Is Crossrail being delivered late?

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Crossrail, a concept that has existed since the 1970s, had its bill finally passed in 2008. Its central core route (Heathrow-Abbey Wood) was meant to be opened in 2017. Its now 2018 and its obviously a year later than the originally envisaged opening. There are no trains running in service on pure Crossrail tracks yet! We have eleven months to go and even this seems somewhat tenacious.
The original bills and parliamentary documents do specify a completed railway in service by 2017 for the original Maidenhead/Shenfield/Abbey Wood line. The decision to add Reading was clearly made after the authorities changed from the 2017 date to the currently posited December 2018. The Reading services wont start until December 2019. Here’s a map showing the original stages of completion for Crossrail.
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Evidence shows that by March 2014 TfL and Crossrail had already decided on December 2018 for the central section when it was announced was made services would go to Reading.
Crossrail was planned to begin construction in 2009 and that was indeed achieved without any delay.
Some of the original Crossrail advertising did specify a 2017 completion date. I found some examples of these old Crossrail advert hoardings by searching through Google Streets. Here are some screencaps even though the quality isn’t good:
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Better connections. Open in 2017. 1500 passengers per train. 24 trains per hour.
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Outlines of trains depicted with the stages of Crossrail construction and a 2017 opening.
The screencaps are from the hoardings at Tottenham Court Road in July 2012. Clearly these existed a whole year longer than other sites where advertising was quickly changed.
Even some documents on Crossrail’s website specify a 2017 opening!
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Confirmation the cross-London line shall begin works early 2009 with an opening in 2017. Source: Crossrail
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Heathrow – Abbey Wood to be the first section opened in 2017. Source: Crossrail
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The opening date was put back in early 2011. Source: Crossrail
This change is mentioned in the Crossrail Business Update Summary Report for July 2011. Is the December 2018 opening still on target? Thats a good question. There are several indications that could tell us what the situation looks like.
We do know there have been some slips in the current schedule. Crossrail’s mantra as regularly reported in the media is “On time and on budget.” However its misleading. The Times revealed in August 2017 that Crossrail’s bosses had tried to hide an overspend of £1billion. Clearly not on budget!
Custom House (DLR) is opening late due to construction delays with the new CR/DLR station. TfL has confirmed the DLR bit will open on 8 January. It should have opened in December 2017.
Note: Ian Visits reports that Custom House (the DLR bit) opened Sunday 7th January.
There was recent outrage that construction of the stations on the route to Heathrow has slipped and wont be open until 2019. The delay however seems to be to do with Network Rail. See BBC News.
Other delays, which have not been widely reported, include companies shutting up shop. Lakesmere, working on five of the major Crossrail stations, went into administration during November 2017. The delay affected Canary Wharf, Liverpool St, Paddington, Tottenham Court Road and Whitechapel. I’m not sure how significant the delay is, but from what I read a new company is being formed to take over the Lakesmere contracts for four of the stations. At Paddington Costain/Skanska took on the extra work.
In early 2017 it was reported the electrical wiring undertaken at many of the central Crossrail stations was a mess. The electrical installations were apparently all wrong. Electrical engineers spent countless hours ripping out all the wiring at stations such as Paddington, Bond Street and Woolwich. Workers at the latter are now embroiled in a dispute which has led to strike action.
On the London Reconnections site, the question of whether the railway was on target prompted quite a few replies, of which the following was of interest:
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Some things should have been finished ‘six months ago.’
Just a note before we go any further. Its been difficult to find out exactly what Crossrail are responsible for finishing in terms of stations. However from what others have said (see comments) it seems Crossrail is responsible only for the basic station units, despite some indications they are also responsible for the above site developments (one such case recently highlighted was the withdrawal from work on the oversite buildings at Tottenham Court Road East due to delays and cost overruns.)
What intrigues me is the station sites above ground in Central London. I’m quite familiar with the Crossrail sites at Hanover Square and Davies Street. Yes its all being done underground the tunnels are complete, the track is done, the platforms are finished and many escalators are installed. But what about the station buildings themselves? Take these pictures of the Hanover Square site for example.
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The official view of what the Hanover Square entrance should look like.
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The site in 2012 as seen on Google Streets. Not to worry. Six years to go!
