Crossrail opening postponed ‘indefinitely’

New boss admits ‘there’s still a huge amount to do’ amid £2bn funding shortfall

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(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The opening of London’s crisis-hit Crossrail has been delayed indefinitely, after the project’s incoming boss admitted “there is still a huge amount to do”.

The capital’s flagship east-west Elizabeth Line rail link had been due to open this month, but was pushed back until Autumn next year after delays were announced over the summer.

A review of the project by the new chief executive of Crossrail, Mark Wild, found crucial infrastructure, including stations and the tunnel interiors, has yet to be completed, while the complex signalling system will need extensive safety and reliability testing.

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Crossrail’s leaders had long boasted it would be delivered on time and on budget. However, a week after the project was thrown into further turmoil following the resignation of its long-serving chair, Sir Terry Morgan, Wild said it was “evident that there is a huge amount still to do”.

Refusing to set a definite completion date, Wild said: “My team and I are working to establish a robust and deliverable schedule in order to give Londoners a credible plan to open the railway and provide a safe and reliable service. Once that work is completed we will then be in a position to confirm a new opening date.”

Transport for London officials have now scrapped the revised Autumn 2019 timeline and also warned an additional £1.7billion may be needed to complete the line.

This would bring the total cost of the project, Europe’s biggest infrastructure undertaking, to £17.6bn, following a £590m cash injection in July.

The Guardian reports a bailout to cover the shortfall “has been agreed between the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the government for loans totalling just over £2bn to city authorities”

Khan, who has in the past expressed concern about the effectiveness of Crossrail’s governance, said: “I haven’t hidden my anger and frustration about the Crossrail project being delayed. This has a knock-on consequence of significant additional cost to the project. It has been increasingly clear that the previous Crossrail Ltd leadership painted a far too optimistic picture of the project’s status.”

According to The Independent “the mayor has ordered the release of all Crossrail Board minutes over the last five years in a bid to provide transparency of the process and has written to the National Audit Office confirming his full support of its planned investigation into the project”.

Rail minister Andrew Jones said he was committed to the “rapid completion of the project, in a way that is fair to UK taxpayers, and that enables London – as the primary beneficiary of Crossrail – to bear the additional costs”.

“Crossrail was the industry's mega star,” says BBC London Transport Correspondent Tom Edwards, “but the project’s catchphrase “on time and on budget”, has been totally obliterated. And it is Londoners who will have to pay through increased borrowing.”

“This is also a terrible scenario for Transport for London. Its finances were already in a bad way with a £1bn deficit. This will have consequences for TfL it'll probably mean cuts,” he adds.

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