The opening of Crossrail has been delayed again, with an estimated extra £1.1bn needed to complete the project.
Just earlier this year, the company announced that the project would be delayed to the autumn of this year.
But in its latest update, the company said it may not be able to complete the central portion, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, until the early part of 2022 – although this could be brought forward subject to progress in testing.
Download the new Independent Premium app
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
Three main reasons were given for the delay.
The company said it had “lower than planned productivity in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals”.
It has also had to revise the schedule for handing over stations due to the complexity of the project, and is instead delivering them in phases.
Finally, coronavirus has compounded the two existing issues.
Crossrail Limited said: “Covid has further exacerbated the schedule pressures due to a pause of physical activity on sites during lockdown to keep the workforce safe and significant constraints on ongoing work and productivity due to the reduced numbers that can work on site to meet strict social distancing requirements.
“We now have a maximum of around 2,000 people on our sites, less than 50 per cent of our pre-Covid complement.”
The company will start intensive operational testing of the central portion, also known as the Elizabeth Line, “at the earliest opportunity in 2021” before finally opening it up to passenger service. Whether the opening can happen before 2022 will depend on the progress of this testing phase.
The statement also said that an extra £1.1bn – above the Financing Package agreed in December 2018 – would be needed to complete the project. This is £450m above the upper end of the range given in November 2019, and work is still ongoing to finalise the costs.
Mark Wild, chief executive of Crossrail Ltd, said: “Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible. 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.”
Transport for London (TfL) said that Crossrail Limited’s proposal is not a confirmed opening timetable or final costing. It is also subject to review and validation by TfL as well as the Department for Transport, which are sponsors of the project.
Andy Byford, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “It is very disappointing to receive confirmation from Crossrail Ltd that their plan for opening the Elizabeth Line now has a date of the first half of 2022. The line will transform travel across London and is vital to supporting jobs, homes and businesses across the capital. I will now work with my team and the DfT to review Crossrail’s plans. I have been very clear that I am committed to getting this railway open safely and reliably as quickly as possible for the benefit of London and beyond.”
The Elizabeth Line was originally scheduled to open in 2018, but has suffered several set backs, including various design and delivery challenges.