As chief executive of Crossrail Ltd, it won’t come as a surprise that the question I get asked the most is “When is Crossrail going to open?”
We have a detailed plan to get the Elizabeth line open to passengers through central London between October 2020 and March 2021, but people often want to know what’s taking so long.
These are questions which don’t have short or easy answers. There is a huge amount still to do before the Elizabeth line can open and due to the complexity of the remaining work, the Crossrail project is now in its most critical and challenging phase.
It’s been nine hard but amazing months since I joined Crossrail in November last year, this followed the announcement by the previous leadership team that the central section of the Elizabeth line would not be opening in December 2018 as ambitiously planned. In April this year we were able to provide the six-month delivery window for opening and now, five months on, we are working hard work to narrow that window and provide Londoners and London businesses with more certainty.
So much relies on the next six months. We’ve now got 120 key project milestones, many of which need to be achieved by the end of this year, and we also need to complete testing of the train and signalling system. We’re working hard with our Tier One contractors to help their station delivery teams finish the job safely and as quickly as they can so they move on to other projects and we can integrate the nine new stations with the rest of the railway
The start of Trial Running will be our priority in the first quarter of 2020 – running test trains to a timetable to build reliability and fix any remaining software bugs. Trial Running will enable us to provide more certainty around the central section opening date once we start to fully test the railway. Then we will have more certainty about when the full railway will open – connecting central London to the eastern section to Shenfield in Essex and then, finally, the western section to Reading and Heathrow.
While we acknowledge there’s still so much to do, it’s important to highlight the progress we’ve achieved so far:
We began our multi-train testing in the tunnels in June with trains running close to each other at higher speeds
Testing and commissioning activity is taking place at all central section stations except at Bond Street where fit-out and systems installation continues
Fit-out of the tunnels is almost complete, and very soon we’ll soon begin hand over of the completed shafts and portals
We’ve got a joint team of senior technical experts from Bombardier, Siemens and Crossrail working together to quickly find solutions to integrating the train and signalling systems
Fifteen new class 345 trains are in operation with TfL Rail on the eastern and western parts of the route, building reliability and achieving a high standard of performance
The first nine-car (full-length) train is now in passenger service from Paddington to Hayes & Harlington
Network Rail has awarded contracts for the construction of the remaining new or enhanced ticket halls at Southall, Hayes & Harlington, West Drayton, Ealing Broadway, West Ealing and Acton Main Line stations.
From December this year, TfL will be running services between Paddington and Reading, and early next year we’ll get the new trains running through another complex signalling system down to Heathrow Airport.
Crossrail remains a hugely complex project, with significant integration and testing work remaining. We are fully focused on completing the Elizabeth line as quickly as possible. Ensuring that it opens safely and reliably for the millions of people who will use it every day, and providing new journey options for generations to come, means we have to get it right.
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