The Crossrail Ltd Board today met and considered the latest update from the leadership team concerning the impact of COVID-19 on progress to complete the Elizabeth line.
Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages with a comprehensive plan to complete the railway focused on completing the remaining construction and systems integration followed by intensive operational testing.
A programme of this scale and complexity was already challenging, the impact of COVID-19 has clearly made the existing pressures more acute. Due to a pause of physical activity on sites and significant constraints on ongoing work – time has been lost, only some of which can be recovered. The opening of the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood next summer, as announced earlier this year prior to COVID-19, is not achievable.
Further work is required on the detailed recovery plan which re-sequences the remaining work to complete the railway and fully assess the financial implications of COVID-19 on the programme. A more comprehensive update will be issued in due course; work continues to refine and validate the remaining work schedule and associated costs.
Mark Wild, Chief Executive, Crossrail Ltd, said: “Everyone working on the Crossrail project knows London needs the Elizabeth line more than ever and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and as quickly as we can. We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway but existing schedule pressure along with COVID-19 has impacted the programme and time has been lost. Further work is being undertaken to finalise our detailed recovery plan which re-sequences the remaining work.
“We are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity. Our focus right now is on completing the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway. Crossrail will undertake a period of intensive construction activity starting this August across the tunnels, portals and shafts to help recover lost time and complete the remaining construction works for Trial Running as we progress towards this next important phase.”
Crossrail is one of the UK’s most complex infrastructure projects, comprised of millions of separate elements all of which have to work reliably to ensure the successful operation of the railway and the safety of passengers who will use it every day. Much of the remaining work involves hooking up, integrating and testing the completed infrastructure and railway systems along with the finalisation of the extensive safety case to the Office of Rail and Road who will give the go-ahead to commence Trial Running.
COVID-19 has added to the challenge. Construction works were halted in March as the country went into lockdown and although it has been possible to resume works at a reduced rate, in line with social distancing guidance, the virus has delayed the project’s progress. Faced with these challenges, Crossrail has responded by re-sequencing works and undertaking a construction blockade across the tunnels, portals and shafts starting in August to help recover lost time and complete the outstanding tasks for Trial Running as quickly as possible.
Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, good progress continues to be made with completing the remaining construction works, with much of this work coming to an end along with software testing for the signalling and train systems. The focus is completing the outstanding works across the tunnels, shafts and portals so that intensive operational testing can begin and the Elizabeth line can be delivered at the earliest opportunity.