“Huge challenges ahead” for Crossrail but opening date expected in weeks

Crossrail bosses are still unable to commit to an official opening date after conceding they have underestimated the level of work still needing to be done with more than 6,000 contractors still working on site.

However, the chair and deputy chair of the major rail project, have revealed that new Class 345 Elizabeth Line trains are to be introduced between Reading and Paddington from December this year.

In a letter to the leader of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, Simon Dudley, Tony Meggs (chair) and Nick Raynsford (deputy chair) admit there is a lot of work to do in rebuilding the trust of industry and the general public meaning the board is hesitant to provide a specific opening date before any revised delivery plan is agreed with a “high level of confidence”.

The board is keen to avoid mistakes of the past and commit to a date for it to only be missed. Teams are said to be working hard to establish an Earliest Opening Programme for the central section as well as the full end to end service from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

An Earliest Opening Programme is set to be unveiled sometime this month and within it will be a range of dates. As work progresses then teams will narrow the range to a more specific date.

In the letter, Meggs and Raynsford said: “The scale and complexity of the programme is not something the UK has undertaken in many years and the current phase of the project is very complex indeed. Bringing together three different signalling systems, brand new trains software for a fully enabled digital railway with new centrally controlled stations is on a scale never attempted in this country before.”

Senior management also stress the need to keep costs under control and make specific reference to ensuring contractors complete station works as quickly as possible. With over 6,000 people still involved in completing fit-out and testing and commissioning core systems, this is the principal driver of escalating costs.

The focus for those behind the project is now ensuring construction activity is brought to a close and for Tier 1 contractors to demobilise delivery teams so new stations can be integrated with the rest of the railway.

“There is still a lot of work to do before the full railway can open,” the letter added. “We know how important it is for local residents and businesses to get the railway open as soon as possible. Everyone involved in the Crossrail project is fully focused on ensuring the Elizabeth Line is completed and brought into passenger service as quickly as possible.”

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