Construction costs on the £14.8bn Crossrail project are running 25 per cent ahead of budget, with delayed progress at Woolwich and Bond Street stations adding to late work at Whitechapel and Farringdon.
According to newly published Transport for London (TfL) finance committee papers, construction costs are £190m ahead of budget for the year to date, after “requirement for higher levels of staff and changes in scope and design on system-wide main works”.
For the year to date, construction costs are 20 per cent ahead of budget, but for the latest period from December to the beginning of January, they are 25 per cent ahead of what was budgeted.
Whitechapel and Farringdon station works were completed later than budgeted, and there are also delayed works at Woolwich, which has been affected by electrician strikes over pay, and at Bond Street station.
These come after other concerns over instability of train software for TfL Rail services starting between Paddington and Heathrow in May, as well as an electrical explosion at Pudding Mill Lane.
Despite the troubles, TfL said the Elizabeth Line, as it will be known when the central tunnels under London open in December, “is still forecast to be delivered within its overall funding”.
“Period variances are expected as the budget contains a number of assumptions about the timing and scope of work,” the papers say.
A Crossrail spokesperson added that the report refers to actual expenditure compared to forecast expenditure as estimated in the business plan. Variances continue as the business plan contains a number of forecasts "dating from September 2016", on work to be completed last year and this year.
Progress on Crossrail has generally been smooth for an infrastructure project of its size, though delays were reported for five Crossrail stations due to be completed at the beginning of this year, which have now been pushed back to the end of 2019.
The Elizabeth Line will serve 41 stations and stretch across more than 60 miles from Reading and Heathrow in the west through tunnels in central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
The importance of Crossrail arriving on time ties into the hefty financial boost it is expected to bring TfL. The Elizabeth Line is forecast to bring in £3bn over the next five years, adding 10 per cent capacity to central London’s rail network.
Once it is fully up and running, TfL expects the Elizabeth Line to carry more than 200m passengers a year.
Last month, London’s deputy mayor for transport, Val Shawcross, said delays to the Elizabeth Line were the biggest revenue risk facing TfL at present – due to the sheer volume of income it is expected to bring in for TfL.
The transport organisation is facing a steep loss in government funding, along with the hit from a surprise fall in passenger numbers. It is forecasting an operational deficit of £968m for 2018/19, but plans to turn that around to an operating surplus by 2021.