Although Crossrail’s transformation into the Elizabeth line is due to occur “as soon as possible in the first half of 2022”, there is a desire to get it open for Easter, but that is now looking in doubt.
A report by the independent project’s representative (PREP) Jacobs is warning of time pressures on the project which could push the opening of the core tunnels to the later end of the current opening window.
Easter being early April 2022, the report suggests the Elizabeth line could be opening in May 2022.
The main areas that the report highlights are concerns about work at Bond Street although the station has been isolated from the railway so that the Elizabeth line could open without it. It’s currently on track for its early October target to reach a stage that will permit the railway to include it in evacuation tests during Trial Operations. The corrective fire safety work at Canary Wharf is also reported to be delayed, but it’s likely to be completed in early November so that it won’t affect being opened with the other stations.
Although Abbey Wood station opened in October 2017, the Elizabeth line elements were not formally handed over – that’s due in the next week or so.
There had also been some issues finalising the Tunnel Ventilation System (TVS) and they are carrying out the final integrations tests for the next upgrade of the signalling system, ELR100.
The trial running phase is still showing a few problems, most of which were anticipated, but the Jacobs report notes that there are more than 50 operational restrictions currently in place and they need to be removed to achieve a stable trial running service.
At the moment the step-up to testing a simulated timetable of 24 trains per hour has been delayed. That’s not needed to open the line, but is the planned service level when all parts of the line are linked up in May 2023.
What may be more of an issue is that a limited schedule for trial running is slowing the build-up of mileage on the line to prove reliability, which is essential to progress the line towards opening for passenger service.
The next stage of preparing the line to open is Trial Operations, where the line will be tested with hundreds of TfL staff volunteers and is currently due to start in November. There is an internal date for that to start, but the Jacobs report says that there is doubt about hitting that deadline. However, in its response Crossrail indicates that it has been able to start preparatory work earlier than it had on previous stages, reducing the risk to the plans. A preliminary test of how Trial Operations was carried out by TfL staff at Woolwich station in the middle of September.
Responding to the report, Mark Wild, CEO Crossrail said that “there remains a reducing but influential group of technical integration and reliability risks. The risk adjusted opening window for the Central Section remains the first half of 2022.”
The final engineering blockade will give more clarity of the outstanding issues.