Friday 8 November 2019 11:41 am

Crossrail will not open until 2021 and could run £650m over budget, bosses admit

Crossrail will not open until 2021 and will run up to £650m over budget, transport bosses admitted today.

The long-awaited Elizabeth Line, which was originally due to open in December 2018, will not open until “as soon as practically possible in 2021”, Transport for London (TfL) said.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild warned technical issues and testing were the factors behind the latest delay to Crossrail’s opening date.

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Read more: Crossrail shares progress pictures at key Elizabeth Line stations

“Crossrail Ltd will need further time to complete software development for the signalling and train systems and the safety approvals process for the railway,” he admitted.

“Our latest assessment is that the opening of the central section will not occur in 2020, which was the first part of our previously declared opening window.

“The Elizabeth line will open as soon as practically possible in 2021. We will provide Londoners with further certainty about when the Elizabeth line will open early in 2020.”

Wild, who took over at the helm of London’s troubled transport project last November, has previously only said Crossrail would open between October 2020 and March 2021.

The Elizabeth Line, the project’s official title, will provide an east-to-west rail service across London from Abbey Wood in the east to Heathrow in the west.

Read more: Crossrail is at real risk of facing even more delays, this report warns

Wild also warned that the latest estimates suggest Crossrail will run up to £650m over its revised budget.

He said “programme risks and uncertainties” will mean Crossrail will blow its revised £17.6bn budget agreed in December by between £400m and £650m.

That could see the total cost of Crossrail breach the £18bn mark, from its original 2010 budget of £14.8bn.

“The two critical paths for the project remain software development for the signalling and train systems, and the complex assurance and handover process for the railway; both involve safety certification for the Elizabeth line,” Wild said today.

Read more: Crossrail bosses blasted for ‘needlessly’ driving up costs

Crossrail: Some stations will be ready this year

Transport bosses revealed last summer that the infrastructure scheme would not meet its 2018 deadline, before it then sailed past its rescheduled opening date of autumn 2019.

Wild said today that the Elizabeth Line has made good progress over recent months as engineers work to complete the tunnels and stations by the end of 2019.

“By the end of the year Custom House, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations will be complete and the project is on track to finish fit-out of the tunnels in January,” Wild said.

“The central section will be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter in 2020, except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue.”

Crossrail: In pictures

“These must be done to the highest quality standards to ensure reliability of the railway from day one of passenger service.

Read more: Crossrail bosses earned huge bonuses as Elizabeth Line problems piled up

“Crossrail will need further time to complete software development for the signalling and train systems and the safety approvals process for the railway.

“The Trial Running phase will begin at the earliest opportunity in 2020, this will be followed by testing of the operational railway to ensure it is safe and reliable.”

Mayor of London expresses ‘deep frustration’ over Crossrail delay

Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “deeply frustrated” by confirmation the project will not open in 2020.

“Since the delay to Crossrail was announced last year, the Mayor has been clear he wanted the new Crossrail leadership to be fully open and transparent with Londoners about the huge challenges that remain around the Crossrail project,” a spokesperson for the mayor said.

“The Mayor is deeply frustrated that following a review of the programme it is clear that the cost and schedule pressures facing the new Crossrail team are even more severe than initially thought.

“Further work is taking place immediately to assess Crossrail’s latest cost estimates. TfL and the Department for Transport, as joint sponsors, will continue to hold the Crossrail leadership to account to ensure it is doing everything it can to open Crossrail safely and as soon as possible.”

Mayor of London conservative candidate Shaun Bailey said: “This is nothing short of embarrassing for TfL and Sadiq Khan and very bad news for London’s commuters and businesses. A stark contrast to when Boris Johnson was mayor and the project was on time and within budget.

He added: “I would bring the Crossrail leadership in daily if need be to give me updates on the issues and progress being made. There can be no more hands off approach from the Mayor’s office simply because he is afraid of being tainted by bad news.

“Sadiq Khan should guarantee that Londoners won’t have to suffer from any more delays and he should immediately release all documents relating to this latest debacle.”

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of business group London First, blasted the latest delay as a bad sign for businesses.

“The prospect of a further setback to Crossrail is very disappointing to businesses across the capital, as are the further cost overruns which go hand in hand with any delay,” she said. 

“We must not lose sight of the transformational change Crossrail will bring to our city. It has been 40 years in the making and will be worth the wait.

“But efforts must be redoubled to ensure that the railway opens as soon as practically possible and that we learn the lessons for future projects.”

Read moreCrossrail’s 2021 delay to cost TfL an extra £1bn

Around 200m passengers a year will use Crossrail, according to estimates. The infrastructure project will add 10 per cent to central London’s rail capacity. And the railway will take just 17 minutes to travel between Paddington and Canary Wharf, Crossrail has said.

But the National Audit Office condemned the project for running both late and overbudget back in May.

The spending watchdog accused bosses of driving up costs unnecessarily, and said management had shown a “failure to change course” when the project became derailed.

However, it said the project was “past the point of no return”, with £16bn already ploughed into it at that point despite doubt over whether the scheme represents value for money for taxpayers.