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Crossrail 'will not open next year', CEO confirms

PUBLISHED: 09:31 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:45 11 November 2019

Crossrail...

Crossrail... "The London taxpayer will have to foot the bill until its completion." Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The full opening of Crossrail has been delayed yet again, it has been revealed this morning.

It has been confirmed today, Friday, November 8, that London's delayed east-west railway Crossrail will not open next year, but services will begin "as soon as practically possible in 2021".

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: "A key focus during 2019 has been finalising the stations, tunnels, portals and shafts.

"By the end of the year, Custom House, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations will be complete and the project is on track to finish fit-out of the tunnels in January.

"The central section will be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter in 2020, except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue."

He added: "Crossrail Ltd will need further time to complete software development for the signalling and train systems and the safety approvals process for the railway.

"The Trial Running phase will begin at the earliest opportunity in 2020, this will be followed by testing of the operational railway to ensure it is safe and reliable.

"Our latest assessment is that the opening of the central section will not occur in 2020, which was the first part of our previously declared opening window.

"The Elizabeth line will open as soon as practically possible in 2021.

"We will provide Londoners with further certainty about when the Elizabeth line will open early in 2020."

Mr Wild said forecasts continued to show the project's costs would increase.

That means the cost of the railway could reach £18.25 billion, representing an increase of up to £650 million on the previous funding total agreed by Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Government and Transport for London.

Crossrail's budget was set at £15.9 billion in 2007.

The railway was initially due to be completed in December 2018, but this date was missed due to a series of problems.

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A new plan to open between October 2020 and March 2021 was announced in April.

Crossrail Ltd said there are four "major tasks" that must be completed before services can begin.

They are:

- Build and test the software to integrate trains with three different signalling systems

- Install and test station systems

- Complete installation of equipment in the tunnels and test communications systems

- Trial run the trains for thousands of miles

The railway will be known as the Elizabeth line when it launches.

Mr Wild said he wants to "ensure reliability of the railway from day one of passenger service".

He added: "We are doing everything we can to complete the Elizabeth line as quickly as we can but there are no short-cuts to delivering this hugely complex railway.

"The Elizabeth line must be completed to the highest safety and quality standards."

The first part of Crossrail to open will be the central section, with trains running between Paddington and Abbey Wood via central London.

All stations on this section are expected to be in operation on the opening day except for Bond Street, which is delayed because of "design and delivery challenges".

Full services from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will commence "as soon as possible", according to Crossrail Ltd.

Caroline Pidgeon, who chairs the London Assembly's Transport Committee, said: "The further delays to the opening of Crossrail and increasing costs are appalling news for Londoners.

"The delay creates huge issues for many businesses that have made investment decisions based on its original opening date of December 2018."

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