The Crossrail project, to build the Elizabeth line across and under London, looks like it will be delayed again.
The Crossrail board has received an update from its leadership team on how COVID-19 has affected progress on completing the Elizabeth line. Delivery is now in its final stages, with a comprehensive plan in place that focused on completing the remaining construction and systems integration followed by intensive operational testing.
However, COVID-19 has clearly interrupted those plans. Time has been lost due to a pause of physical activity on sites and significant constraints on ongoing work, only some of which can be recovered. As a result, the opening of the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood next summer, as announced earlier this year prior to COVID-19, is not now achievable.
Further work is required on a detailed recovery plan that will re-sequence the remaining work to complete the railway and fully assess the financial implications of COVID-19 on the programme. A more comprehensive update will be issued in due course. Meanwhile, work continues to refine and validate the remaining work schedule and associated costs.
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: “Everyone working on the Crossrail project knows London needs the Elizabeth line more than ever and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and as quickly as we can.
“We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway, but existing schedule pressure along with COVID-19 has impacted the programme and time has been lost. Further work is being undertaken to finalise our detailed recovery plan, which re-sequences the remaining work.
“We are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity. Our focus right now is on completing the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway.
“Crossrail will undertake a period of intensive construction activity starting this August across the tunnels, portals and shafts to help recover lost time and complete the remaining construction works for Trial Running as we progress towards this next important phase.”
Much of the outstanding work involves hooking up, integrating and testing the completed infrastructure and railway systems along with the finalisation of the extensive safety case to the Office of Rail and Road who will give the go-ahead to commence Trial Running. This critical phase will see multiple trains operating in the tunnels so as to test the timetable and build reliability while the final works to the stations are completed.
Construction works were halted on 25 March as the country went into lockdown due to COVID-19, as was Dynamic Testing in the tunnels. However, verification and assurance work continued during the safe stop. Although physical activity on Crossrail sites recommenced on 15 June and Dynamic Testing in the tunnels resumed on 30 May, the temporary shutdown delayed the project’s progress.
As a result, Crossrail has re-sequenced work and will be undertaking a construction blockade across the tunnels, portals and shafts starting in August to help recover lost time and complete the outstanding tasks for Trial Running as quickly as possible.
Crossrail is reporting that good progress continues to be made with completing the remaining construction works, with much of this work coming to an end, including software testing for the signalling and train systems. The focus is now on completing the outstanding works across the tunnels, shafts and portals so that the intensive operational testing can begin that will allow the Elizabeth line can be delivered at the earliest opportunity.