Crossrail outlines plans to open the Elizabeth line late 2020 / early 2021

Crossrail Limited, the Transport for London subsidiary that is charged with delivering the new Elizabeth line across and under London, has outlined a new plan to complete the outstanding works and bring the Elizabeth line into passenger service as soon as possible.

A “robust and realistic” plan to put Europe’s most ambitious and complex infrastructure project back on track has been developed following a detailed audit of the programme, including what went wrong in the past. The new plan has identified and re-sequenced over 100,000 interdependent tasks, taking full account of exactly what has to be done and how long it will take.

Since many risks and uncertainties still remain in the development and testing of the train and signalling systems, Crossrail has set itself a six-month delivery window, between October 2020 and March 2021, for the central section of the Elizabeth line to open between Paddington and Abbey Wood, linking the West End, the City of London, Canary Wharf and southeast London with, initially, 12 trains per hour during the peak.

Installing signage at Tottenham Court Road station.

At this stage, all stations on the route should be open with the exception of Bond Street,  which is delayed because of design and delivery challenges – Crossrail is working closely with the Costain Skanska Joint Venture to ensure the station is ready to open at the earliest opportunity.

Once the central section opens, full services across the Elizabeth line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will commence as soon as possible.

Four major tasks have been identified that still need to be completed:

  • Build and test the software to integrate the train operating system with three different signalling systems;
  • Install and test vital station systems;
  • Complete installation of the equipment in the tunnels and test communications systems;
  • Finally, run a test programme on the trains over many thousands of miles on the completed railway to shake out any problems and ensure the highest levels of safety and reliability when passenger service begins.

Crossrail expects that the remaining fit-out and systems installation in the stations and tunnels will be completed later in 2019. This will allow the new stations and rail infrastructure to be integrated with the rest of the railway. Crossrail also expects that Bombardier Transportation and Siemens will complete development of the train and signalling software during 2019, allowing the train control system to be fully tested.

The central section works are expected to be delivered within the funding package agreed by the Mayor, Government and Transport for London in December 2018.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: “I share the frustration of Londoners that the huge benefits of the Elizabeth line are not yet with us. But this plan allows Crossrail Ltd and its contractors to put the project back on track to deliver the Elizabeth line.

Mark Wild, Crossrail.

“Crossrail is an immensely complex project and there will be challenges ahead, particularly with the testing of the train and signalling systems, but the Elizabeth line is going to be incredible for London and really will be worth the wait. This new plan will get us there and allow this fantastic new railway to open around the end of next year.”

Work is underway and the new stations to complete the final fit-out and test key systems. Each Elizabeth line station has over 50km of communications cabling, 200 CCTV cameras, 66 information displays, 200 radio antennas, 750 loudspeakers and 50 help points, and all this technology needs to be fully installed, tested and integrated.

Dynamic testing of the trains in the tunnels is now underway, with intensive work taking place to increase the reliability of the train software and enable trains to successfully operate across the three signalling systems on the Elizabeth line. Trains have been operating at full line speed of 100km/h (62mph) in the central section using the new automatic signalling system, and multi-train testing will soon get underway.

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