Third Crossrail delay confirmed as 2021 launch date announced

ByTravelling For Business

April 25, 2019
Tottenham Court Road Crossrail

Crossrail has announced that the completion of the new Elizabeth line might be delayed until March 2021, and that it will launch without a functioning station at Bond Street.

In a recent statement, Crossrail Ltd detailed a revised plan to get the project “back on track,” indicating a six-month window between October 2020 and March 2021 for the opening of the Elizabeth line. This plan follows a comprehensive audit programme aimed at identifying past issues, but acknowledges that significant risks and uncertainties remain, particularly concerning the development and testing of train and signalling systems.

Despite the central section of the line being the main challenge, Crossrail expects this portion to be delivered within the funding package agreed upon by the mayor, the government, and Transport for London (TfL) in December 2018.

While confident in meeting the new timeline, Crossrail has admitted that the Bond Street station will face further delays due to ongoing design and delivery challenges. The company will collaborate with the Costain Skanska joint venture, responsible for building the station, to expedite its completion.

Crossrail CEO Mark Wild expressed his understanding of public frustration: “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. This new plan will get us there and allow this fantastic new railway to open around the end of next year.”

The announcement follows a senior project source informing the BBC that the Elizabeth line might not be fully operational until spring 2021 in a “worst case” scenario. Once operational, the Elizabeth line will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east.

Initially scheduled for completion in December 2018, the project has faced multiple delays. In August 2018, the opening was postponed to late 2019, and by December, officials announced another delay, pushing the opening to spring 2020 at the earliest. The project is also running nearly £3 billion over budget.

MPs have called on the Department for Transport to identify who is responsible for the project’s failures, while the London Assembly’s Transport Committee has questioned the suitability of TfL commissioner Mike Brown continuing in his role.

In response to the latest developments, Caroline Pidgeon MBE, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, commented: “We welcome this announcement with cautionary relief. However, the project has been pushed back twice already, so the question has to be asked – is the ‘six-month window’ a hedge-betting exercise to avoid disappointing passengers once more? It is also incredibly frustrating that no senior executives will accept any responsibility for the litany of failures that have led to this delay. Londoners are forking out £30 million a week to bring Crossrail to completion. Further delays and doubtful dates are simply not an option.”

Pidgeon emphasized the importance of Crossrail for Londoners and urged all involved parties to expedite the project’s completion: “Crossrail will be a huge benefit to Londoners when it eventually opens. However, Transport for London, Crossrail and the mayor all need to get their acts together to finish this project. We will be watching closely to ensure Londoners are not disappointed once more.”