Crossrail Ltd plans to bring the Elizabeth line into passenger service as soon as practically possibly in the first half of 2022.
Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risks and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks. Our focus is on meeting the immediate challenges posed by COVID-19.
We expect to commence extensive commissioning of the railway in spring 2021. The next phase, Trial Running, involves multiple trains operating in the central operating section to test the timetable and build reliability, while the final works to the stations are completed. It will take a period of time to fully test the Elizabeth line before it can open for passenger service. This includes a final phase known as Trial Operations involving people being invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios to ensure the readiness of the railway.
Following the opening of the central section, full services across the Elizabeth line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will be introduced. The introduction of full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change.
Crossrail is working to ensure that the programme is ready to commence Trial Running at the earliest opportunity. This will see multiple trains operating in the tunnels to simulate the Elizabeth line timetable.
To commence Trial Running, Crossrail needs to complete the following key steps:
- Complete handover of the shafts and portals to TfL
- Complete Dynamic Testing of the signalling and train systems
- Complete integration testing across the routeway for Trial Running
- All central section stations certified as ready to support Trial Running
- Handover the completed Routeway to TfL
- Complete the safety and assurance process for the Elizabeth line
Trial Running is vital to unlocking the pathway to passenger service. It involves multiple trains operating in the central operating section to demonstrate that the railway is capable of reliably meeting the capacity and other requirements, whilst the final works to the stations are completed.
The initial phase of Trial Running will see a limited number of trains in operation on the central operating section to allow the infrastructure manager, TfL, to undertake a number of activities to achieve full readiness. The number of trains will gradually increase before further activities such as timetable operation, timetable demonstrations and integration testing can be undertaken.
Outstanding works have been scheduled into the programme and will take place during the Trial Running period. These works include a combination of project maintenance, snagging and enhancements and some testing and commissioning activity.
There will also be four train signalling software upgrades during Trial Running and time has been allocated in the Trial Running programme for each to be tested as appropriate and deployed.
Crossrail sites are observing strict social distancing protocols and the numbers of people at each location is limited at all times.
Crossrail have increased efforts to complete the outstanding construction and assurance activities for Trial Running to make up some of the lost time caused as a consequence of COVID-19. This was supported by a 6-week construction blockade which came to an end on 17 September, an 11-day blockade in November, and a further blockade over the festive period. The construction blockades have been very successful with a high level of productivity achieved and a major programme of works delivered across the central section routeway by the supply chain.
Across the programme, the majority of office-based staff continue to work remotely in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Government has advised that where people cannot work from home, such as those working in construction, manufacturing or critical infrastructure; they should continue to attend their workplace. As a result, we have not needed to pause works on the programme as we did last year.
Our controlled delivery environment - on site and in the office – continues with daily tracking of resource affected and frequent reviews of policy to ensure alignment to Transport for London, Public Health England and industry best practice. With the help of our supply chain, we have put in place strict social distancing measures, introduced temperature checks, introduced staggered working patterns, increased cleaning regimes and increased provision of welfare facilities to ensure our sites remain Covid safe.
CENTRAL SECTION PROGRESS
Much of the central section infrastructure is now complete and fit-out is nearing completion at many stations. Twelve of the 30 big engineering structures have now reached full handover to TfL: Farringdon and Custom House stations; Royal Oak, Victoria Dock, Pudding Mill Lane, North Woolwich and Plumstead Portals; and Fisher Street, Mile End, Limmo, Eleanor Street and Stepney Green Shafts.
There is now a full complement of central section stations having reached the Staged Completion 1 (SC1) Enactment state after Paddington achieved this milestone last month. This means all central section stations now have their assets assured and certified as ready to support Trial Running.
Custom House, the first of our central section stations to be handed over to TfL, is in the final stages of testing and will shortly be integrated into the network. Farringdon station has become the second of the new Elizabeth line stations to be handed over to TfL and the first to London Underground as infrastructure manager, following successful completion of testing and integration work.
Tottenham Court Road and Paddington stations are both less than 12 weeks away from being handed over to TfL, with Tottenham Court Road expected to be handed over in early May. This follows both stations achieving their T-12 landmark in February. As a result, works at the stations are now primarily focused on the extensive testing and commissioning of systems ahead of the Elizabeth line opening. Reaching this important milestone allows the contractor to commence demobilisation across the site and enables Crossrail to start the process of handing the station over to TfL.
Works to achieve a number of additional interim states of completion in order to support Trial Operations and entry into revenue service also continue, with five station having achieved their Substantial Completion 3 (SC3), marking the substantial completion of construction works.
The Crossrail programme is progressing assurance of the railway. Assurance documentation required for entry into Trial Running remains a priority.
The closure of ‘dependencies’, which are pieces of outstanding assurance work, remains critical to getting the Safety Justification documents for the routeway accepted.
While there is a significant amount of work to do to close these dependencies, progress has been made in making the assurance process itself as efficient as possible to ensure it can accommodate the remaining assurance work.
There is currently a huge focus and effort across the programme to close these dependencies. This is highly complex and safety critical work, and our entry into Trial Running is vital but must be completed diligently and to the highest safety standards.
TfL Rail services between Shenfield and Liverpool Street and Paddington to Heathrow and Reading continue to operate with high reliability and remained above target at 95.7% Public Performance Measure (PPM) in February, with the Moving Annual Average now at 95.8% – the highest since TfL Rail took over operations in 2015.
The Class 345 nine car passenger trains (full length units) introduced in December 2020 to the Reading route have seen expected improvements in reliability during the latest period. The majority of failures were software-related, predominantly within the on-train ETCS signalling system. The next reliability improving software, including improved ETCS performance, has been delivered and will be applied to the fleet during March 2021.
Training of operations and maintenance staff remains on schedule, but COVID-19 remains the biggest risk to both trainers and trainees. Lateral Flow testing has been introduced on a daily basis at the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA) training facility and twice weekly at Romford Route Control Centre to bring an additional level of confidence to trainers and trainees.
Network Rail’s major upgrade of the existing railway and stations on the east and west of the Elizabeth line continue with overall completion throughout 2021
Over the past month, the focus at Acton Main Line has been on snagging work for the new ticket hall and step-free access provided by lifts, as well as completion of assurance and safety documentation. West Ealing and Ealing Broadway stations are also well advanced and at Southall, works continue to the new station building and platform steelwork. Network Rail is making progress with the installation of blockwork and screed for the new station building at Hayes & Harlington as well as the installation of passenger lifts to the platforms. Works at West Drayton have also focused on the new station building as well as enabling works for the refurbishment of the canopy on platform 4/5. On the eastern section, Ilford and Romford stations have been undergoing station building works as well as lift machine room construction and platform information screen installation.