Later than originally hoped, Crossrail has started trial running of trains through the central core of the network, replicating a live service.
At the moment they are running four trains per hour through the central tunnels, and will steadily ramp up over the next couple of months to 12 trains per hour to allow the railway and the supporting systems to be operated as close as possible to an operational timetable.
Ahead of Trial Running commencing, the Great Western Main Line and Great Eastern Main Line were fully integrated with the Elizabeth line central section to form an operational railway ready for trains to run across the route.
Trial running had been expected to start last month, but had been delayed.
Throughout the Trial Running programme, operations and maintenance staff and train drivers will play an integral role with the Romford Route Control Centre (RCC), the hub where they will signal all trains in the tunnel. Maintenance teams will be available to keep the railway running, as well as responding to any operational incidents across the network.
Trial Running is a state that the railway is expected to be ready to go live, but needs to be proven to receive the necessary regulatory approvals. Once that’s completed, the line will move into Trial Operations later this year, which is where the entire network is tested and will involve a wide range of exercises such as evacuations of trains and stations.
Only then can the railway open to the public, which is currently set for some time in the first half of next year.
There is potential to cut the delay by bringing forward Trial Running at the cost of some operational restrictions later on. The Crossrail team have been on record previously as saying they are working to identify anything that can be pushed back to after the line opens so that more effort is focusing on opening the line and dealing with minor adjustments later.
Mark Wild, Crossrail Chief Executive, said: “We have now started the Trial Running of trains on the Elizabeth line and this is an incredibly significant moment. It marks the moment when our focus shifts to commissioning of the new railway and it puts us firmly on the path to Trial Operations and ultimately the opening of the Elizabeth line.
“I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard over many years to get us to this point. There have been real challenges along the way but the start of Trial Running is an important milestone for the Elizabeth line and for London.”
In related news, Tottenham Court Road station’s Elizabeth line section has also become the third of the central London stations to be handed over to TfL, following Farringdon in March and Custom House last year.
Woolwich and Liverpool Street stations also recently entered the T-12 stage, which is the final 12-weeks of work before being handed over to TfL. Paddington station is also in the T-12 process; however, there is considerable pressure at the station, and it looks likely that it will require more time to complete the necessary works before it is handed over to TfL.
Updated 2pm to add extra details about the rest of the line and trial running.