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Crossrail has admitted the new line might not be completed until March 2021 and that the service will launch without a station at Bond Street.
In a statement, Crossrail Ltd outlined a plan to put the project “back on track”, pinpointing a six-month window between October 2020 and March 2021 for the opening of the Elizabeth line.
The company says the plan follows a “detailed audit programme, including what went wrong in the past”. It claims that “many risks and uncertainties remain in the development and testing of the train and signalling systems”, which is the main cause for the further delay.
However, Crossrail says the central section of the line, which has been the main sticking point in the project, is “expected to be delivered within the funding package agreed by the mayor, government and Transport for London in December 2018”.
Although the company is confident it can fully open the Elizabeth line by its new estimate, the new station at Bond Street will be further delayed “because of design and delivery challenges”. It says it will work with the Costain Skanska joint venture, which is building the station, to ensure it is ready to open “at the earliest opportunity”.
Crossrail CEO Mark Wild said: “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 in 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 news comes after a senior source involved in the project told the BBC last week that the Elizabeth line might not be fully operational until the spring of 2021 in the “worst case” scenario.
Once the line is operational, it will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east.
Crossrail was due for completion last December, but a delay until late 2019 was announced in August 2018. A further setback was made public in December, when officials said the Elizabeth line would not open until spring 2020 at the earliest. The project is running nearly £3 billion over budget.
MPs have demanded the Department for Transport explain who is responsible for ‘failures’ on the project, while the London Assembly’s Transport Committee said Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown should “reflect on whether he is fit to continue to fulfil his role”.
In response to the latest announcement, London Assembly Transport Committee chair Caroline Pidgeon MBE said: “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.
“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.”