Wednesday 18 December 2019 4:19 pm

Revealed: Testing delays mean Crossrail may not open until October 2021

The central section of Crossrail may not be open before October 2021, despite claims it could be launched in the first quarter of that year.

The project has been cursed with endless delays and budget blowouts, with its cost now expected to be £18.25bn – £3.4bn over its original costings.

Crossrail bosses announced in November it would not open before 2021, after the project was supposed to originally open in December 2018.

Read more: Exclusive: Crossrail safety issues spiral in 2019 with record near misses

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said yesterday at a London Assembly meeting it was “still possible” the central section of the rail line could open by March 2021.

However, this claim does not seem to stack up under scrutiny.

Under questioning, Wild said the line’s testing period would begin between July and October 2020.

Transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon pointed out this timescale means that Crossrail may not be open until October 2021 as the testing period is expected to take between nine and 12 months.

Wild confirmed that this would likely be the case.

“From the start of trial running, the conventional wisdom is nine to 12 months to shake it down,” he said.

“The reason we might be able to mitigate that and reduce that period is if we get good quality software in February, March…we could start shaking the system down earlier than the defined start of the trial running.”

Pidgeon, a former Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate, told City A.M. the “stark reality” was that Crossrail bosses still did not know when it would open.

“I hope that Crossrail opens in early 2021, but ultimately there are no clear assurances being provided that it will be the case,” she said.

“If trial running of the trains does not start until October 2020, and it is industry norm for this to last between nine and 12 months, we could easily be looking at the end of 2021 before the central section opens to passengers.

“And much later for the full line to be fully integrated and open.”

The full line, which will be called the Elizabeth line, will link up Reading and Heathrow to Shenfield and Abbey Wood,

The central section of the line, which will open between Paddington and Abbey Wood.

The Reading to Heathrow and Paddington section is now open under the banner of TfL rail.

A spokesperson for mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The Elizabeth line will open as soon as practically possible in 2021.

“Crossrail has said it will provide Londoners with further certainty about when the Elizabeth line will open in the New Year.”

Read more: Crossrail opens from Reading to Paddington under TfL Rail

City A.M. exclusively reported on Tuesday that the level of high risk incidents during Crossrail’s construction in 2019 were “worrying”, according to Transport for London (TfL).

An oversight report found that the rate of near-misses doubled in 2019 in comparison to 2018.