Crossrail has announced that it expects to be able to open the Elizabeth line during the Summer of 2021 — earlier than the “autumn” opening date suggested earlier this week.

This latest forecast is based on the current progress with completing software development for the signalling and train systems along with safety assurance for the railway so that intensive operational testing can begin this year.

The central section remains on schedule to be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter this year except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue concluding at the end of 2020. Fit-out is nearing completion at many stations with all physical works complete in the tunnels, shafts and portals.

Crossrail says though that it now has increasing confidence that Bond Street will be ready to open with the rest of the central section.

Crossrail expects to transition into intensive operational testing of the central section, known as Trial Running, in Autumn 2020. This will see multiple trains operating in the tunnels to simulate the Elizabeth line timetable. Progress continues to be made with completing software development for the signalling and train systems along with the safety assurance for the railway so that Trial Running can begin at the earliest opportunity.

Once Trial Running begins a period of time will be required to fully test the Elizabeth line before it can open for passenger service. This includes a final phase known as Trial Operations involving people being invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios.

Mark Wild, Chief Executive, Crossrail, said: “I know that Londoners are deeply frustrated by the delays to the Elizabeth line and we are doing everything we can to get this railway finished and open. We continue to make good progress with the central section now reaching substantial completion and we are increasingly confident that Bond Street station will be ready to open with the rest of the railway. We have a comprehensive plan to complete the Elizabeth line and the milestones we must hit during 2020, including the testing of the signalling and train systems and safety assurance, but there are no shortcuts to delivery of this hugely complex railway.”

“Our latest assessment is that Elizabeth line services through central London will commence in summer 2021 but we are aiming to open the railway as soon as we can. This forecast assumes a period of time will be required to undertake intensive operational testing. The key focus for everyone on the Crossrail project is commencing intensive testing of the Elizabeth line as soon as we can in 2020, to enable passenger service as early as possible in 2021.”

Crossrail cost forecasts continue to show that the project will be delivered within the additional funding range announced in November 2019. This indicated a range of between £400 million to £650 million more than the revised funding agreed by the Mayor, Government and Transport for London in December 2018.

That additional funding has still be to be agreed though.

Following the opening of the central section, full services across the Elizabeth line route from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will commence by mid-2022.

Article updated 3pm – to correct error in expectations due to your idiot correspondent getting his earlier/later mixed up.

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