Elizabeth Line hit with major challenges after electrical explosion pushes back testing

The energisation of eastern sections of the Elizabeth Line was pushed back in November after a voltage transformer meant to connect separate electrical appliances exploded, causing testing to be delayed.

The problems, coupled with the complex nature of the project and the scale on which it is being built, have prompted bosses to warn about the costing and timescale of the Elizabeth Line.

In a meeting with mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Crossrail chairman Sir Terry Morgan admitted that the work was “very close” to exceeding its budget after explaining the issues with testing.

Morgan said energisation of the line in the east of London, to be later used for testing, was on course to be completed before electrical issues hampered progress.

“We opened up the energisation of the east side of our railway, which was always going to be our platform for testing this train, in November,” he explained.

“It’s relatively standard but it had to interface between our own power needs and Network Rail’s, it got switched on – and exploded.”

The chairman appeared at the meeting alongside Mark Wild, London Underground managing director who oversees the Elizabeth Line, as the two have been jointly overseeing sections of the project.

But he admitted that neither of the parties could fix the problem any faster, adding: “I can’t think of anything more that we can do together to resolve the issue.”

Other issues had also pinned back some progress of the project, although both Wild and Morgan were confident that the planned timelines were possible.

However, the London Underground MD added: “We can still do it, but it’s very, very hard and complex and it brings with it cost pressures as well.”

The continuation of energisation processes was expected to be underway within days of the meeting, which took place yesterday, possibly as soon as last night – although Crossrail has not released any details of the operations.

Khan called an end to further discussion of the specific problems but said it was for “commercially sensitive reasons” rather than to hide details.

Energisation is a key part of the next phase of the Elizabeth Line, and official testing of the track is expected to begin soon after the electrical work has been completed.

For other parts of the project, Wild said things were going to plan. He confirmed that ongoing efforts alongside Bombardier to improve the stability of trains was proving extremely difficult but was progressing well.

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James Miller   31/01/2018 at 17:39

I remember a story from the 1960s, when a company in North London installed a new rolling mill and it was being connected to the National Grid. They had an explosion and hot transformer oil went everywhere. Luckily no-one was hurt! In that case someone had got his wires crossed! Nothing changes!

Huguenot   31/01/2018 at 17:45

They had transformer explosions on the original 'blue' trains of the Glasgow suburban network in the early days. That was probably in the 1960s too, when working at 25kV was still relatively new.

Lutz   31/01/2018 at 22:37

So after claiming for years that the project is under budget, and was moving ahead of schedule, suddenly one incident blows-out both measures despite the large margins allowed for such incidents. The only matter of concern - in particular to the hapless TfL - is how much extra is it going to cost.

Roger Capel, Sheffield & Glossop   01/02/2018 at 08:34

There were1960s transformer explosions on the GE suburban too, with fatal results to some hapless guards in their van in the motor coach. These cases were linked to the (thankfully) now long forgotten mercury arc transformer, rapidly ditched by BR.

Frankh   01/02/2018 at 11:18

"Khan called an end to further discussion of the specific problems but said it was for “commercially sensitive reasons” rather than to hide details." Not hiding them just a smokescreen to deflect the details. It's taken 2 months for it to become public though.

Eric   02/02/2018 at 12:26

I hope that the HSE/ORR see it their responsibility to investigate as it seems to be a RIDDOR: "Electrical incidents causing explosion or fire" Any explosion or fire caused by an electrical short circuit or overload (including those resulting from accidental damage to the electrical plant) which either: a.results in the stoppage of the plant involved for more than 24 hours; or b.causes a significant risk of death. Where the failure of an item of electrical equipment (including as a result of accidental damage) results in a fire or explosion, the failure is reportable as a dangerous occurrence if the equipment concerned is rendered unusable for over 24 hours, or if the occurrence was one with the potential to cause the death of any person. The incident is reportable even if the system in which the damaged equipment was installed is put back into service using new equipment within 24 hours. In such a case an assessment should be made of how long a repair to the damaged equipment would have taken had it been attempted. Repair time does not include incidental time delays such as those associated with travelling to repair plant in remote locations, or with sourcing parts.

Thames Valley Traveller   02/02/2018 at 12:29

May be the ELIZABETHAN line should be only from Paddington out to Heathrow in the west. Only extend then to Reading once they provide proper trains with toilets to match the quality of existing. TFL are getting very greedy, shades of Network South East. TFL advertise direct trains from Reading to where - Shenfield or Abbey Wood, EXCEL more important for those from the west than Shenfield.

Dave H (D9015)   02/02/2018 at 13:41

The original Blue Trains had Dual Voltage 6.25/25KV transformers which had hot oil venting issues (via van space) & explosive outcomes. Old trains had to be rapidly recommissioned. Other possible issue might be phase connection/power factor mismatches, dealing with system elements that can produce substantial phase shift in AC voltages. Plus of course the dumb factor that saw an 11KV substation 'event' many decades ago of forgetting to remove one of the earth bonding links.... Weren't GE units 1500V DC? Rather like LMS in Manchester and MSW (GC) ultimately operating in a complex dual voltage arrangement with 25KV AC, rather like a number of Mainland Europe cross-border services.

Andrew Jones   02/02/2018 at 21:10

According to Press reports, this incident was at at Pudding Mill Lane, during Energisation Testing, not a rollingstock transformer. And if Energisation Testing, I would not have thought electric rollingstock involved.

Andrew Gwilt   03/02/2018 at 00:30

Could of caused a power cut to some areas in the East End of London.

(Dr) Pedr Jarvis   03/02/2018 at 16:59

Eric, has the Elizabeth line passed its Ministry inspection yet? If it has not, I would doubt it being a reportable incident. I defer to expert advice.

Ryan   03/02/2018 at 23:08

What? Andrew what the devil are you talking about?

Allhailthegwilt   04/02/2018 at 17:04

Don't hold your breath Ryan, many of us have been asking that for months!!

Andrew Gwilt   05/02/2018 at 04:06

Which “Andrew” you are referring to Ryan. Take a guess.

Johnm   06/02/2018 at 09:03

It will be interesting to see what is said (or not said) in the Crossrail January Quarterly update when it is published. There are also comments about problems with the signalling system.

Eric   13/02/2018 at 12:43

Either its operational railway or a construction site, both of which are subject to H&S laws, either enforceable via the HSE if construction or ORR if operational railway. The HSE do operate and investigate on Crossrail, as depicted below: "Contractors working on Crossrail have been fined more than £1m over the death of a worker and two incidents in tunnels being built in central London."

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