When is Crossrail going to open? Building reveals what we know about the rail project’s delay
With the original opening date of Crossrail come and gone there are still plenty of questions around how the scheme fell so far behind.
As Transport for London (TfL), the Department for Transport (DfT) and Crossrail Ltd race to complete the project, there are plenty of questions around how much it is all going to cost and why the line is not finished yet.
Take a look at what we know so far.
When was the line due to open?
Last year an update by Westminster council let slip online that the central section of Crossrail was scheduled to open on 9 December as part of its follow-up to the decision to reject the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street.
What is to blame for the delay?
When announcing the delay Crossrail Ltd said the schedule has been revised “to complete the final infrastructure and extensive testing required”.
Subsequently, the first chief executive of Crossrail Rob Holden blamed a decision to delay procurement of rolling stock for the scheme’s failure to hit its December 2018 opening date. A TfL spokesperson denied this saying: “The procurement of the trains has had no impact on the delayed opening of the central section.”
Were there warning signs?
Nearly two months before the delay to Crossrail was confirmed, the Infrastructure Projects Authority flagged potential issues with the scheme.
In its 2018 Annual Report, the Infrastructure Projects Authority gave Crossrail an amber delivery confidence assessment meaning it was looking at a cost or schedule overrun if “significant issues” were not addressed. It was the first time the project has received a rating below a green category in the six years the report has been produced.
A timeline of Crossrail’s delay
6 July: In its 2018 Annual Report, the Infrastructure Projects Authority gave Crossrail an amber delivery confidence assessment meaning it was looking at a cost or schedule overrun if “significant issues” were not addressed. It was the first time the project has received a rating below a green category.
24 July: An annual update on Crossrail from then transport minister Jo Johnson said the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London (TfL) had agreed to the new £15.4bn funding figure. Last year the figure was expected to be £14.8bn.
31 August: It was officially announced that Crossrail’s opening had been delayed by at least nine months to autumn 2019. The company behind the project said the schedule has been revised “to complete the final infrastructure and extensive testing required”.
6 September: Fronting the Greater London Assembly, transport commissioner Mike Brown conceded TfL and the Treasury, who are joint funding the project, did not know how much Crossrail’s timeline blowout was likely to be.
13 September: The first chief executive of Crossrail, Rob Holden, blamed a decision to delay procurement of rolling stock for the scheme’s failure to hit its December 2018 opening date. A TfL spokesperson denied this saying: “The procurement of the trains has had no impact on the delayed opening of the central section.”
4 October: Members of the London Assembly’s transport committee accuse London mayor Sadiq Khan of misleading them about Crossrail’s delay. Caroline Pidgeon, the committee’s chair, said the evidence showed it was likely Khan was informed on or soon after 19 July that there was very likely to be a delay.
22 October: Financial Conduct Authority chief executive Andrew Bailey revealed the possibility of a probe into Transport for London following questions that were raised about when and how it revealed details of Crossrail’s delay in a letter to Pidgeon.
26 October: The government announces it has pumped £350m into Crossrail to keep the project on track.
2 November: TfL and Crossrail announce that Mark Wild will join Crossrail as chief executive on loan from London Underground, with the company’s current boss Simon Wright stepping down. TfL said Wright’s departure was “as planned”. He was in the job for eight months.
12 November: London Assembly members say London mayor Sadiq Khan showed “incompetence, or at the very least, disinterest” in his handling of Crossrail, with the transport committee saying they had been left “wanting” by his explanation into the timing of the Crossrail delay announcement.
19 November: A report from the London Assembly’s budget and performance committee said that if TfL, which is helping fund the scheme and will be responsible for running the line, “wants to co-ordinate with the National Rail timetable, it is likely that this means December 2019” will be Crossrail’s opening date.
22 November: Suggestions that Khan Crossrail executives either misled him or failed to anticipate delays and further cost overruns are made public. In a letter to the National Audit Office Khan said he and DfT had received repeated assurances from Crossrail before the delay that additional funding would ensure the opening of the railway on time.
23 November: National Audit Office confirms it will launch a probe into Crossrail's delay
5 December: Sir Terry Morgan officially ousted from his roles at both Crossrail and HS2 days after reports leaked to the media revealed transport secretary Chris Grayling and chancellor Philip Hammond had been lobbying for his removal.
10 December: It was revealed that Crossrail would cost up to another £2bn to finish as the railway’s new chief executive Mark Wild said he had no idea when the scheme would be finished because there is so much work left to complete. It was also announced that Infrastructure and Projects Authority boss Tony Meggs was set to take up the vacated chair position at Crossrail supported by former Labour MP Nick Raynsford who took up the vice chair role.
21 December 2018: Khan accuses Morgan of “misremembering” the truth about when he informed the London mayor of significant delays to the scheme.
8 January: TfL finance boss Simon Kilonback reveals “significant parts” of Crossrail remain unbuilt and that the transport body’s business plan had factored in delays of up to 18 months.
9 January: Morgan accuses TfL of altering progress reports he prepared for London mayor Sadiq Khan, saying they removed references to time pressures. At the same London Assembly inquiry, Wild said there was “thousands of hours" of construction work left to do and that Crossrail's leadership had not had a “a clear understanding of the work still to do" in the weeks leading up to the delay announcement.
How much is it all going to cost?
At the moment the official known cost is around the £17bn-mark. An announcement on 10 December revealed Crossrail was set to cost up to an additional £2bn with the Greater London Authority set to grant TfL a £1.4bn loan to finish off the scheme.
An annual update on Crossrail from then transport minister Jo Johnson in July said the DfT and TfL had agreed to a £15.4bn funding figure. In 2017 that figure was expected to be £14.8bn, meaning costs had increased by £600m.
In October the project was given a further £350m cash injection, while in November a report from the London Assembly’s budget and performance committee revealed the additional cost that had been agreed so far was only enough to keep Crossrail going until the end of March 2019. This £350m plan has been scrapped in favour of the £1.4bn bailout laid out in December.
The London Assembly's report also revealed TfL was losing out on up to £190m next year in lost fares and advertising revenue because of the delay.
When is Crossrail now due to open?
The official line is that no one knows. It was meant to open before the end of autumn 2019, but then the London Assembly put a cat among the pigeons suggesting Crossrail may not open until December 2019 – a full 12 months later than it was originally due to open.
A report from the assembly’s budget and performance committee said that if TfL, which is helping fund the scheme and will be responsible for running the line, “wants to co-ordinate with the National Rail timetable, it is likely that this means December 2019”.
Now Crossrail's chief executive Mark Wild is saying he cannot put a timeline on the project and that there is still plenty of work to do.