Thursday 19 March 2020 5:16 pm

Sadiq Khan: More Crossrail delays from coronavirus are 'inevitable'

Sadiq Khan has said it is “inevitable” that the coronavirus outbreak will further delay the opening of Crossrail.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild ordered all non-essential work on the new railway line to stop this week, with some employees told to work from home.

The central part of the £18.25bn train line was expected to be open no earlier than summer 2021, more than two years late, however Khan said today this timetable could be in doubt.

When asked at a London Assembly meeting if the outbreak of Covid-19 would further delay Crossrail, he said he thought it was “inevitable”.

“Clearly there will be an impact,” he said.

“If I’m saying only essential workers should go to work, if I’m saying the best way to reduce coronavirus is to stay at home – that has an impact.

“The Crossrail team will do what they can to work remotely where they can, but some of the things you need to be physically there to do.

“So I think it’s inevitable, but that’s without speaking to the chief executive to see what can be done.”

Wild told City A.M. it was still too early to quantify the impact that Covid-19 would have on the delivery of Crossrail.

“We are doing everything we can to support our contractors during this difficult and challenging time and we will do what we can to keep individual sites open and productive as best as we can,” he said.

“Our arrangements remain under constant review and we are liaising closely with our Tier 1 contractors and their supply chains to ensure that the Crossrail programme continues to be delivered safely.”

The central part of Crossrail, which will be named the Elizabeth line when opened, had an original opening date of December 2018.

However, a series of problems with tunneling, electrical systems and the construction of individual stations has pushed the expected opening date to summer 2021 at the earliest.

The project – which will connect Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east – has also gone more than £3bn over its original budget.

Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, said she thought further delays were now certain due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“While it is painful news to hear, I believe the Mayor is right to admit that it is now inevitable there will be further delays to Crossrail’s completion,” she said.

“These additional delays will create huge problems in terms of rising construction costs as well as lost fare and commercial revenue.  

“The consequences of this further delay should not become a burden that  falls solely on London and government support will be needed.”