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. The project has reached the important milestone of Crossrail Ltd operating timetabled train movements in the central operating section, known as Trial Running.
This is ahead of the Elizabeth line opening and is a crucial moment in the project with the railway set to open in the first half of 2022. The Trial Running programme involves integrated trials to test that the railway is safe and reliable. Crossrail will steadily ramp up the numbers of trains running in the 42km of tunnels that have been built below London and on the existing rail network to allow the railway and the supporting systems to be operated as close as possible to an operational timetable.
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 volunteers 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.
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.
Ahead of Trial Running commencing, the Great Western Main Line and Great Eastern Main Line were fully integrated with the Elizabeth line central section to form an operational railway ready for trains to run across the route.
The Trial Running phase is progressing well with four trains per hour in operation on the central operating section. The initial phasing of trains has allowed for the bedding down of people, systems and process. It is being used to help identify and iron out any glitches and faults that may arise with our software and systems. The number of trains will gradually increase to 8 trains per hour and then 12 trains per hour.
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.
Before commencing Trial Operations, we will be uploading the passenger-quality software, called ELR100, onto the central operating section. The ELR100 software is the last major configuration before revenue service and it is pivotal to the programme advancing through to Trial Operations.
Crossrail sites are observing strict social distancing protocols and the numbers of people at each location is limited at all times.
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.
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. A third of the new stations in the central section have been handed over to TfL.
Custom House, the first of our central section stations to be handed over to TfL, is fully integrated into the network. Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road have become the second and third of the new Elizabeth line stations to be transferred over to TfL, and the first two handed over to London Underground as infrastructure manager, following successful completion of testing and integration work.
Woolwich, Liverpool Street and Paddington will be the next Elizabeth line stations to be transferred over to TfL. As a result, works at these 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 continue progressive demobilisation from the site.
The Public Performance Measure (PPM) and the Moving Annual Average trend were both better than target at 95.0% and 95.8% respectively.
The Class 345 nine-car Full Length Units (FLU) operating the Reading and Heathrow services are delivering a good service, although reliability growth is below the forecast levels – this is being investigated. In May we successfully commenced the first nine-car Class 345 FLU trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, supplementing the seven-car Class 345 trains currently operating on that route. The Trial Running timetable using FLUs has also successfully commenced in the Central Operating Section under Automatic Train Control by the Siemens Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling system.
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.
The new ticket hall at Ealing Broadway station opened for customers on 27 May with new lifts enabling step-free journeys on TfL Rail, London Underground (District and Central lines) and Great Western Railway. As the latest station to reach this milestone ahead of the Elizabeth line opening, Ealing Broadway has undergone a significant transformation with a large new ticket hall, extended platforms to accommodate the longer Elizabeth line trains as well as signage improvements and customer information screens providing a better customer experience.
West Drayton, Hayes & Harlington, and Southall stations remain on forecast to be step-free by the summer of 2021. Work is also progressing on the eastern section at Ilford and Romford stations. They are both forecast to enter service before the opening of the central section.
The next few months are critical for the project as we gain further certainty in our systems and software. There is confidence that our progress over the past few months has given the project a firm footing to deliver this railway in the first half of 2022.
On a project as complex as the Elizabeth line there will inevitably be challenges as we work to get it into passenger service. However, we will be relentless in our determination and approach to deliver this railway by the first half of 2022, to support London’s recovery.