Crossrail have issued an update on progress to complete the Elizabeth line following delays in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and, say Crossrail, is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risks and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks.
The Board’s latest assessment, based on the best available programme information right now, is that the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will be ready to open in the first half of 2022. As work to complete the railway progresses, they say there may be opportunity to review and bring forward the opening of the central section, subject to progress during the intensive operational testing phase.
Crossrail is planning to start intensive operational testing, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity in 2021. From the start of Trial Running it will then take a period of time to fully test the Elizabeth line before it can open for passenger service. This includes a final phase known as Trial Operations involving people being invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios to ensure the readiness of the railway.
Following the opening of the central section, full services across the Elizabeth line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will be introduced. The introduction of full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change which occurs twice a year in May and December.
A programme of this scale and complexity was already challenging, with pressures on the schedule before COVID-19 became a factor; the impact of COVID-19 has made the existing pressures more acute. The schedule delay is due to three main factors:
Covid has produced schedule pressures due to a pause of physical activity on sites during lockdown to keep the workforce safe and significant constraints on ongoing work and productivity due to the reduced numbers that can work on site to meet strict social distancing requirements. They now have a maximum of around 2,000 people on our sites, less than 50 per cent of our pre-Covid complement.
Progress during the last six months includes all central section stations, except Bond Street, now certified as ready to support Trial Running; eight of ten shafts and portals completed and handed over to the operator; handover of the first central section station, Custom House, to TfL; the introduction of the first full-length Class 345 train in passenger service between Paddington and Heathrow (pictured) and a viable signalling software product available for Trial Running.
Mark Wild, Chief Executive, Crossrail Ltd, said: “Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible. Now more than ever Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the Elizabeth line will bring, and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and quickly as we can. We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway and we are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity. Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risk and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks. We are working tirelessly to complete the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway and successfully transition the project as an operational railway to Transport for London.”