Crossrail remains on track to open Elizabeth line around the end of 2020

Construction nears completion at Tottenham Court Road station.

Since April 2019, when Crossrail outlined its new plan to complete the outstanding works and bring the Elizabeth line into passenger service at the earliest possible date, the project has been making good progress. The central section remains on schedule to open between October 2020 and March 2021 and many of the central section stations have reached an advanced state of completion, with final fit-out and testing and commissioning work underway.

The high-level plan to complete the railway, endorsed by the Crossrail board and the management team, has progressed into a logically linked and detailed delivery control schedule. A list of 120 key programme milestones have been identified to enable the programme to progress to the trial operations phase, and each must be successfully delivered to enable the Elizabeth line to open.

Since April:

  • Close headway, multi-train testing commenced on 8 June 2019 as part of the Dynamic Testing phase;
  • Crossrail has established a co-located joint team of senior technical experts from Bombardier, Siemens and Crossrail to drive forward a coordinated approach to dynamic testing of the train and signalling systems;
  • Testing and commissioning activity is taking place at all central section stations except at Bond Street where fit-out and systems installation continues;
  • Fit-out of the tunnels is almost complete – Crossrail will shortly hand over the completed shafts and portals, starting with Victoria Dock portal;
  • Fifteen new Class 345 trains are in operation with TfL Rail on the eastern and western parts of the route, building reliability and achieving a high standard of performance;
  • The first nine-car (full-length) train is now in passenger service from Hayes & Harlington to Paddington;
  • Network Rail has awarded contracts for the construction of the remaining new or enhanced ticket halls at Southall, Hayes & Harlington, West Drayton, Ealing Broadway, West Ealing and Acton Main Line stations.

In addition, Bombardier and Siemens are working closely to increase the reliability of the train and signalling software and have committed some of their most experienced team members from around the world so that Crossrail can complete dynamic testing of the railway technical systems before intensive trial running to simulate the full railway service. Extensive off-site simulation is being undertaken by Siemens and Bombardier at the Crossrail Integration Facility in Chippenham and by Bombardier in Derby. Each new version of the train and signalling software increases functionality and the range of dynamic testing that can be undertaken.

The train and signalling software is tested both off site and in the tunnel environment. Crossrail is currently using signalling software configuration P_D+8. Testing with a later configuration (P_D+10) is due to commence in October – this is expected to be the release that enables progress to the trial running phase in the first quarter of 2020. The previous software configuration (P_D+7) allowed Crossrail to commence close headway, multi-train testing.

Crossrail remains a hugely complex project, but pressures remain which the team is working hard to mitigate. The main areas of programme risk and uncertainty are currently contractor productivity, software testing for the train and signalling systems and systems integration. Crossrail is working closely with its tier one contractors to demobilise their station delivery teams so that it can move ahead with integrating the nine new stations with the rest of the railway.

Westbound platform at Tottenham Court Road.

By the end of this year, final fit-out and testing and commissioning are due to be completed at many stations and dynamic testing will be in its final stages. The trial running phase will commence in the first quarter of 2020.

Back in April, Crossrail identified a six-month window between October 2020 and March 2021 for the delivery of the central section and this remains unchanged. Following the opening of the central section, 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. Crossrail will be able to provide increasing certainty about when the Elizabeth line will open once it starts to test the complete operational railway and integrate the train and signalling software.

Mark Wild, Crossrail.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: “Work to complete the Elizabeth line continues to make good progress against our new plan. Fit-out is nearing completion at many stations and testing of the train and signalling system is underway but there is still a huge amount to do before the central section can open.

“Crossrail is now in its critical and most challenging final phase due to the significant integration and testing work that remains to be completed. We are fully focused on completing the Elizabeth line and ensuring a safe and reliable passenger service as quickly as possible.”

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