Crossrail almost at ‘dress rehearsals’ ahead of possible February 2022 opening

Crossrail is set to have its “dress rehearsals” this year and could open by February 2022, MPs have been told.

The Transport for London (TfL) project has faced problems in a number of areas, including construction work and signalling systems, with the impact of coronavirus also costing it £230 million, it has been said.

However, Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild told the Public Accounts Committee on Monday afternoon that efforts to complete the railway are “going well”.

He said: “With the current schedule at the moment we’re in the phase of trial running which is the penultimate stage of Crossrail before we enter something called trial operations.

Crossrail project
Crossrail dress rehearsals could take place this year (Victoria Jones/PA)

“So where we are at the moment, 12 trains are running, we are shaking the system down, this process takes several months to shake up all the faults out of it.

“At the same time we are doing the final integration testing, and when them two things culminate later in autumn, our trial operations will begin which really are the dress rehearsals.

“From the day we enter trial operations the opening of the railway is a short number of weeks away from that.”

He confirmed the railway could open by February at the earliest.

Efforts to complete the railway are supposedly ‘going well’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

Speaking about the impact of coronavirus, Mr Wild told the committee: “Covid has had two impacts really, it’s cost us about £230 million pounds, so it’s had a financial effect.

“The time effect of Covid is probably neutral because we did a reasonably good job when the pandemic happened, we’ve recovered all of the production that we lost.

“So the effect of Covid on Crossrail has unfortunately been more cost-pressure, which is of course the last thing we would need.”

The railway – to be known as the Elizabeth Line – will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, via central London.

It was initially due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010, however the line is planned to partially open in the first half of next year.

The committee heard that journeys from Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf would take just over 30 minutes.

Crossrail project
Journeys from Canary Wharf to Heathrow would take just over 30 minutes (Victoria Jones/PA)

Matt Lodge, of the Department for Transport, told the committee he expects Crossrail to be fully opened by May 2023.

TfL Commissioner Andy Byford added that some services could take place in September 2022, which he said is “markedly earlier” than expected.