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Crossrail to open by March 2021 as bosses confirm new timetable

The Elizabeth Line will open by March 2021 at the latest as a new six-month delivery window for the Crossrail’s crisis-hit central section is revealed by the project’s bosses.

The announcement confirms that Crossrail, already heavily delayed and overbudget, will be completed at least two years behind schedule, with the midpoint of the delivery window at the end of 2020.

But the new plan does not include the opening of Bond Street, one of the 10 new stations for the new line, which has been delayed due to “design and delivery challenges.”

Crossrail said in its statement that “many risks and uncertainties remain in the development and testing of the train and signalling systems”, but that following a detailed audit of what has gone wrong so far, the new plan would put the project back on track.

Mark Wild, chief executive, said: “I share the frustration of Londoners that the huge benefits of the Elizabeth Line are not yet with us. But this plan allows Crossrail Ltd and its contractors to put the project back on track to deliver the Elizabeth Line.

“Crossrail is an immensely complex project and there will be challenges ahead, particularly with the testing of the train and signalling systems, but the Elizabeth Line is going to be incredible for London and really will be worth the wait.”

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Originally due to open in late 2018, the earliest new opening date identified is October 2020, and its bosses say Crossrail’s central section will be delivered by March 2021 at the latest.

Crossrail expects the remaining fit-out and systems installation in the stations and tunnels to be completed in 2019 and for the central section works to be completed within the funding package agreed in December 2018.

London mayor Sadiq Khan described the new timetable as “realistic and deliverable.”

Crossrail said 100,000 interdependent tasks still need to be completed, with the four major tasks remaining, including the building and testing of software to integrate the train operating system with three different signalling systems.

Station systems need to be installed and tested, as well as complete installation of the equipment in the tunnels. When this is done, the trains need to be trialled over thousands of miles on the completed railway to “shake out any problems.”

The central section will open between Paddington and Abbey Wood and link the West End, the City of London, Canary Wharf and southeast London, with initially 12 trains per hour during peak times.

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Crossrail Ltd said it was working closely with Costain Skanska Joint Venture to ensure Bond Street opens as early as possible, and full services across the Elizabeth Line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will commence.

Tony Meggs, Crossrail chairman, said both the board and leadership team “recognise the seriousness of the challenges we face,” but was pleased with the progress made by the new team to get a grip on the project and pull together a new robust plan.

Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, welcomed the announcement with “cautionary relief,” but with the project pushed back twice already she questioned if the six-month window was just another “hedge-betting exercise.”

“It is also incredibly frustrating that no senior executives will accept any responsibility for the litany of failures that have led to this delay.”


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