Crossrail remains on track to open the Elizabeth line in the first half of 2022, and we continue to make progress on completing the works necessary to start passenger services in the central section of the railway, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, next year.
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 seven 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 is running 12 trains per hour (tph) in the 42km of tunnels that have been built below London, increasing train mileage, building reliability and flushing out issues with our systems and signalling software.
12 tph is the initial level of service on the Elizabeth line, we will also be testing 24 tph train movements on the railway later this year - this will be the service frequency in the central section when the full Elizabeth line is operational.
The final phase after Trial Running is known as Trial Operations and involves testing over 150 real-time service scenarios to ensure the readiness of the railway, some of which will include staff volunteers to simulate passengers. Following the opening of the central section, full services across the Elizabeth line will be introduced. A new plan has been approved that enables passengers from Reading and Heathrow in the west, and Shenfield in the east to access the central stations without needing to change trains earlier than originally planned.
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 performance levels for future service.
The Trial Running phase is progressing well, running 12 tph which will be the initial train frequency when the Elizabeth line enters passenger service in the first half of 2022. In the coming months, there will also be timetable demonstrations of 24 tph, which will be the service frequency in the central section when the Elizabeth line is fully operational.
To date, a number of expected ‘settling down’ issues encountered during Trial Running have related to known issues in the current software and are expected to be resolved with the next software release, called ELR100. The ELR100 software is the last major configuration before passenger service starts. The software will be commissioned in a blockade planned for October, where we will also complete the outstanding works in the tunnels, including commissioning of the tunnel ventilation system upgrade works. A small number of reliability fixes have also been identified in addition to the significant uplift of functionality and quality in ELR100, these will be accommodated during the Christmas period. Through Trial Running of the railway we have been able to detect bugs and test fixes with the system and software well in advance of passenger service and this will help build a more reliable service for passengers.
Following the commissioning of the ELR100 software, Trial Running will resume, and the performance of the software will be fundamental in determining the commencement of the next stage, Trial Operations.
During Trial Running, we are also completing the final railway integration tests to ensure that all of the components work seamlessly together. These tests are being carried out on the tunnel ventilation system, trains, software, signalling and power systems. The final integration tests can only be done at this stage now that there is a complete railway available. The testing to date has gone well with more than 70% completed. Until all this testing has been completed and the uncertainty eliminated, the opening window cannot be refined.
Trial Operations will involve exercises to prove that the railway is ready for passenger service. It will comprise planned operational exercises to make sure that all people, systems and procedures work effectively. Completion of Trial Operations will mark the final step before passenger services can commence in the first half of 2022. Our latest forecasts project that Trial Operations will commence no earlier than the end of November 2021 but there are several crucial milestones that need to be achieved before then.
Delivery of the Elizabeth line is in its final complex stages and the focus remains on ensuring that it is completed safely.
There has not been a significant injury reported on the project now for five consecutive periods and the overall Health and Safety indicators remain within those set by the programme. There have, however, been two minor slips and trips in recent weeks that have caused minor injuries. Learnings from these minor incidents will help inform corrective measures to ensure we remain as safe as possible.
Crossrail continues to focus on the communication of change and implementation of new procedures for safe access, which has resulted in a significant improvement following the early fail-safe incidents that occurred after the transition to an operational railway earlier this year.
CENTRAL SECTION PROGRESS
In order for the programme to move into the Trial Operations phase, the central section stations need to reach specific states of completion. Much of the central section infrastructure is now complete and handed over to TfL.
Seven stations: Custom House, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road, Woolwich, Liverpool Street, Paddington and Whitechapel Elizabeth line stations have been commissioned and handed over to TfL following successful completion of testing and integration work.
Canary Wharf will be the next Elizabeth line station to be transferred over to TfL. Alongside the completion of the final integration at Abbey Wood, we expect Canary Wharf to be handed over in the autumn. Bond Street is currently showing encouraging signs that it will meet its requirements to be able to support Trial Operations, and our team continues to work towards getting the station open as soon as possible.
The Public Performance Measure (PPM) in the last period improved to 95.6%, better than target and second-best in the country. The Moving Annual Average also remained above target at 95.4%.
The transition to a full complement of nine-car Class 345 trains serving the route from Liverpool Street to Shenfield will start in late autumn when trains can move through the central section tunnels for maintenance at Old Oak Common depot. There are currently six nine-car Class 345 trains serving this route.
The current train control software on the Class 345 trains has not delivered the expected reliability growth, but the containment measures put in place by the operator have lessened the impact and allows a high performing passenger service. Further train software upgrades are being rolled out and another major reliability build will be released in December.
Network Rail’s major upgrade of the existing railway and stations in preparation for the Elizabeth line continues.
In August a new station building at Southall station opened to passengers. Constructed from glass and steel, the new ticket hall provides a more spacious station entrance. Also part of the upgrade works were a new footbridge and three new lifts providing step-free access to all four platforms at the station.
Following the completion of station works at Hayes & Harlington in September, passengers are now benefitting from major improvements at the station including a redeveloped station entrance, made from glass and steel, a new, more spacious ticket hall and new ticket machines. Step-free access to all platforms has been made possible by three new lifts.
These recent improvements now allow passengers to make step-free journeys across TfL Rail stations between Paddington, Reading and Heathrow.
Station works at Ilford and Romford, encompassing new station buildings, continue and are anticipated to be completed in early 2022.
The next couple of months, moving into the autumn, will be crucial for the project for commencing Trial Operations. There is a real desire from everyone involved in the project to continue to build on the strong performance over recent months and put ourselves in a good position to deliver this railway in the first half of 2022.