Crossrail delayed again, plus an extra £1.1bn needed.

The team responsible for the 60-mile east-west route across London said in yet another “hugely disappointing” setback that social-distancing restrictions meant only half the expected number of workers could be on site. 

Crossrail bosses warned in July that the completion date of the central section of the Elizabeth line route from Paddington to Abbey Wood scheduled for summer 2021 would not be met.

The confirmation that it could be up to a year later before passengers can board trains means a shattering setback to hopes for revitalising the struggling central London economy after lockdown. 

The extra space granted by the route, which will serve major destinations such as Bond Street and Farringdon, would have made it far easier for nervous commuters to travel safely into the West End and the City without having to face packed carriages.

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The announcement came after a Crossrail Ltd board meeting, where the latest planned completion dates and costs were agreed. This could mean that trains would not be able to run from Berkshire to Essex along the entire length of the Crossrail until May 2023. Chief Executive Mark Wild said: “The delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being undertaken at a time of considerable uncertainty because of the risks and potential implications of further COVID spreads.

The latest delay is a huge setback for the already strained finances of TfL, which have been devastated by the massive slump in passenger revenue since the start of the lockdown.

At the last update, bosses noted that “we are doing everything we can to complete the Elizabeth line as quickly as we can, but there are no shortcuts to delivering this hugely complex railway”. Indeed, no shortcuts have turned into an estimated extra £1.1 billion to complete the project. To make matters worse, New Civil Engineer also notes that TfL will have to pay an annual charge of £15M to the Canary Wharf Group if the district’s Crossrail station is not complete by 2021.

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Between now and the eventual opening of the whole line, they need to build and test signalling software, station systems, communication networks, and complete tunnel installations. Once that’s all done, an exhaustive testing phase will need to be completed to ensure the service is fit to carry passengers. After the latest delay, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has asked TfL Commissioner Andy Byford to look into the Crossrail plans; Byford is probably well-equipped to investigate, given his experience with New York’s long-running Second Avenue subway project during his time as that city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) boss.

At some point, the Elizabeth line will carry passengers from Reading and Heathrow, right through the West End, and out towards Stratford and beyond. But for now, it seems like Elizabeth will have to wait to rule over the tube map.