Crossrail tracks looking towards the Pudding Mill Lane portal, March 2018
Crossrail chief executive Simon Wright and chairman Terry Morgan have confirmed that delays to the testing of the new Elizabeth Line started with the failure of an electrical transformer in November last year.
As reported by Construction Manager in February, the transformer explosion occurred at Pudding Mill Lane, at the interface between Network Rail infrastructure in the east and the central section of Crossrail.
“This delayed the start of dynamic track testing by four months to February this year,” said Wright, responding to questions from a special plenary session of the London Assembly.
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Wright and Morgan were grilled by Assembly members on the reasons for the Crossrail opening delay and the likely cost implications, alongside the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown.
Questioned by Assembly chairman Tony Arbour and the chair of the Assembly’s transport committee, Caroline Pidgeon, Terry Morgan said a series of technical problems then followed in the testing programme: “As we mitigated one risk, others were realised. It was a combination of delays on finishing construction and a lack of productivity on testing, which then resulted in us deciding the challenge of getting reliability in time for the scheduled opening in December was one we couldn’t deliver.”
Pressed further, Morgan said other problems that emerged were mostly due to difficulties with developing software to allow Crossrail trains to travel safely at speed through three separate signalling systems from the east, west and central sections.
Pidgeon asked for reasons why the Crossrail programme slipped so suddenly without warning, given that she was assured in June this year that the central section of the line was still on course for its planned opening on 9 December.
“We were testing on incomplete systems. Productivity was under stress, but we fought hard to maintain the schedule and thought all along that we could find a solution to bring it back, just like we have done on countless other problems that occurred during the construction programme,” Wright said.
“We had some good days on testing, running line-speed from end to end, but come July we hadn’t got the results we needed.”
A decision to postpone the opening of the central section until Autumn 2019 was then taken at a special Crossrail meeting on 29 August, Morgan said.
Sadiq Khan said that he had not known of the delay until immediately after that meeting. He also confirmed that he and the TfL board are awaiting a full report from Crossrail on the causes and likely costs of the delay.