a period of trial operations where people will be “invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios to ensure the readiness of the railway”.

To help recover some of the lost time, Crossrail is undertaking a period of intensive construction activity during August and September to complete the remaining construction works in the routeway that will enable trial running to commence.

Following the opening of the central section, full services across the Elizabeth line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will be introduced.

The introduction of full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change which occurs twice a year in May and December.

“Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible,” said Mark While, chief executive of Crossrail Ltd. “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.”

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