Crossrail – the planned 73-mile high-speed railway lines connecting Reading and Heathrow to the west of London to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east – has been delayed again until at least 2022.
Transport for London (TfL) has announced a break in construction, in part due to social distancing measures against the coronavirus pandemic. The decision means that the Elizabeth Line’s central section – the 26-mile stretch of underground tunnels that link London’s Paddington to Canary Wharf and out to Abbey Wood – will now open more than three years late.
Crossrail’s board said it could need an extra £1.1bn on top of the £2.15bn package it had agreed with TfL in December 2018 – representing £450m more than the estimates it put forward in November 2019. This could put the total bill for the project at over £19bn.
The infrastructure scheme was supposed to cost £14.8bn, with the Elizabeth Line meant to have begun operating in central London from December 2018. But various factors, including electrical faults encountered with the railway’s signalling system and health and safety conditions for workers, have contributed to delays since construction first began in 2009.
Mark Wild, the Crossrail chief executive, 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.”
Crossrail’s board admitted that there had been “lower than planned productivity” in the construction of the railway’s shafts and portals, and that it had overestimated how quickly new stations could be built in central London. Covid-19, it said, had made these scheduling pressures worse, with strict limits on the number of staff able to work on site now imposed.