When is Crossrail going to open? Building reveals what we know about the rail project’s delay 

crossrail

With the original opening date of Crossrail come and gone and the project now not guaranteed to open until March 2021 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

21 May 2019: TfL board documents reveal the fit-out and installation at Crossrail’s central London stations and tunnels is set to be finished by the end of 2019 – a year after the line was due to open.

20 May 2019: Canary Wharf Group accuses Crossrail of trying to shift the blame for the scheme’s delays following claims made by the railway’s chief executive to MPs last week that it was having to spend £80m to make its station at Canary Wharf safe while questioning the quality of work carried out there.

15 May 2019: Andrew Wolstenholme tells the Public Accounts Committee that when he left last March the scheme was on track to open on time – and didn’t because contractors were giving project bosses wrong information about when they would complete their work. At the same inquiry Mark Wild reveals the extent of delays at Tottenham Court Road, Canary Wharf and Bond Street and that he was “surprised by the lack of completion” at the stations when he took the top job.

13 May 2019: In his first update to the newly appointed chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee Florence Eshalomi Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild says close-headway testing – which tests running trains close together – had been due to start in March but has still not got begun two months later.

8 May 2019: Network Rail appoints Graham to a £47m contract to carry out work at three overground stations due to be served by Crossrail in west London.

3 May 2019: A National Audit Office report reveals that the expected cost of finishing seven Crossrail stations has increased by more than £2bn. It also says Crossrail needs to motivate contractors with financial bonuses in order to get the £17.6bn job done in a “timely and efficient manner”.

2 May 2019: Mark Wild tells the London Assembly that a year-long delay to tunnelling is to blame for the issues that have hit the Bond Street station scheme.

29 April 2019: Workers in City office buildings reveal they are feeling the effects of work being carried out by Laing O’Rourke to wrap up construction at its Liverpool Street Crossrail site. The contractor says nearby businesses were given warning about the work.

25 April 2019: Chief executive Mark Wild says the company had earmarked a six month delivery window for the £17.8bn scheme “with a midpoint at the end of 2020” meaning Crossrail will open some time between October that year and March 2021. Bond Street station will not open in that window.

25 April 2019: TfL commissioner Mike Brown faces the London Assembly transport committee. It is revealed that Crossrail bosses are expected to be grilled on the details of the new plan to get the line open next Thursday. Meanwhile, Caroline Pidgeon says Sir Terry Morgan, who stepped down as Crossrail’s chairman last December, has been made the “fall guy” for the issues which have engulfed the scheme.

23 April 2019: The London Assembly’s transport committee publishes a report on what has gone wrong at Crossrail. The report reveals former chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme queried why part of his bonus was not paid just months before it was announced the scheme would bust its opening deadline.

18 April 2019: Project sources tell the BBC that Crossrail may be delayed until 2021 due to issues that have emerged with dynamic testing.

9 April 2019: A letter from Crossrail chair Tony Meggs and deputy chair Nick Raynsford to the leader of a Berkshire council is published revealing that more than 6,000 people were working on Crossrail sites at the start of this month.

4 April 2019: Mark Wild admits the plan for how to get the £17.6bn railway finished is “taking longer than hoped” as he promises to reveal an opening window later this month.

3 April 2019: In a report the Public Accounts Committee says it is “unconvinced” Crossrail’s £2.8bn bailout will be enough, and slams executives for their “unacceptable” inability to explain the delays.

1 April 2019: Tory peer Baroness Sugg reveals that the government is still not sure whether the additional £2.8bn poured into Crossrail last December will be enough to get the project across the line.

29 March 2019: Mark Wild admits there is a “fundamental issue” with productivity on the project.

21 March 2019: TFL documents reveal the indefinite delay to Crossrail’s opening is set to cost it around £600m in revenue, while Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild reveals the extent of tech work required to make the stations operational.  

14 March 2019: The deputy mayor of London accuses ex-Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme of misleading London Assembly members at a meeting just before he left in March 2018, while TfL was once again accused of changing Crossrail Ltd’s progress updates before passing them onto to Sadiq Khan.

13 March 2019: The Chinese nuclear giant behind Hinkley Point C has appoints ousted Crossrail chair Sir Terry Morgan to lead its newly created advisory board for its UK business.

