Crossrail Ltd plans to bring the Elizabeth line into passenger service as soon as practically possible in the first half of 2022.
Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages. The project is currently operating timetabled train movements in the central operating section, known as Trial Running, and has handed over more than half of the new stations to Transport for London.
The Trial Running programme involves integrated trials to test that the railway is safe and reliable. Crossrail has successfully ramped up the number 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 eight trains per hour in operation on the central operating section. This will further increase to 12 trains per hour, expected later in July, which will be the same as the initial passenger service which will operate when the Elizabeth line opens in the first half of 2022. These train movements are critical for increasing mileage across the network, supporting reliability growth of the railway and flushing out any issues with the systems and signalling software. Once completed, it will demonstrate that the Elizabeth line can run at performance levels necessary to move to the next phase of the programme.
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.
Delivering a safe railway in an equally safe working environment is our top priority. Despite the challenges involved in transitioning from a construction environment to an operational railway, our safety performance has been good. As a project, we continue to be vigilant to risks to safety and in recent months we have stepped up our levels of engagement with colleagues to remind them of the changes to the process and procedures that we now operate under.
Crossrail sites are still 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.
Our controlled delivery environment - on-site and in the office – continues with daily tracking of resources 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. Over half of the new stations in the central section have been handed over to TfL.
Custom House, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road, Woolwich and Liverpool Street Elizabeth line stations have been handed over to TfL following successful completion of testing and integration work.
Paddington, Whitechapel and Canary Wharf 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) was better than target at 97.3% for the east and 95.6% for the west (the highest level since the end of the summer last year). The Moving Annual Average trend was also better than target, recording 95.8%
Train software updates have driven an improvement in reliability in the Class 345 nine-car Full-Length Units (FLU) operating the Reading and Heathrow services. Although there has been a welcome improvement, it is not currently at the forecasted levels partly due to the emergence of non-software related door and hardware issues. The manufacturer, Alstom, is reviewing future software releases and instigating a fleet-wide component inspection regime.
In May we successfully launched, as planned, the new Stage 4a timetable and commenced the first three nine-car Class 345 FLU trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, supplementing the seven-car Class 345 trains currently operating on that route. The transition of the Liverpool Street to Shenfield service to a full FLU operation (22 trains) will start in the autumn.
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.
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 however there are challenges being experienced at these stations that are causing pressure to the schedule for completion of their works.
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 remain absolutely resolute in our determination to provide Londoners with a safe and reliable railway.