The opening of the central London tunnelled section of Crossrail has been hit by a further delay, this time because of Covid-19.
The central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood of London’s new east-west railway had been due to open in December 2018. The date has since slipped to summer 2021.
Transport for London board members were told of a further unquantified delay last week. “Crossrail Ltd has indicated that Covid-19 will have an impact on the programme but at this stage it is too early to say how that impact will be felt,” said Andy Lord, TfL’s managing director for London Underground and TfL engineering.
Construction work was suspended in March but subsequently restarted, though with social distancing policies in place. Intensive operational testing through the tunnels, known as trial running, has yet to begin.
Any delay is likely to further push up costs. The project’s estimated cost rose from £14.8bn to £17.6bn in December 2018. Crossrail Ltd reported late last year that a further £400m to £650m was needed (LTT 22 Nov 19). In March it emerged the funding request could be even greater (LTT 20 Mar).
TfL is in talks with the Government about how the identified funding shortfall will be filled. Transport secretary Grant Shapps last month outlined the current state of play to London mayor Sadiq Khan in the letter detailing TfL’s Covid-19 emergency funding package.
“In advance of the end of the support period [17 October], an additional funding package for Crossrail will need to have been identified and presented to the project sponsors [TfL and DfT], which achieves the agreed ‘London Pays’ principle,” said Shapps. “Options to achieve this will be considered alongside the Government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure.”
The new Crossrail trains (Class 345) are already operating out of Liverpool Street and Paddington stations. From 18 May, all services to and from Reading are being operated with full-length trains (nine carriages). The seven-car trains have been transferred to the Liverpool Street to Shenfield line, allowing more 30-year-old Class 315 electric trains to be scrapped.
In a bit of good news for the project, the Office of Rail and Road last month authorised full-length Crossrail trains to operate in the tunnels to Heathrow Airport using the European Train Control System Level 2 signalling system.
Stopping services between Paddington and Heathrow will start using the new trains in the next few weeks.
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