Crossrail delayed until 2022 and needs extra £1.1bn to complete

Elizabeth Line now running more than four years late, and set to cost almost £4bn more than originally planned.

Crossrail has been delayed again until 2022 and will need an extra £1.1bn to complete, it has emerged.

The new Elizabeth line, running through the heart of London, will now open more than four years late and cost almost £4bn than originally planned. The giant infrastructure scheme had originally planned to cost £14.8bn, with services planned to start operating in December 2018.

The delay is being blamed on three main factors – the impact of Covid-19 on construction schedules; lower than planned productivity in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals on the routeway; and a revised assumption about the pace of the ‘monumental task’ that large and complex central stations can be handed over to TfL.

The latest delay follows a meeting of the Crossrail board on 20 August, which outlined the latest assessment 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 ‘there may be opportunity to review and bring forward the opening of the central section, subject to progress during the intensive operational testing phase.’

In a statement, Crossrail said: “Covid has further exacerbated the 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. We now have a maximum of around 2,000 people on our sites, less than 50 per cent of our pre-Covid complement.

“To help recover some of the lost time, Crossrail is undertaking a period of intensive construction activity during August and September to complete the remaining construction works in the routeway for Trial Running.”  

The latest cost estimate presented to the board shows that the cost to complete the Crossrail project could be up to £1.1bn above the financing package agreed in December 2018 (£450m more than the upper end of the range announced in November 2019). 

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. 

“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.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he was "deeply disappointed" with the latest delay, and has asked Transport for London's new commisioner Andy Byford to review Crossrail's plans.

A City Hall spokeswoman said: “The mayor is deeply disappointed that Crossrail’s updated schedule suggests that Londoners face a longer wait for the Elizabeth line. He has asked TfL’s new commissioner, Andy Byford, to review Crossrail’s latest plans – including their estimated additional costs – and to work with the Department for Transport to ensure everything possible is being done to get the central section safely open as quickly as possible.”

Byford said: “It is very disappointing to receive confirmation from Crossrail Ltd that their plan for opening the Elizabeth Line now has a date of the first half of 2022. The line will transform travel across London and is vital to supporting jobs, homes and businesses across the capital. I will now work with my team and the DfT to review Crossrail’s plans. I have been very clear that I am committed to getting this railway open safely and reliably as quickly as possible for the benefit of London and beyond.” 

TfL and DfT are reportedly in discussion regarding how funding of the additional costs will be resolved, while the £2.15bn financing package agreed in December 2018 remains in place. The delay in the opening of the Elizabeth line will have a negative impact on TfL’s revenues. These are as yet unquantified but will be considered as part of TfL’s wider financial planning activities.

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