The head of the company responsible for delivering the Crossrail project says the first passenger services could start in February 2022 – almost three-and-a-half years later than originally planned.
Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild told the Public Accounts Committee of MPs the Elizabeth Line – which will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east via central London – was nearing the “dress rehearsal” stage.
That was despite additional disruption to the £19bn project from COVID-19, he said.
“With the current schedule at the moment we’re in the phase of trial running which is the penultimate stage of Crossrail before we enter something called trial operations.
“So where we are at the moment, 12 trains are running, we are shaking the system down, this process takes several months to shake up all the faults out of it.
“At the same time we are doing the final integration testing, and when those two things culminate later in autumn, our trial operations will begin which really are the dress rehearsals.
“From the day we enter trial operations the opening of the railway is a short number of weeks away from that,” he told the committee.
Crossrail had an original budget of £14.8bn and completion date of December 2018.
However, it has been dogged by delays ranging from construction difficulties – largely in central London – through to testing.
It is expected to open only partially at first, with full services running across the entire Elizabeth Line by May 2023, according to the government.
Mr Wild highlighted a £230m cost hit to the project from the pandemic to date.
“The time effect of COVID is probably neutral because we did a reasonably good job when the pandemic happened, we’ve recovered all of the production that we lost.
“So the effect of COVID on Crossrail has unfortunately been more cost-pressure, which is of course the last thing we would need.”