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Crossrail abandons hopes of opening next summer

THE Crossrail board has admitted that the Elizabeth Line cannot open as soon as next summer.

The section across central London should have been launched in December 2018, but the project has been the victim of repeated delays. These have been attributed to various factors, including problems with software.

The coronavirus pandemic has added to the problems, especially as work had to be paused until new ‘safe working’ could be introduced on the sites.

It emerged earlier this week that costs have also been continuing to rise, and rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris told MPs on Monday that the scheme would need another £140 million. He described the further increase as ‘very disappointing’.

The extra funding is needed to complete the surface sections in east and west London towards Shenfield in the east and Reading in the west. There is no connection with the pandemic, because the additional costs were calculated before lockdown.

However, coronavirus has since disrupted the construction timetable still further, and currently no new opening date is being quoted.

Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild said: ‘Everyone working on the Crossrail project knows London needs the Elizabeth Line more than ever and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and as quickly as we can. We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway but existing schedule pressure along with Covid-19 has impacted the programme and time has been lost. Further work is being undertaken to finalise our detailed recovery plan which re-sequences the remaining work.

‘We are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth Line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity. Our focus right now is on completing the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway. Crossrail will undertake a period of intensive construction activity starting this August across the tunnels, portals and shafts to help recover lost time and complete the remaining construction works for Trial Running as we progress towards this next important phase.’

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