Mike Brown says sites will shut 'as soon as it is safe to do so'

The £18bn Crossrail project has been dealt another blow with the project confirming it will shut its sites as soon as possible to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The railway, which was originally due to open in December 2018, was,until today's announcement, scheduled for completion by next summer.


But any significant delays due to site closures are likely to see the project fall further behind schedule.

Firms working on the project include Balfour Beatty, Costain, Skanska, Laing O'Rourke and Morgan Sindall.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: “While we are doing everything we safely can to keep the Crossrail programme on track, covid-19 will have an impact – it’s too early to tell what that impact will be.

“We are doing everything we can to support our principal contractors during this difficult and challenging time. Our arrangements remain under constant review and we are liaising closely with our tier 1 contractors and their supply chains to ensure that the Crossrail programme continues to be delivered safely.”

It will not be the only one of London's major transport projects to grind to a halt since Transport for London (TfL) also confirmed today that it will be shutting all its sites.

Mike Brown, TfL commissioner, said the government and London mayor Sadiq Khan had given clear instructions to stay safe and to stop travelling in all cases other than critical workers making absolutely essential journeys.

Brown said: "In line with this, TfL and Crossrail will be bringing all project sites to a temporary safe stop unless they need to continue for operational safety reasons. This means that work on all such projects will be temporarily suspended as soon as it is safe to do so."

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Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, has also raised concerns about the idea sites can simply be locked up and left.

He tweeted: "Construction sites cannot just be left. They need to be prepared for closure and left in a way that is safe and secure. Work is being done on guidance about how to shut down sites safely."

Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of CECA, agreed that some sites could simply not be shut due to the stage of construction, while others should be kept open as they were providing essential services to the NHS or other emergency services.

Brown said essential maintenance of the transport network would continue.

He added: “This is being done to ensure the safety of our construction and project teams and also to further reduce the number of people travelling on the public transport network.

“It is vital that the transport network is only used by critical workers. As we work through these issues with our supply chain, consideration will be given to the impact on workers, particularly those who are on low incomes."

Aside from transport projects such as the Northern Line Extension and the upgrade of Old Street roundabout TfL is also working with partners to develop hundreds of homes across the capital.