Crossrail: Elizabeth Line reaches dress rehearsal stage ahead of 2022 launch

·3-min read
Crossrail: Elizabeth Line reaches dress rehearsal stage ahead of 2022 launch

Crossrail has achieved a “significant milestone” with the start of a final series of dress rehearsal tests, Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Monday.

The long-delayed, over-budget line, which should have opened in December 2018, entered the “trial operations” phase on Saturday.

This involves simulating more than 150 real-life problems, from signal failures to passengers falling unwell – a process that will take three to four months.

Six mass evacuation tests, involving thousands of staff and volunteers, will be delayed until the New Year due to problems with the tunnel ventilation system.

The line, which has increased in cost by £4bn to more than £20bn, is due to open by June. A precise opening date is not expected to be announced for several months.

Mr Khan said: “Reaching the start of trial operations is a significant milestone in the delivery of the Elizabeth line. The next few months are crucial to making sure the railway can open safely next year.”

Last week Crossrail bosses formally abandoned hopes of it opening by Christmas or early next year when they said the opening window was now between “February and June”.

It also emerged that Bond Street station may not be able to fully open when trains finally start running.

TfL commissioner Andy Byford does not want Bond Street to delay the launch of Elizabeth line services and has asked staff to investigate the feasibility of a partial opening of the station.

He said: “There are two ticket halls – an eastern ticket hall and a western ticket hall.

“Could we, should we open with just one ticket hall, given that there won’t be as many customers using the station as we first envisaged, because of the lingering impacts of covid, potential ‘stay at home’ orders etc?”

Passengers would still be able to interchange with the Jubilee and Central lines but, with platforms more than 200m long, would face a longer walk to Oxford Street.

The cost of constructing Bond Street station – the most expensive on the line - had soared to £680m.

This is more than five times the £126m original estimate and 65 per cent higher than the £412m bill three years ago.

The total cost of Crossrail has reached £18.9 billion, excluding the £1.1 billion cost of new trains and the depot at Old Oak Common.

Pre-pandemic, TfL had hoped to generate a £500m annual profit from Crossrail. This is being recalculated as part of TfL’s latest bid for a Government bailout.

The problems at Bond Street date to a year’s delay in the twin underground tunnels reaching the station.

Station contractor Costain Skanska quit with mutual consent last year after covid caused further problems, with TfL paying £19m to end the contract.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said that if Bond Street had not been brought “in house” the final bill could have been £775m.

Construction work is due to finish at Bond Street by February but the process of integrating it with the railway could take many weeks. Challenges include the tunnel ventilation system and the platform-edge doors.

Mr Wild said: “We are still not out of the woods at Bond Street. Recovering an 18-month slippage is not easy at all.

“You could see Bond Street opening with the railway, but it all depends on when we get the railway open.”

Nick Rogers, Conservative London Assembly member, said: “It’s disappointing that Bond Street is still lagging behind the Crossrail project.

“This station is crucial to the Elizabeth Line, so it must open when the service finally starts. TfL’s plan to partly open the station is not ideal, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.”

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