Monday 6 January 2020 3:51 pm

Rail groups slam TfL admission that Crossrail won't open until late 2021

Rail advocacy groups have slammed Transport for London’s (TfL) confirmation that they do not expect the main section of Crossrail to be open before the end of 2021.

Speaking to the London Assembly’s budget and performance committee today, TfL commissioner Mike Brown said he was working to a timetable of between September and December to be the opening date.

Brown’s statement comes after City A.M. first reported last month that the main section of the rail line was unlikely to be opened before October 2021.

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Railfuture’s Bruce Williamson said it was unacceptable and that TfL had “serious questions to answer” about the delay.

He added: “Londoners will be only too aware that the tube is under a lot of strain, and across the UK rail network there is a shortage of capacity.”

A spokesman from fellow advocacy group London TravelWatch also expressed his dismay at Brown’s announcement.

“This is more disappointing news for passengers returning to work this new year, many of whom have been hit with National Rail fare rises,” he said.

Brown admitted that TfL had revised its expected opening date to between September and December 2021 under questioning from budget committee chief Gareth Bacon.

“We’re waiting for the Crossrail board to give an assessment of the opening date, but actually we’ve taken… a very pragmatic look at the demand forecasts,” Brown said.

“What we’ve looked at is a delay to the later stages of 2021 in terms of our business planning assumption.

“Both the chief executive of Crossrail [Mark Wild] and the board of Crossrail know the imperative of bringing that date as forward as they can possibly and safely do so because of the imperative that revenues will begin to flow in to TfL overall.”

Crossrail, which will be eventually named the Elizabeth Line, has faced severe delays and budget blowouts over the past decade.

The line – which will connect Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east – was supposed to be open in December 2018 and a cost of £14.9bn.

However, Crossrail’s latest estimates show the cost has ballooned out to £18.25bn.

Brown said today that the new Crossrail bosses, who joined in December 2018, underestimated how far away the project was from being completed.

He said that the project was in “great disarray” and that individual stations were further away from completion than thought.

“The sense was that the major challenges ahead was the commissioning of the railway system – the signalling and the rolling stock,” he said.

“What wasn’t envisaged was the scale of unfinished and uncompleted work on the stations and the station systems.

Read more: Exclusive: Crossrail safety issues spiralled in 2019

“If you wandered around the stations, as I did at this time last year, these stations looked as though they were complete.

“I went back a few months later and tiles had to be taken away, platforms had to be re-opened up because of some of the wiring of the system, some of the processes and equipment that should have been applied and installed weren’t there.”