CROSSRAIL will not provide through trains under London linking the east and west suburbs at first, although the predicted costs of the project are set to rise again by as much as £650 million to more than £18 billion.
The phased opening, now set to occur in 2021, will mean initial Elizabeth Line services to Shenfield will start from Liverpool Street main line, and Reading and Heathrow services will start from the main line platforms at Paddington.
Only the outer London station at Abbey Wood will be served by trains running through the central London tunnels to Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Paddington.
The revelation has received little publicity, apart from a brief ‘note to editors’ at the foot of a Transport for London release issued on Friday about still higher costs and a delay until 2021, which also admits that even then Bond Street station is unlikely to open with the rest of the central section, because of ‘design and delivery challenges’.
Some of the changes associated with Crossrail are still going ahead in the meantime. From 15 December many local GWR services between Paddington and Reading will be replaced by trains with the temporary brand of ‘TfL Rail’, which is already in use between Liverpool and Shenfield and on the former Heathrow Connect route from Paddington to Hayes & Harlington and Heathrow.
Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild said: ’A key focus during 2019 has been finalising the stations, tunnels, portals and shafts. By the end of the year, Custom House, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations will be complete and the project is on track to finish fit-out of the tunnels in January. The central section will be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter in 2020, except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue.
‘The two critical paths for the project remain software development for the signalling and train systems, and the complex assurance and handover process for the railway; both involve safety certification for the Elizabeth Line. The Trial Running phase will begin at the earliest opportunity in 2020. This will be followed by testing of the operational railway to ensure it is safe and reliable.
‘Our latest assessment is that the opening of the central section will not occur in 2020, which was the first part of our previously declared opening window. The Elizabeth Line will open as soon as practically possible in 2021. We will provide Londoners with further certainty about when the line will open early in 2020.
‘Our detailed cost forecasts continue to show that the project’s costs will increase due to programme risks and uncertainties. The latest projections indicate a range of between £400 million to £650 million more than the revised funding agreed by the Mayor, Government and Transport for London in December 2018.’
The latest increase could take the cost of the project to £18.25 billion, compared with the original ‘funding envelope’ of £14.8 billion. Transport for London is also facing further losses, possibly of hundreds of millions, because of lost fares revenue. The central section was originally intended to open in December 2018.