Problems sees testing of crucial software pushed back, meaning £15bn project now won't open until next autumn at the earliest

The opening of the £15bn Crossrail scheme has been delayed by at least nine months.

The central section of the route, which will from Paddington to Abbey Wood and will be known as the Elizabeth line, had been due to open this December but Crossrail has confirmed that date has been pushed back to autumn 2019 – meaning it faces a delay of up to 11 months.

The company behind the project said the schedule has been revised "to complete the final infrastructure and extensive testing required".

It said the original programme for testing had been hit by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out work in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software. Testing has started but further time is required to complete the full range of tests, Crossrail added.

Crossrail chief executive Simon Wright said: “We are working around the clock with our supply chain and Transport for London to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.”

In a tweet, former transport secretary Andrew Adonis called the news a "catastrophe" and accused the government and current transport Chris Grayling of trying to bury bad news.

In July, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority revealed the project was looking at a cost or schedule overrun if “significant issues” were not addressed.

In its 2018 Annual Report, the IPA gave Crossrail an amber delivery confidence assessment – the first time the project has received a rating below a green category in the report’s six year existence.

According to the IPA, an amber rating means “successful delivery appears feasible but significant issues already exist, requiring management attention. These appear resolvable at this stage and, if addressed promptly, should not present a cost/schedule overrun”.

Information from the Department of Transport (DfT), which was used to support the IPA’s report, said: “The project is now over 90% complete and is entering its final stages. Cost and schedule pressures are increasing.

“The department, as well as Transport for London (with the assurance of the Project Representatives) have increased governance to closely monitor progress.”

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Source: Shutterstock

The scheme began in earnest a decade ago

At the time, the DfT said Crossrail reported that the overall completion date would be maintained.

Meanwhile, the cost to finish the project also skyrocketed with an annual update on Crossrail from transport minister Jo Johnson revealing 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.

When the central section of the Elizabeth line opens in autumn 2019, the railway will initially operate as three separate services: Paddington (Elizabeth line station) to Abbey Wood via central London, Paddington (mainline station) to Heathrow (Terminals 2, 3 and 4) and Liverpool Street (mainline station) to Shenfield.