The Crossrail project has commenced the final stage of testing the line before it can open to the public, after they started Trial Operations on Saturday.
This now marks the final testing phase of the project before the Elizabeth line opens for passenger services between Paddington and Abbey Wood in the first half of 2022. In total, just over 150 test scenarios will be carried out over the next three to four months, covering a wide range of issues such as station closures, escalator and lift failures and power cuts.
The trains themselves will continue running to build up mileage and prove reliability, while hundreds of TfL staff carry out practice drills to test the stations to ensure they comply with safety regulations. At this stage, the tests are not expected to throw up any issues, but are needed to prove that the procedures work as planned, and to give staff in the stations training in how to handle the unexpected.
Trial Operations will see a number of organisations, including London Underground and Transport for London, MTR Elizabeth line, Network Rail and the emergency services all working together to respond to the trial scenarios.
Six of the largest exercises, which are due to take place early next year, will see full train evacuation drills, with mobility-impaired passengers and patients to ensure the full 1,500 passengers can be swiftly taken out of a train and up to the surface.
Only once all the tests and drills have been completed will the line be certified as safe to open to the public. The Crossrail team will finally then be able to confirm what the official opening date will be, which will likely be a few weeks later.
TfL’s Commissioner, Andy Byford has been clear that the line will only open once they are absolutely certain that it can offer a reliable service. They don’t want the same sort of disastrous opening as happened to Heathrow’s Terminal 5, which was beset by delays and cancellations when it opened in 2008.
That gives them time to make the final preparations to open to the public, and have a short period known as Shadow Running, which is where the Elizabeth line runs as if in full passenger service, with all the staff in stations and on trains working to live rotas.
The Elizabeth line is currently scheduled to open “as soon as possible in the first half of 2022”.
When it opens, initially it will operate as three separate services.
- Paddington low-level to Abbey Wood
- Paddington high-level to Reading/Heathrow
- Liverpool Street high-level to Shenfield
The gaps will be joined up later in the year with a final change due in 2023.