- Video report by ITV News correspondent Sejal Karia
The highly anticipated, new east-west railway Crossrail will miss its December opening date and services will not begin until autumn next year, a spokesman for the project said.
More time is needed to complete “final infrastructure and extensive testing” to ensure a “safe and reliable railway” is delivered, according to Crossrail Limited.
Services were due to begin running by the end of the year, but the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will not be opened until autumn 2019.
Rail minister Jo Johnson announced last month that the scheme’s budget has been increased from £14.8 billion to £15.4 billion due to “cost pressures”.
The railway is known as Crossrail during the construction phase but will become the Elizabeth line once services begin.
When it is fully opened, trains will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west through 13 miles of new tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
Simon Wright, Crossrail Chief Executive has said: “The Elizabeth line is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and is now in its final stages. We have made huge progress with the delivery of this incredible project but we need further time to complete the testing of the new railway. We are working around the clock with our supply chain and Transport for London to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.”
However, some London Assembly Members have reacted to the Crossrail delay including the Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM, who has said: “It is disappointing that the decision to delay the launch of Crossrail has been announced at such late notice. It is scarcely believable that the Mayor, TfL and Crossrail did not know of a likely delay a long time ago and chose not to let Londoners know sooner."
Concerns have also been raised about the budget of the project, suspecting costs may rise due to the delay. Gareth Bacon AM,Chairman of the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee, which is currently investigating TfL’s finances, said “This is basically a shambles. Transport for London’s management have clearly known that they would delay the opening of Crossrail for some time and yet have been elusive when discussing their financial woes with the London Assembly and so with the people of London. TfL’s own business plan says that £143 million of fare revenue was expected from the central section in 2018/19 alone. This now leaves an even bigger hole in TfL’s finances. It already has a £1 billion operating deficit for this year. Hundreds of millions further will be lost in the coming year.”