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Crossrail delayed again as costs soar for London's new Elizabeth line

·Finance and policy reporter
A platform for the new Elizabeth Line at Whitechapel station in east London as the latest developments in the Crossrail project continue to progress.
A platform for the new Elizabeth Line at Whitechapel station. Photo: PA

London’s new Elizabeth Line will not open next year as planned as the troubled Crossrail project faces more delays and costs soar, transport chiefs have admitted.

Transport for London (TfL) said the new line, running east to west across the capital, will now only open “as soon as practically possible” in 2021.

Several senior figures have stepped down in recent years, with the 188km line already over budget and behind schedule. It was initially due to open in December 2018.

TfL said its projections suggest the scheme, billed as Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, will now cost at least another £400m, taking overall costs to £15.36bn.

READ MORE: Over-budget, overdue new line could lose another top boss

But Crossrail Limited, a subsidiary of London’s transport body, said there was the risk it could rise still further to £15.61bn.

TfL, chaired by London mayor Sadiq Khan, said in a statement on the London Stock Exchange that it was now “in discussion” with the department for transport about how the extra costs would be funded.

‘No short-cuts to delivering this complex railway’

Mark Wild, chief executive of Crossrail Ltd, said the project has made “good progress over recent months.”

He said the company was “finalising” the stations, tunnels, portals and shafts for much of 2019, with Custom House, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations set to be finished by the end of the year.

But he said work was ongoing at Bond Street and Whitechapel stations.

“Crossrail Ltd will need further time to complete software development for the signalling and train systems and the safety approvals process for the railway.

“The trial running phase will begin at the earliest opportunity in 2020, this will be followed by testing of the operational railway to ensure it is safe and reliable,” Wild said in a statement.

READ MORE: Royal Mail loses legal battle to stop postal strike

He added: “We are doing everything we can to complete the Elizabeth line as quickly as we can but there are no short-cuts to delivering this hugely complex railway.”

Meanwhile a TfL spokeswoman said more funding was needed to “manage the handover of the railway safely and reliably,” but said the scheme continued to make progress.

She said it was only over the past year that Crossrail’s new leadership had realised “the full complexity” of finishing software development and signalling systems and obtaining safety sign-off.

TfL and the government would work closely with Crossrail Ltd to get the project “delivered safely and as quickly as possible,” she added.

‘Londoners will be paying the price’

Shaun Bailey, Conservative party candidate for the 2020 London Mayoral Election candidate, speaking on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Convention Centre. Picture dated: Tuesday October 1, 2019. Photo credit should read: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment.
Shaun Bailey, Conservative party candidate for the 2020 London mayoral election. Photo: Isabel Infantes / EMPICS Entertainment

Crossrail’s deadline has been repeatedly pushed back from its original December 2018 date, first to December this year, then to late 2020 to early 2021 and now to an unspecified date in 2021.

The delays could spark fresh controversy over Britain’s handling of major infrastructure projects, as it marks the latest in a long line of delayed, over-budget schemes.

They are also likely to enrage many business owners along the route, with many facing significant disruption from construction and others gearing their plans around projected opening dates.

READ MORE: Chancellor tears up budget rules to allow major spending on infrastructure

Shaun Bailey, the Conservatives’ London mayoral candidate, tweeted that it was “nothing short of embarrassing” for Transport for London and for mayor Sadiq Khan.

“On their watch the Crossrail crisis has continually spiralled out of control and now, this is where we are at: No 2020 opening, further costs of up to £650m and us Londoners will be quite literally paying the price,” he wrote.