The new Elizabeth Line (formerly known as Crossrail) will open between October 2020 and March 2021, Crossrail Ltd has announced.
The new £15bn railway which connects Reading and Heathrow Airport to Shenfield and Abbey Wood via central London was due to open in December 2018 but has suffered multiple delays.
Several high-profile events venues are set to benefit from the new route when it opens, most notably Barbican Centre and ExCeL London.
Crossrail bosses have appointed a new leadership team to oversee the final works on the line. All stations on the line apart from Bond Street are expected to open when the line begins operations.
The new Crossrail leadership team says it has identified four major tasks that must 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.
Mark Wild, chief executive, Crossrail Ltd, 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. 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.”
Tony Meggs, chairman, Crossrail Ltd, said: “Both the Crossrail Board and the Crossrail leadership team fully recognise the seriousness of the challenges we face. The Crossrail Board is pleased with the progress by the new Crossrail leadership team to get a grip on the project and pull together a robust and realistic plan to complete the Elizabeth line. An enhanced governance structure has been put in place to strengthen the Crossrail programme. The Crossrail Board will be holding the leadership team to account as they work to complete the railway. We will be open and transparent about our progress and will be providing Londoners and London businesses with regular updates as we seek to rebuild trust with all our stakeholders.”
Jeremy Rees, CEO, ExCeL London, while admitting the Elizabeth Line will make a difference, insists that ExCeL London is already well-connected and the delays will not impact the venue’s operation. He said: “ExCeL is already a very well connected venue, located in the best connected city in the world. Our business continues to grow exponentially, with over 400 events hosted annually. In 2019, we’ve hosted world class exhibitions including Bett and ICE Totally Gaming and are preparing to welcome the world’s leading financial services event, Sibos. Every year, we host over 4 million people, from every corner of the globe, all of whom are able to reach us with ease using the current transport infrastructure. Whilst we are looking forward to the opening of the Elizabeth line, it is not changing our strategy or plans for future development and investment.”
Each Elizabeth line station has over 50 km of communications cabling, 200 CCTV cameras, 66 information displays, 200 radio antennas, 750 loudspeakers and 50 help points. All this technology needs to be fully installed, tested and integrated.
Testing of the trains in the tunnels is now underway with work to increase the reliability of the train software to enable trains to successfully operate across the three signalling systems on the Elizabeth line. Trains have been operating at line speed 62 mph in the central section using the new automatic signalling system and multi-train testing will soon get underway.