Crossrail on track for December opening despite electrical testing “explosion”

An “explosion” during the powering up of a new sub-station on the Crossrail network has pushed back plans by three months, it has been revealed, as bosses admit the £14.8bn project is “very close on the funding envelope”.

The issue was raised by Crossrail chiefs during the latest Transport for London (TfL) board meeting at City Hall at which the mayor of London was present. Among those providing updates was Crossrail’s chairman Sir Terry Morgan, who revealed the project was running close to budget and that a “Plan B” had already been enforced to ensure that the project was not delayed. 

The plans have faced delays after an explosion occurred during testing as engineers attempted to energise the system. This is said to have happened in November at a sub-station at Pudding Mill Lane when the high-voltage power was prepared to be switched on. Morgan conceded that the incident has led to plans being put back by three months and investigations by teams on the network have found the unit was “incorrectly designed”. The sub-station was eventually successfully powered up on 1 February. 

Commenting on the incident, a Crossrail spokesperson said: “During the initial energisation of electrical equipment at Pudding Mill Lane sub-station on 11 November 2017, two voltage transformers failed. Following correction of the faults in the electrical system by the contractors, the sub-station has been successfully switched on. Energisation of the overhead line equipment will now follow, this will allow the infrastructure testing phase to begin. The Elizabeth line remains on course to open as planned in December 2018.”

Commenting on the failure of the transformers, Morgan said: “It’s a factory-built unit fully-tested, there is nothing more we could have done. Its failure was a surprise to us and we eventually found out it had been designed incorrectly. It’s a very complicated piece of kit built in a factory that we had to rebuild on site.”

The multibillion pound Crossrail project has major construction companies like Costain, Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke and Morgan Sindall working on it. Morgan said he remained confident the Elizabeth Line would be able to open by the end of December. “We are very close on the funding envelope, and we’re certainly going to have to continue to work together to make sure we get this railway running this year,” he told the TfL board.

A Crossrail spokesperson told Infrastructure Intelligence: “The Elizabeth line is being delivered within its available funding. Overall the Crossrail project, which is now 90% complete, remains on time. Understandably, as a project of this scale and complexity reaches the final stages, it faces some increasing cost and schedule pressures and we continue to manage this. Energisation of the overhead line equipment will shortly take place, this will allow the infrastructure testing phase to get underway when we will begin testing trains through the tunnel. The Elizabeth line remains on course to open as planned in December 2018.”

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