Network Rail has confirmed some hefty upgrade work has been wrapped up ahead of the Elizabeth Line opening later this year - connecting the existing rail network with Elizabeth Line tunnels.
A series of significant milestones for progress on the £14.8bn Crossrail project have been notched up now, as the work reaches the business end with increasing time and cost pressures facing those working on it.
At Pudding Mill Lane where the Elizabeth Line tunnels emerge and meet with the national rail infrastructure, Network Rail said it has completed track work to allow trains to enter and exit the new tunnels from the existing railway.
As well as new track, this has meant the need for new overhead power lines and signalling equipment.
The development means all three Elizabeth Line "portals" at Plumstead, Westbourne Park and Pudding Mill Lane are now connected to the existing railway.
Elsewhere, work has been finished to remodel the sidings at Gidea Park, with engineers working to upgrade overhead lines, signals and track to enable the sidings to accommodate the full-length, 200m long Elizabeth Line trains.
The new railway will reach from Reading and Heathrow in the west through to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, through tunnels under central London. The Elizabeth Line, as it will be known when the central tunnels open, is set to bring a 10 per cent boost to the capital's rail capacity.
A new fleet will run on the line, with walk-through carriages, air-conditioning and real-time travel information.
Ben Wheeldon, Crossrail programme director at Network Rail said:
Making the final connection between the national rail network and the Crossrail tunnels links east and west for the first time.
The completion of these huge pieces of work, including the final signalling commissioning on the eastern section of the Elizabeth Line route is a significant step towards ensuring that the railway infrastructure is ready for the introduction of the Elizabeth Line and is an important part of our railway upgrade plan.
The Crossrail team says the project is on track for Elizabeth Line services to get underway in December as planned, with the railway still forecast to be delivered within the overall funding, though London's transport commissioner has said it faces "increasing cost and schedule pressures".
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.
Five Crossrail stations due to be completed at the beginning of this year were also delayed to the end of 2019.
In minutes for a TfL meeting in December, the programmes and investment committee said the Department for Transport had committed "in principle to meet the overrun of costs by Network Rail", which were not set to impact on its scope of works.
|Elizabeth Line timeline|
Stage one: Trains start operating from Liverpool Street to Shenfield – June 2017 (TfL Rail)
Stage two: Trains start operating from Heathrow to Paddington (main line platforms) – May 2018 (TfL Rail)
Stage three: Trains start operating from Paddington (Elizabeth line platforms) to Abbey Wood, through the new central tunnels – December 2018
Stage four: Trains start operating from Paddington (Elizabeth line platforms) to Shenfield – May 2019Stage five: Full through service (including Elizabeth line services to Reading) – December 2019