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DfT publishes annual Crossrail update

Today (20 July) a written statement was issued to Parliament illustrating an update on the Crossrail project.

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris began the document stating: “Over the past year, several milestones have been reached on the Crossrail project and work continues despite the new challenges presented by COVID-19.

“When complete, the Elizabeth line will be transformative, reducing overcrowding, delivering spacious new trains, adding significant additional rail capacity to London and the South East, and delivering a huge boost to the recovering UK economy. Its benefits will be vast and long-lasting.”

He said momentous progress is currently being made on the project towards completion and for its changeover to Transport for London (TfL), the future operator of the Elizabeth line. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has approved the new trains to run in passenger service between Heathrow Airport and Paddington, shaping the way for a forthcoming increase in services to 4 trains per hour.

He explained: “Final testing and driver training is taking place with Bombardier and MTR Elizabeth Line ahead of the services being introduced. Over the past year, Crossrail Limited (CRL) has made further progress on the final completion of the new central section.

“Signalling and train software testing have progressed and a number of assets including completed shafts and portals together with the new Custom House station have now been handed over to TfL. All of the stations in the central section are now ready for the trial running of services, with the exception of Bond Street which requires further work.”

He further added: “Network Rail (NR) works on the eastern and western sections of the route have continued to progress over the past year with the delivery of the enhanced ticket halls and access improvements on the surface section progressing at Ilford and Romford, Acton Main Line, Ealing Broadway, West Ealing, Southall, Hayes & Harlington and West Drayton, with step-free access being prioritised where possible.”

Step free across from street to platform, in March this year was provided to future Elizabeth line stations Hanwell, Iver, Langley and Taplow. These milestones signify key steps forward in the operational development of the railway.

social distancing measures 5

Heaton-Harris also admitted that the project has also faced some challenges along the way. Back in January this year, CRL announced that is planned to open the central section of the railway in summer 2021 with the full opening following in mid-2022, naming challenges with finalising the software development and the safety assurance processes preventing it from meeting its previously planning opening window.

A ‘safe stop’ was implemented on the 24th of March due to the country going into lockdown. The Rail Minister explained: “In November last year and before the impact of COVID-19, CRL announced that it would not be able to deliver the railway within the funding package originally announced by the department and the Mayor of London in December 2018 and that it would require between £400 to £650 million in additional funding.

“The further schedule delays and cost increases to this project since the last annual update are very disappointing. A revised funding package will now need to be developed for Crossrail that is fair to UK taxpayers, with London as the primary beneficiary bearing the cost.”

Despite this, work has now restarted as part of Crossrail’s recovery plan with sites operating within the framework of Public Health England’s safety guidelines, with CRL focussing on achieving the next key programme milestone-commencement of the intensive testing of the railway, known as ‘trial running.’

CRL are currently updating their cost and schedule forecast as part of their recovery plans. A more detailed update to the overall costings for Network Rail’s programme coveys that the Crossrail On Network Works requires an extra £140m of funding.

The Department for Transport (DfT) will proceed to work with its joint sponsor, TfL, to closely scrutinise the project, supporting its delivery as soon as is safely possible and to deliver the vital assurance and safety certification that is required before passenger services can commence.

The Rail Minsiter added further: “The department will also work with TfL to oversee the effective review and evolution of Crossrail’s future governance arrangements to make sure the right decisions are taken as the project moves towards completion, and that it successfully transitions to TfL operations as soon as possible. CRL together with both sponsors remain committed to ongoing transparency with regard to the project.”

Image: Gov UK & Crossrail 


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