The latest cost estimate is £1.1bn more than the financing package agreed for the project in December 2018 and £450m above the upper end of the range announced in November 2019, taking the total cost to more than £18bn. The project was estimated to cost £15.9bn in 2007 and cut to £14.8bn in 2010 as part of the government’s spending review.

The revised opening date was announced on August 21 following a board meeting on August 20. Crossrail announced after its July board meeting that the project would not meet its then summer 2021 target opening with no revised date offered at that time.

Crossrail cites three main factors for the schedule delay:

  • Tunnels: lower than planned productivity in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals. Eight of the 10 shafts and portals have been handed over to Transport for London (TfL) and the remaining two are set to follow this autumn. Crossrail says the shafts and portals contain many of the complex operating systems for the line.
  • Stations: as more detailed plans for the completion and handover of the 10 central section stations have developed, the company revised the schedule assumptions about the pace at which these large and complex stations can be handed over to TfL.
  • Covid-19: A pause of physical activity on sites during lockdown and significant constraints on work and productivity due to the reduced contractor numbers on site - around 2000 at present, 50% less than before - has further exacerbated schedule pressures.

“Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth Line as soon as possible,” says Mr Mark Wild, Crossrail Ltd’s chief executive. “We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway and we are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth Line, known as trial running, at the earliest opportunity.”

Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Crossrail reports good progress with completing the remaining construction work. It says that much of this work is coming to an end along with software testing for the signalling and train systems. All central section stations apart from Bond Street are now certified as ready to support trial running, with Custom House the first to be handed over to TfL.

The company says it is also engaging in “intensive construction activity in August and September” to complete the remaining construction works on the tunnels ahead of the start of trial running.

Following completion of this work in September, Crossrail will commence testing of the next evolution of the signalling software, helping to further build operational reliability. Once completed later this year, Crossrail says it will then begin an enabling phase for trial operation with testing in the tunnels undertaken with an increased number of trains. This will take place as the extensive safety case to the Office of Rail and Road to commence trial running is finalised.

“As work to complete the railway progresses, there may be an opportunity to review and bring forward the opening of the central section, subject to progress during the intensive operational stage,” Crossrail said in a statement.

The announcement was reported as being met with deep disappointment by the office of the mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan. TfL’s new commissioner, Mr Andy Byford, has been asked by City Hall to review Crossrail’s latest plans, including the estimated additional costs.

The Transport Committee of the London Assembly also expressed its extreme disappointment at the delay.

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