Crossrail delayed until 2021 and could be £650 million over budget

Ross Lydall, Joanna Bourke, Tim Baker
PA

Hopes of opening Crossrail next year were officially abandoned today as bosses revealed it could cost the public purse an extra £650 million to get the crisis-hit line running.

Transport for London announced that the opening “will not occur in 2020” and admitted its total cost could soar to £18.25 billion. The line should have opened last December.

It is a blow for Mayor Sadiq Khan who was said to be “deeply frustrated” that difficulties in completing the cross-London route were “even more severe than thought”.

Crossrail bosses had drawn up a revised plan to open the central section under the West End in a “six-month window” between October next year and March 2021.

But today TfL formally ruled out its opening next year in a statement to the London Stock Exchange. The line will now open “as soon as practically possible in 2021”, with no commitment to this happening by March 2021.

Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrat who led a London Assembly investigation into the line, said: “The further delays to the opening of Crossrail and increasing costs are appalling news for Londoners.”

Problems have centred on the difficulty of integrating the software on the £1 billion fleet of trains with three signalling systems along the 73-mile route to ensure the line meets the highest safety standards.

Plans to start full “trial running” of the trains next February have slipped until May or June. However, problems completing stations such as Bond Street and Whitechapel have eased.

Difficulties with the army of contractors and sub-contractors have also sent the cost soaring.

TfL said the latest cost projections were £400 million higher than the £17.6 billion revised budget agreed with the Government last year, but as much as £650 million extra may be needed.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said the delay was “disappointing” but a result of having to integrate 2.5 million pieces of equipment, much of which is “safety critical”.

He told the Evening Standard: “It’s not good we are using more public money, we have got to be very disappointed with that. But we are doing a very thorough, proper job. This is being built to the very highest safety standards.”

When complete, the line will link Reading and Heathrow with Shenfield and Abbey Wood and will be renamed the Elizabeth line.

Today’s announcement confirms problems highlighted to the TfL board by Crossrail chairman Tony Meggs in September, when he said an extra £400 million may be required and the line may not open until mid-2021.

TfL already faced a £600 million loss of fares income over the next five years due to the delayed opening.

Its business plan is now being updated to account for “potential financial impacts” of the additional delay and extra costs.

London businesses — who were already having to pay an extra £600 million in business rates towards Crossrail — today reacted with fury.

Patrick Dardis, of pub chain Young’s, said: “It’s just an embarrassment for TfL, Government, the Mayor and the UK in general.”

A spokesman for Mr Khan said today: “TfL and the Department for Transport, as joint sponsors, will continue to hold the Crossrail leadership to account to ensure it is doing everything it can to open Crossrail safely and as soon as possible.”

A further announcement on the opening date is due early next year.

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