Yup, that’s Crossrail. You’re probably wondering how it ended up in this situation.
Well, here’s a little rundown of the whole Crossrail saga. In July 2018, bright-eyed and full of hope, we brought you the news of the Crossrail’s official opening date, slated for December 2018. Yet a month later, the opening was announced to be delayed by about nine months. The, two days after the original opening date, we told you that it wasn’t looking likely until at least 2020. In April 2019, the news was that it might be delayed until 2021.
Then, in November 2019, news came that it had definitely been delayed until 2021 – and what’s more, the project was set to run as much as £650 million over budget. In August 2020, with a pandemic between us and that latest development, news arrived that Crossrail now won’t be finished until 2022, and will require an extra £1.1 billion to complete. Back in December, we learned that the beleaguered project has been given an extra £825 million in funding in order to push the final phase of Crossrail to completion. Phew, keeping up?
All a bit messy so far, isn’t it? The mooted opening date for the central London section of the line – from Paddington to Abbey Wood, and connecting major stations at Tottenham Court Road, Liverpool Street, and Canary Wharf – is the somewhat vague timeframe of “the first half of 2022”. Crossrail bosses noted in August 2020 that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns had thrown the “complex final stages” of the project into further disarray, but there’s no denying the fact it was another blow for a railway that’s now set to arrive at least three and a half years behind schedule.
Now, we have some fresh hope, as it seems things are on track (hah) for a June 2022 opening. Bosses have insisted that this deadline will be met, with evacuation testing at stations due to commence in the coming weeks. Trial operations, including upgrades to signals and fire safety tests, are said to have already commenced as of November 2021. We don’t have an official date yet (let’s face it, there’s no need at point; ya know, after everything), but we might just get lift off this year.
TFL commissioner Andy Byford clarified that he would not allow the Elizabeth Line to open until he is sure it is reliable. Indeed, no shortcuts has translated into that extra £825 million to complete the project back in 2020.
This trial operations phase, running 12 trains per hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood is said to be around 40 per cent finished, and 8 of 10 stations are now complete, with Canary Wharf set to be handed over within weeks. For Bond Street, however, it’s a little more complex, with the station around three months behind schedule.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The Elizabeth line will transform travel across London and the South East. I’m delighted it is on track to open in the first half of 2022, in what will be a landmark moment for the capital.”
The total cost of the project has now exceeded £20 billion, and we are quite far from the original plan to open in December 2018. Nonetheless, there is no flicker of doubt that, once it opens, Londoners will flock to its doors in the hope of a more convenient, efficient commute.
At some point, the Elizabeth line will carry passengers all the way from Reading and Heathrow, right through the West End, and out towards Stratford and beyond. Hopefully, the latest round of funding puts Elizabeth a little closer to ruling over the tube map. Fingers crossed it hits that deadline.
Also published on Medium.