Just a point of note. Its very hard to know where to find the correct documents for each of these sections so as to check what should be at these locations. The Crossrail documents site is incredibly complex, very easy to get lost. There’s simply no easy way of searching, documents aren’t easy to find they have these incredibly long strings of numbers/letters leading to the child folders with the actual documents, whilst documents have different names to the urls so there’s no memorable way of finding stuff.
Back to the subject pictures in question, there seems barely any difference between the 2012 and 2017 views. Not to worry most of the work has been done underground so there’s little to see really.
Okay, so there wasn’t any sign of a Crossrail station being built in 2017. The problem is its now 2018. As my next picture shows there’s practically no change and this is with just ten months to go!
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3 January 2018. Where’s the Crossrail building thats meant to be open in December 2018?
Clearly at Hanover Square not even a station entrance or ticket hall has been started on. Crossrail’s website informs us a ventilation shaft is to be built on site between November 2017 and February 2018. Then what? Build the new station itself? A new station in nine months? I eventually found images showing what they were going to build. These.
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A scary looking new barebones station building at Hanover Square.
The other end in Davies Street. Again I am aware most of the work has been underground and its practically finished. On the surface once again a barebones building as this image shows.
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The entrance in Davies Street.
Crossrail do specify they will build oversite developments at some sites. However at Tottenham Court Road the oversite development at the eastern part of the station has been dropped due to Crossrail overspending and delays. The site has been levelled out completely and its up to someone else to come in with plans and finance for the theatre and shops originally mooted for the site.
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Behind the hoardings at Tottenham Court Road 3 January 2018. Not a single foundation to be seen for the  Crossrail oversite buildings planned at this location. Thats because the company pulled out as of November 2017.
The basic station building here will be that which has already been built on the corner of Oxford Street and Charing Cross Road!
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Despite popular opinion, there are actually other Crossrail buildings here. Its the new concrete building further south, as shown in this view. This building consists of emergency exits and operational plant. The entire oversite in between the main entrance and this utility building will not be built upon by Crossrail/TfL.
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Architects impression of the now aborted oversite development at Tottenham Court Road.
The other part of Tottenham Court Road station further along Oxford Street is at Dean Street. It does look like they are proceeding with the oversite construction here. How much of that will be ready I dont know. The hoarding at the Dean Street site gives some information that work will continue throughout 2018 and 2019.
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As for Liverpool Street, it seems there’s still quite a bit to do, and if problems do arise Crossrail services will no doubt be accessed via Moorgate station or the tube stations at Liverpool Street. Liverpool Street also has a notice which essentially says Crossrail wont be finished until 2019 or thereabouts due to the oversite development work both here at at the Moorgate end.
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As for Liverpool Street station itself, yes the escalators have been installed. However the ticket hall hasn’t been done yet and documents indicate the work will still be going on until December 2018 (the actual words used is ‘until project completion in 2018.’)
Basically TfL says it will be able to take over the entire infrastructure in the summer of 2018 for testing, commissioning, etc. It seems it will be quite tight timing from completion to testing, evaluation and commissioning of stations, equipment, infrastructure etc.
So many people rely on the word of the media, because its easy to just heed what they say rather than try to navigate the incredibly complex information to find out exactly what is going on. However if gives people (like me) an incomplete picture and when we want to know what is happening its not easy to find out even though the information is out there somewhere.
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Liverpool Street. Still a big hole in the ground for tickets etc despite the escalators being installed nearby.
At this stage it seems the only fully finished station buildings and above ground floor structures in December 2018 will be those at Paddington, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood. All the others require oversite work.
Are there other indications the line may not be fully ready by the end of 2018? This ‘interview’ with Crossrail’s CEO was totally unreported by the media. Andrew Wolstenhome is ‘cautiously optimistic’ services will begin in December 2018 but acknowledges there are problems with the stations, trains, etc, and that some stations need at least a further seven months of work.
Update 18:00 (04/01/18) This article published today & extract shown below indicates TfL has concerns Crossrail could be late – a huge financial risk. Link.

