Crossrail Will Not Open Until 2022

Coronavirus not the only reason for yet another push back of completion

Elizabeth line train
Elizabeth line train

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London’s long-delayed Crossrail line will not open until 2022, project chiefs confirmed today (Friday August 21).

The summer 2021 opening date for the central section of the line was scrapped last month – and it now faces up to a year of further hold ups.

The project could now cost up to £1.1 billion more than its current budget – some £450 million more overspend than already expected. Scheme leaders have yet to secure these additional funds from the Department for Transport.

The rail link was originally set to open in December 2018, but will now be more than three years late.

The £14.8 billion budget has ballooned to as much as £18.7 billion at this latest estimate – a 26 per cent overspend.

Once completed the Elizabeth line will link Heathrow and Reading, Berkshire, in the west and Shenfield, Essex, in the east to central and south east London.

The line will boost rail capacity in the capital by 10 per cent – vital to avoid further overcrowding on the network as London’s population grows.

At the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak Crossrail construction sites shut down for almost three months – and with social distancing still in place, less than half of on site workers have been able to return to work.

Chairman Tony Meggs said in June that the team were “completely committed to doing everything we can, notwithstanding the real impact of Covid-19, to meet or beat the schedule that we outlined”.

But the Local Democracy Service reported at the time that monthly technical reports on the scheme warned of optimistic targets and slipping schedules.

Mr Meggs has since admitted that the delay is not just down to coronavirus, and problems were already emerging before the virus.

Crossrail said today that delays handing over shafts, portals and stations to Transport for London (TfL) have also contributed to hold ups.

But scheme leaders remain optimistic that they may be able to claw back time and open earlier than the new 2022 forecast.

Construction teams are currently working 24 hours a day on the central section of the line – an intensive six week burst of activity to compensate for Covid-19 delays.

And a further 2,000 staff have been working from home throughout the pandemic.

Chief executive Mark Wild acknowledged that Londoners need the capacity boost from Crossrail “now more than ever” with social distancing set to continue.

“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 risks and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks,” he said.

“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.”

Jessie Matthewson - Local Democracy Reporter

August 21, 2020