Crossrail delays will cost TfL up to £1.35bn in lost revenue

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent
Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Delays to Crossrail will cost London up to £1.35bn in lost ticket revenue, according to the capital’s transport authority.

The shortfall in fare income will put further stress on Transport for London’s finances after the central government grant of about £700m a year was ended in 2018.

The opening of the £18bn Elizabeth line, as the completed Crossrail project will be known, is now expected in 2021, at least two years behind schedule and billions of pounds over its original £14.8bn budget.

TfL also warned that there were recent signs of lower passenger demand for public transport, possibly due to wider economic uncertainty, that could further threaten its income. However, TfL said it was still on track to run an operating surplus by 2022-23, with cost-cutting in its everyday operations saving more than £1bn annually.

It said it would continue investment in public transport, walking and cycling. But while some upgrades to the tube will go ahead, TfL said plans to overhaul the “life-expired“ signalling on the Piccadilly line, a major artery across London to Heathrow airport, could not restart without central government funding. The last government spending round made no commitment to any funds for TfL.

(November 1, 2000) 


The study into the possible London East West route is published.


(January 1, 2002) 


Cross London Rail Links Limited is set up as a joint venture between the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London (TFL).


(October 27, 2003) 


Public consultation on the preferred route is held.


(June 20, 2004) 


The government announces the go-ahead for Crossrail.


(July 24, 2008) 


Four years later, and after further public consultation, the Crossrail Hybrid Bill finally passes through parliament.


(May 15, 2009) 


Construction starts.


(January 24, 2014) 


National Audit Office declares that the Crossrail programme is on schedule.


(March 27, 2014) 


The extension of the route to Reading is announced.


(May 26, 2015) 


Tunnelling work is declared finished. TFL takes over the running of the Liverpool Street to Shenfield mainline services which will form the eastern part of the route.


(February 23, 2016) 


It is announced that the route will officially be called the Elizabeth Line when it opens.


(May 3, 2017) 


The first tests of the new trains are delayed.


(June 22, 2017) 


The first of the new trains enter service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.


(January 24, 2018) 


Crossrail is forced to reveal that it is running 20% over budget, but says it will still open by the end of the year.


(May 20, 2018) 


Tfl starts running services from Paddington to Heathrow, which will form part of the western end of the final Crossrail service.


(July 24, 2018) 


Government approves additional funding, increasing the total budget from £14.8bn to £15.4bn.


(August 31, 2018) 


Crossrail announces that there will be a year delay in opening, with services through the tunnelled London section expected to open in autumn 2019.


(November 8, 2019) 


Further delays and a rise in costs to £18bn are announced - with the aim for Crossrail to open “as soon as practically possible in 2021”.


The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I am hugely proud of what we have achieved improving transport across London – this is despite the ongoing economic uncertainty and the average reduction of £700m per year in TfL’s funding from central government.

“But London also needs a government that recognises the importance of continued investment in new infrastructure for the future of our economy, and it is essential the new government commits to working with us to deliver vital projects such as Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo line extension.”

The TfL commissioner, Mike Brown, said he was working urgently to secure “steady, sustained funding in existing and new infrastructure” from the new government.

Crossrail remains TfL’s biggest headache, with delays adding significant additional capital investment and revenue pressures, the transport authority said. On Sunday one small milestone will be passed as TfL takes over the running of services to Reading from Paddington, a future western branch of the Elizabeth line.

Although many stations are near completion, Crossrail confirmed last month it would need more time to finish the signalling software, as well as months of testing that ruled out opening the central, underground section next year. It is now due to open “as soon as practically possible in 2021”.

That delay would spell an additional £500m and £750m in lost revenue for TfL over the next four years, on top of £600m already accounted for in the business plan issued in December 2018 when the first delays were known. TfL will also partially fund the escalating construction costs of Crossrail.