Friday 10 January 2020 11:53 am

Crossrail boss: Elizabeth Line could open in central London by summer 2021

Crossrail’s London stretch could open in “summer 2021” if a more optimistic prediction from the company proves to be accurate.

Crossrail Ltd is working to launch the Elizabeth Line “as soon as practically possible” in 2021, it said today as it confirmed it plans to open the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood in 18 months’ time.

That would be earlier than the October 2021 delayed opening Crossrail admitted earlier this week.

Read more: Revealed: Testing delays mean Crossrail now will not open until late 2021

But it would require “intensive” operational testing of the railway as early as possible this year That is in turn reliant on Crossrail completing its work on software for signalling and train systems and a safety assurance for the track.

“I know that Londoners are deeply frustrated by the delays to the Elizabeth Line and we are doing everything we can to get this railway finished and open,” Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild said.

“We continue to make good progress with the central section now reaching substantial completion and we are increasingly confident that Bond Street station will be ready to open with the rest of the railway.

“We have a comprehensive plan to complete the Elizabeth Line and the milestones we must hit during 2020, including the testing of the signalling and train systems and safety assurance, but there are no shortcuts to delivery of this hugely complex railway.”

Full services linking Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east will not run until May 2022, Crossrail also said. 

But that is still six months faster than the previous estimate given by Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Mike Brown.

Wild said the firm’s latest assessment suggests Crossrail can run through central London in summer 2021 as long as the project makes time for the operational testing this year.

“The key focus for everyone on the Crossrail project is commencing intensive testing of the Elizabeth line as soon as we can in 2020, to enable passenger service as early as possible in 2021,” he added.

Read more: Exclusive: Crossrail safety issues spiral in 2019

Also known as the Elizabeth Line, Crossrail originally had a launch date of December 2018. Today’s prediction of summer 2021 for the launch of the railway in central London means the project will be delayed by two-and-a-half years.

Construction work on Crossrail has been taking place across the capital for years
Construction work on Crossrail has been taking place across the capital for years

The project first came off the rails in August 2018 when bosses admitted they would miss the December launch date.

Now the project is running at up to £650m over budget, meaning it will blow past £18bn in total funding.

Today’s update set autumn 2020 as the start date for the intensive operational testing period of the central section of track, a process known as trial running.

Multiple Elizabeth Line trains will run along Crossrail’s central London section over the nine-month period to simulate a realistic timetable for the railway.

Read more: Rail groups blast Crossrail for late 2021 opening date

If that completes on time then the central London section can open in summer 2021.

“Once trial running begins, a period of time will be required to fully test the Elizabeth Line before it can open for passenger service,” Crossrail said.

“This includes a final phase known as trial operations involving people being invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios.”

The central London Crossrail service will see Elizabeth Line trains run between Paddington and Abbey Wood, Liverpool Street and Shenfield, and Paddington and Heathrow and Reading.