“Any delay to the new £14.8bn Elizabeth line starting service on time is Transport for London’s (TfL) biggest revenue risk,” the body’s deputy chair Val Shawcross has said – the finish time for the Elizabeth line was “one to watch” and the biggest risk to TfL’s revenue if delivered late.

Note: The above link to Crossrail CEO’s interview & the TfL article invariably brings up a subscription page. Press refresh or F5, the pages should reload with the full text.
In many ways I’m disappointed the stations will be just barebones structures. However the trains, platforms and below ground station architecture will no doubt be dazzling. I’m looking forward to these.

14 thoughts on “Is Crossrail being delivered late?

  1. Well “Crossrail Trains” – the new rolling stock are running – I even got on one in November @ Liverpool St.
    I think you underestimate how fast a prefabricated building can go up, provided ( very important provided) that all the foundations & sub-surface “services” are laid-in in advance.

  2. “Tottenham Court Road, January 2018, they haven’t even started the surface buildings. The site’s still level with no sign of a building framework yet” – that’s because the ticket hall is underneath the roof slab you’ve pictured – and it’s 100% complete with escalators down to Crossrail level! I think you’ve completely misunderstood what has been planned and built at this site at least – you might want to have a look at the construction plans again and revise the post.

    1. Thanks. Your’re right. However Crossrail plans do indicate emergency stair exits, emergency lifts, and operational plant at the other end of the combined ticket hall. I checked the plans online and its in fact the building that’s been constructed just to the south of the church. Whilst looking online for the plans in question I also found TfL has just reneged its commitment to over site development on Charing Cross Road due to yet further construction delays and overspends.
      Clearly the reason the site has been levelled and left plain is due to these further delays which were discovered about seven weeks ago hence I’ll have to write that into the post.

  3. The site shown at Tottenham Court Road is not an entrance to Crossrail. Access at that end has always been planned to be via the enlarged tube station ticket hall – the hoardings are clearly visible where the escalators will be
    You may have a point re Hanover Square though – a trawl through the Crossrail website or the environmental statement may reveal a detailed Gantt chart for construction

    1. Thanks. You’re absolutely right regarding the hoardings inside the tube station which I too have seen (they have lots of information and history printed on them). However the enlarged ticket hall has emergency exits which I have now discovered are further south. See the other reply.

      1. Re Hanover Square… Crossrail have only ever intended to build the ground floor of the development. This is the planning permission application. If it is just pouring concrete and prefab elements then getting it done by December should be fine.
        The oversite developments can take a while to get done, Southwark tube has been there for nearly 20 years without anything actually being built on top!

        1. And the proposal for the over site development at Southwark is now to demolish the ticket hall building and start again from scratch!

          1. LOL! That will be annoying especially as the ticket hall is viewed as a modern architectural masterpiece!

        2. I think the fact they post full architectural images and give the impression these are the complete works is somewhat misleading. Its difficult to find which are actually being built. TfL give the impression they are doing oversite works as I showed the relevant information in the post.
          Someone the other day was saying on Twitter how ugly the Tottenham Court Road oversite buildings looked. They’re not even being built now.

    1. Thanks. Ian Visits had done something of this sort a few days ago so I was aware of the latest news. I cant access every single item on the matter no matter how much I try. I did read that Crossrail was apparently supposed to do the oversite but pulled out.
      Construction News reported on 10th November 2017: “Crossrail spending for 2017 so far would have been higher, the report noted, if it had not been ‘partially offset by savings at Tottenham Court Road station due to planned oversite development works no longer being undertaken by the project.'”

  4. “Crossrail hands over major West End site to Derwent London
    17 Jan 2018
    Derwent London is pleased to announce that Crossrail has completed the base infrastructure works at Soho Place W1 and handed over the site to the Group. It is the first Crossrail site to be delivered to a developer, and this has been achieved almost a year before the Elizabeth line is due to open. There is planning for a 285,000 sq ft project over Tottenham Court Road station comprising 209,000 sq ft of offices, 36,000 sq ft of retail and a 40,000 sq ft theatre. Derwent London will now start enabling works with the intention of appointing a main contractor later in 2018.
    John Burns, Chief Executive Officer of Derwent London, said:
    “The Elizabeth line will transform London and we are delighted that Derwent London, working alongside Crossrail, will be responsible for developing one of its most important sites at the eastern end of Oxford Street. The scheme will create a vibrant mix of office, retail and theatre use over what is expected to be one of its busiest central London stations and in a fast improving location at the heart of central London.”
    Ian Lindsay, Crossrail Land & Property Director, commented:
    “This is the first Crossrail site to be handed over for full construction of the development above. Tottenham Court Road is our flagship development with Derwent London and our highest value commercial site. The creation of new retail and commercial space including the first new West End theatre in a generation, will not only support the continued regeneration of Oxford Street but will help shape the future of this historic area in central London.”

    1. Thanks. Ian Visits had done something of this sort a few days ago so I was aware of the latest news. I cant access every single item on the matter no matter how much I try. I did read that Crossrail was apparently supposed to do the oversite but pulled out.
      Construction News reported on 10th November 2017: “Crossrail spending for 2017 so far would have been higher, the report noted, if it had not been ‘partially offset by savings at Tottenham Court Road station due to planned oversite development works no longer being undertaken by the project.’”

  5. Crossrail is a major civil engineering project in Europe and has kept to budget and time until today. So we have to whip ourselves and criticize from our armchairs. It’s a fantastic project and has problems with IT (!!!!!) and finishing off the stations. This is all trivial crap and the national should be ashamed of itself to so readily start carping on. It should be proud of what as been achieved, and we will be proud when it starts operating. A time to grow up?

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