PASSENGER trains will begin operating on the new 21km Abbey Wood - Paddington section of the Crossrail network in the first half of 2022, Transport for London (TfL) confirmed on January 18, although no specific date has been revealed.

The opening date had been planned since last year. However, the start of passenger services was dependent on successful completion of trial operation, which began on November 20. This is now coming to end with the next phase of testing including large-scale exercises across the railway, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line when it opens.

Planned upgrades to the new railway including signalling software and tunnel ventilation systems were completed over the Christmas period. Two of the 10 new stations are still to be handed over to TfL.

The next round of testing involves the emergency services, including the British Transport Police, London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service, demonstrating how they would respond to incidents both in the tunnels and at stations. Other exercises will including responding to train, signalling, platform screen door and track simulations.

The initial service will operate as 12 trains per hour between Abbey Wood and Paddington low level. When the Elizabeth Line opens, it will initially operate as three separate railways. As well as the central section, there will be the Reading/Heathrow Airport - London Paddington route in the west and Shenfield - London Liverpool Street in the east.

A revised plan for an earlier full opening is being developed. The latest plan is for trains operating from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield to connect with the central tunnel from the autumn, with the final timetable along the full route in place from May 2023.

Mileage accumulation for the Alstom class 345 EMU fleet has been underway through the central London tunnels since May 2021, although the trains first entered traffic as reduced-length EMUs in 2017.

TfL claims that the final €18.8bn cost of the project will not exceed the budget that TfL inherited when it assumed full control of the project in October 2020.

Trains had been due to start operating through the central section from May 2018, with the full network opening in December 2019.

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Crossrail is one of IRJ’s 20 projects to watch in 2022, which is published in the January edition. Digital subscribers can read the feature here.

An interview with Crossrail chief executive Mr Mark Wild was published in the August edition of IRJ and is available to digital subscribers here.