Crossrail creeps towards completion with ‘dress rehearsal’ phase

The project, which was approved in 2007, will deliver a new London Underground-like railway, crossing East-West through central London, called the Elizabeth Line. The line runs from Reading through central London, from Paddington to Liverpool Street, before branching off to terminate at Abbey Wood in southeast London and Shenfield in Essex. Construction began in 2007. The Elizabeth Line was originally scheduled to open in 2018.

More than three years behind schedule, the central section of the railway – between Paddington and Abbey Wood – is finally approaching a mooted opening date in the first half of 2022. The project was handed over to TfL in October 2020.

The final stage of the project involves ‘dress rehearsal’-style trial operations to ensure safety and reliability of the railway for public use and to test the feasibility of the timetables.

TfL Commissioner Andy Byford said: “Everyone is working hard to make sure we can open the Elizabeth Line safely and reliably in the first half of 2022. The project continues to have my full, personal attention and with huge progress made to date it is great to now enter this final stretch. The ‘Trial Operations’ phase will see staff really get to grips with all aspects of this complex and transformational railway to ensure we are ready to welcome customers next year.”

Transport bodies and emergency services will roleplay 150 scenarios over approximately six months, including exercises to ensure that staff can respond to incidents such as signal failures and customer sickness. The most complex exercises will include full train and station evacuations involving thousands of staff and volunteers. The final part of trial operations before the railway can open will be the ‘shadow running’ of the trains, where they operate as normal only without passengers.

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said trial operations mark a “significant milestone” in the delivery of the Elizabeth Line.

“The next few months are crucial to making sure the railway can open safely next year, and everyone is working incredibly hard to reach that goal,” he said. “The Elizabeth Line will help transform travel in London and the South East, dramatically improving transport links, supporting regeneration and boosting our economic recovery.”

Transport minister Baroness Vere said: “I’m pleased that a key milestone has been achieved with the start of Trial Operations – a crucial final step to ensure the highest standards of performance and safety of the railway, ahead of the Elizabeth Line opening to passengers next year.”

Mark Wild, Crossrail CEO, added: “We are delighted to have reached the next key stage in delivery of the Elizabeth Line with the start of Trial Operations. It will take several months to complete this final phase. This is an immensely complex railway and we must be able to demonstrate the highest levels of reliability. Everyone is working hard to deliver the Elizabeth Line as soon as practically possible and we remain on track to commence passenger services in the first half of 2022.”

Crossrail has been operating timetabled train movements in the central section of the Elizabeth Line for several months – in order to flush out issues with its signalling software and systems – while commissioning the ELR100 software. Late October marked a pause to running for the commission of one of the last major configurations of software, Crossrail said.