Crossrail to open 'by March 2021 latest'... but Bond Street still facing delays

Ella Wills

The central section of London's beleaguered Crossrail project will open by March 2021 at the latest, those behind it have pledged.

But even by then Bond Street station will not be ready, the company revealed on Thursday.

The crisis-hit line, should have been opened by the Queen last December, will now open during a six-month delivery window with a mid-point at the end of 2020, Crossrail Ltd said.

It expects the section of the Elizabeth line between Paddington and Abbey Wood in south-east London to open during 2020, although it could be as late as March 2021.

It will initially run 12 trains per hour during peak times.

However Bond Street is not expected to open at this time due to delays over "design and delivery challenges", a statement said.

The firm said it is working to ensure the station "is ready to open at the earliest opportunity".

After the central section has opened, Crossrail said full services across the line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will begin "as soon as possible".

The company said that as work continues there will be regular "progress reports" for Londoners and "increasingly specific estimates" of when the line will open.

Tunnel vision: the completed track in Whitechapel (PA)

Crossrail Ltd said that there are four major tasks still to 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

Responding to the announcement, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I was deeply angry and frustrated when we found out about the delay to Crossrail last year. The information we had been given by the former Chair was clearly wrong.

"We now have a new Crossrail leadership team who have worked hard over recent months to establish a realistic and deliverable schedule for the opening of the project, which TfL and the Department for Transport will now review.


“Crossrail is a hugely complex project. With strengthened governance and scrutiny in place, TfL and the Department for Transport, as joint sponsors, will continue to hold the new leadership to account to ensure it is doing everything it can to open Crossrail safely and as soon as possible.

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 at Crossrail Ltd, said: "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."

The announcement of the new timetable for progress came as Transport for London's (TfL) commissioner refused to resign over the delayed project.

Mike Brown declared that he is "fit to be in position" and has the "full support" of Mr Khan.

A report published by the London Assembly Transport Committee on Tuesday stated that Mr Brown, who has held the role at TfL since September 2015, "altered key messages of risk" on deadlines on the project which were sent to Mr Khan's office.

The report recommended that Mr Brown, appointed by Boris Johnson when he was mayor and paid at least £350,000 in 2017/18, "reflect(s) on whether he is fit to continue to fulfil his role".

Giving evidence to the committee on Thursday, Mr Brown said: "I'm not reflecting on whether I'm fit to be in position. I believe I am.

"I've got the full support of the mayor and that's the end of that issue from my point of view."

Mr Khan's office has said he has "every confidence" in Mr Brown, adding that the previous leadership of Crossrail were responsible for providing "inadequate information" about the delays.

Crossrail's delay has resulted in a row over when Mr Khan knew the railway would not open on time.

He claims he only found out on August 29, two days before Londoners were informed, but Crossrail Ltd's former chairman Sir Terry Morgan insists the mayor was aware of problems at least a month beforehand.

Sir Terry resigned as chairman of HS2 Ltd and Crossrail Ltd - a TfL subsidiary - in December.

The project's budget has fluctuated from £15.9 billion in 2007 to £14.8 billion in 2010.

But due to the cost of the delayed opening, a £2 billion Government bailout of loans and cash was announced in December.