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Crossrail tunnels under construction

Crossrail expected to open summer 2021 (further delays permitting)

Image credit: Getty Images

The seriously delayed Crossrail project is due to begin running its first trains in summer 2021, according to its chief executive.

The Crossrail project, often cited as the largest infrastructure project in Europe, will see a 120km railway extend through central London from Reading in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. The railway is expected to relieve pressure on existing routes, transporting 200m passengers a year.

The project was approved in 2007 with an initial budget estimate of £15.9bn. However, its costs (met by the Department for Transport and Transport for London (TfL)) have mounted in the years and are now expected to reach £18.25bn upon completion.

The planned opening of its core London section (Paddington to Abbey Wood) was initially delayed from December 2018 to autumn 2019. Crossrail executives have been unable to pinpoint an opening date for this central section, with estimates falling between autumn 2020 and spring 2021. TfL has already lost an estimated £500m-£750m in passenger revenues due to these delays.

Complications have included design and delivery difficulties at its central Bond Street station and software upgrades to manage signalling.

Now, Crossrail Ltd has announced that it is expecting to open this central section in summer 2021. Full services will then commence by mid-2022.

“We have a comprehensive plan to complete the Elizabeth Line and the milestones we must hit during 2020, including the testing of the signalling and train systems and safety assurance, but there are no shortcuts to delivery of this hugely complex railway,” said Mark Wild, CEO of Crossrail Ltd.

“Our latest assessment is that Elizabeth Line services through central London will commence in summer 2021, but we are aiming to open the railway as soon as we can.”

“This forecast assumes a period of time will be required to undertake intensive operational testing. The key focus for everyone on the Crossrail project is commencing intensive testing of the Elizabeth Line as soon as we can in 2020, to enable passenger service as early as possible in 2021,” he added.

Not all Londoners will be convinced by the new estimate, with some taking to Twitter to joke about the much-delayed project. However, Wild’s latest estimate is an small improvement on the “later stages of 2021” estimate made by TfL’s outgoing commissioner before the London Assembly earlier this week.  

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