Despite their press release to the contrary only a few weeks ago, Crossrail announced that the Elizabeth line will now be opening in autumn 2019, instead of the expected December 2018 date previously provided.
The official reason for this delay is to ensure that Crossrail will be providing a ‘safe and reliable railway’, although no comment was made on the specific changes that have occurred since their previous press release in which they stated that there would be no delays.
The project as a whole, which is currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project, is running almost £600 million over budget. When fully operational, trains will connect from western hubs of Reading and Heathrow to the eastern points of Shenfield and Abbey Wood, covering a distance of 13 miles.
Crossrail has been in planning for over 10 years, and completion of the project is expected to increase central London rail capacity by approximately 10%, which will be the largest increase in operational rail capacity since World War Two. This equates to an estimated 200 million new passengers using the Elizabeth line, a real benefit for London’s public transport problems.
The original budget for Crossrail was £15.9 billion in 2007, and this was subsequently reduced to £14.8 billion in 2010. This has been due to unspecified ‘cost pressures’, but the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London (TfL) have and will continue to provide additional finance. Given that it is currently running at £600 million over budget, this still puts it at £300 million below its initial starting budget.
The DfT and TfL are both providing an additional £150 million, but DfT has also announced that they will be providing an extra £290 million along with Network Rail, to link existing national rail lines and network to the new project.
The end is in sight
Despite the additional delays, DfT suggests that the project currently stands at 93% complete, and the line is in the critical testing stage, before allowing access to the general public. Once the Elizabeth Line is fully operational, it is estimated that it will add up to £42 billion to the UK economy, as well as having significant impacts on efficiency and productivity across London and its outskirts.