8 March 2019: It emerges that Crossrail’s previous two chief executives Andrew Wolstenholme and Simon Wright are set to face questions from the London Assembly about what has gone wrong on the £17.6bn project.

7 March 2019: Mark Wild tells the Public Accounts Committee, the government’s spending watchdog, that the writing was on the wall as early as 2016 that the station projects, which should have been completed before the signalling, were falling behind. Meanwhile, outgoing Costain boss Andrew Wyllie said its scheme to build a new Crossrail station at Bond Street has not finished because of changes made to the scope of the work.

6 March 2019: Crossrail boss Mark Wild confirms the central section of Crossrail will not open in 2019 and that he “very much hopes” it will open in 2020. Meanwhile, the scale of work still to be carried out at Crossrail’s Bond Street station is laid bare, with Transport for London documents revealing the £200m scheme may not even be finished by the end of the year.

5 March 2019: Chris Hayward, the chairman of the City of London’s planning and transportation committee, tells Building Crossrail is hoping to announce a new opening date for the railway in the second quarter of this year.

26 February 2019: London mayor Sadiq Khan reveals he is expecting the equivalent of around £100m a month to be poured into Crossrail’s construction every month until March 2020.

21 February 2019: It is revealed that more than half of the complex fit-out work on Crossrail’s central London stations such as M&E is still not finished.

20 February 2019: A senior project source tells Building that Crossrail should have known months before it was officially confirmed that the scheme was way behind schedule.

8 February 2019: Crossrail Ltd’s latest accounts reveal the amount spent on the salaries of the directors running the budget-busting Crossrail scheme grew in the year to 31 March 2018.

7 February 2019: London mayor Sadiq Khan continues his row with ousted Crossrail chair Sir Terry Morgan, saying he is much more confident in the project’s new management team.

31 January 2019: Crossrail boss Mark Wild reveals that there is no chance of Crossrail being completely finished by the end of this year - admitting he still did not know when the £17.6bn job will be done. Wild also told TfL’s board morale at the organisation had gone “off the cliff”.

25 January 2019: KPMG’s review of Crossrail’s financial arrangements and governance is publishedIt reveals that there is only an 80% chance that Crossrail will be built within its newly approved budget and that the scheme is costing £30m a week. The reports also say damns the running of Crossrail and says its board lacks the skills to complete the railway.

24 January 2019: TfL says it is disappointed in the efficiency of teams pushing to complete the Crossrail tunnels, noting that finishing the tunnels was still a significant problem and that “productivity has been disappointing”. 

21 January 2019: Hochtief is handed a £40m contract to carry out improvement works at three stations in west London that will be part of the Crossrail route when it opens.

18 January 2019: Patricia Moore, who led Turner & Townsend’s successful bid to be a programme partner on Crossrail, tells Building she welcomes the changes at the top in order to get the late-running scheme completed.

17 January 2019: London Assembly members demand talks about how to fund Crossrail 2 start as soon as possible following the decision to reallocate funds earmarked for the project to the late-running Crossrail scheme.

9 January 2019: 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.

8 January 2019: 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.

21 December 2018: Khan accuses Morgan of “misremembering” the truth about when he informed the London mayor of significant delays to the scheme.

10 December 2018: 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.

5 December 2018: 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.

23 November 2018: National Audit Office confirms it will launch a probe into Crossrail’s delay

22 November 2018: 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.

19 November 2018: 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.

12 November 2018: 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.

2 November 2018: 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.

26 October 2018: The government announces it has pumped £350m into Crossrail to keep the project on track.

22 October 2018: 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.

4 October 2018: 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.

13 September 2018: 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.”

6 September 2018: 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.

31 August 2018: 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”.

24 July 2018: 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.

6 July 2018: 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.

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 2018 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.

In January 2019 it is revealed that the scheme only has an 80% chance of being built within its newly approved budget and that it is costing £30m a week.

When is Crossrail now due to open?

In April 2019 Crosrail boss Mark Wild confirmed the scheme would open some time between October 2020 and March 2021. This does not include Bond Street station.

After the delay was first announched 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.

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”.