Friday 9 July 2021 10:13 am

Crossrail to run out of funding before full line opens as cost rises again

Sadiq Khan is being urged to give assurances that there will be enough money to finish Crossrail after it was revealed that it could cost a further £218m to finish the much-delayed rail project.

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the controversial new line could cost between £30m and £218m more than the £18.8bn funding package currently available.

Back in 2010, the cost of the route was forecast to be £14.8bn.

Although the central section is expected to open in the first half of next year, the report said that the full line, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, would not be open until May 2023, four years behind schedule.

But the NAO said that Crossrail was currently estimating that the current funding will be exhausted between July and September 2022.

It also said that TfL, Crossrail and the Department for Transport (DfT) needed to work out how to get the most return out of the project given the change in travel patterns due to the pandemic.

“Despite efforts to control costs and schedule in 2019, the programme was further from completion and more complicated than Crossrail Ltd or the sponsors understood”, the report concluded.

“This, and the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in a further forecast cost increase of £1.9 billion and 10 to 20 months of delay since we last reported. There are encouraging signs that the programme is now in a more stable position with a better understanding of the total amount of work required.”

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Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, said the Londoners needed to know what was being down to make sure the project did not run out of money before completion.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the cost estimate for Crossrail exceeds the funding package. The current estimate is between £30m and £218m above the current available funding to complete the programme, with a middle estimate of £120m over.

“The full line is expected to open in May 2023, with the central section in the first half of 2022, but it seems current funding will be exhausted sometime between July and September 2022.  We need assurances about what is being done now to stop Crossrail running out of money.

“Londoners have waited long enough for this line, they don’t need to have to deal with further problems, once it’s up and running.”

And London Assembly Conservative transport spokesperson Keith Prince told the Telegraph that Khan needed to “get a grip” of the project and get it over the line.

Mark Wild, Crossrail chief executive, said: “Crossrail Ltd welcomes the National Audit Office’s latest report. Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages with the NAO recognising that significant progress has been made since 2019.

“Crossrail remains on track to open the Elizabeth line in the first half of 2022. We have recently commenced the major railway trials that will take place throughout the rest of this year involving trains running to a timetable through the central tunnels, remaining construction activity is coming to an end and we have now transferred five major new stations to Transport for London, who will operate the Elizabeth line. The forecast cost of completing the project remains unchanged at £18.9 billion.”

Today’s report follows swiftly after the latest progress update from engineer Jacobs, which raised a number of concerns over the progress of the project.

It said that multiple issues with the testing the line with had created an “inefficient working” environment.

“While we are aware that these issues are being slowly resolved, schedule impacts upon subsequent critical activities will be difficult to avoid”, the report said. 

Crossrail said it was still on track to open in the first half of next year.