Crossrail's two T's + an enigma…

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The two T’s are testing and Twitter. Both have restarted and were announced with some fanfare today (4th February 2019.) Although Crossrail announced earlier (14/15 Jan) it had started testing of its line/trains as if that was for the first time ever. It seems it was a re-start not some new thing. Similarly its Twitter timeline this has been silent since September 2018 yet today two new tweets were issued. This is another restart in terms of Crossrail. By the way this post isn’t anything new. Besides those two T’s its just a reminder of some things that may have been forgotten in regards to train testing….

The first Crossrail tweet since September 2018.

The new video shows a Class 345 running wrong line eastbound. Presumably it has run as far as the crossover at Fisher Street and then returned eastwards. The first station in the video the train stops at is Farringdon (notice the incomplete state of this station including not a single roundel to be seen anywhere) and the second is Liverpool Street.

It seems only New Civil Engineer managed to say this was a re-start of its dynamic testing. However New Civil Engineer also pointed out that Crossrail’s CEO Mark Wild tried to refute this was any recommencement of dynamic testing by way of making the following claim….

“The reason dynamic testing didn’t work a year ago is two simple reasons: the signalling integration hadn’t been completed, and you can’t test something which hasn’t been installed; and the software systems on the train weren’t mature.”

And this is the enigma. If we look at Crossrail’s own videos it certainly seems to show some form of dynamic testing was underway earlier.

Class 345 being tested in the tunnels.

In London Loves Business however Mark Wild gives a somewhat different view of things and that this latest (eg January 2019) is ‘the main dynamic testing phase…’

“The main dynamic testing phase has commenced and is an important step forward for the Crossrail project. Over the next six months we will be testing all the railway’s systems to ensure they are safe and reliable and to identify any faults or software bugs in the very complex systems that are needed to operate the railway. Everyone involved in the project is fully focused on ensuring the Elizabeth Line is completed as quickly as possible and brought into service for passengers.”​

What was Crossrail doing then if there wasn’t any dynamic testing? Playing with trains as usual perhaps? Let’s take a look through some past documents and see what they claimed, before making up our minds whether they indeed were doing dynamic testing – or just fiddling while Rome burns….? PS if anyone wants a TfL/Crossrail document with oodles of snippets about dynamic testing here’s one.

The information notice shown below tells us the line would be live from 15th November 2017. The Pudding Mill explosion took place on 11th November 2017. In February 2018 Crossrail admitted this but tells us it has sorted the problem and the line was on target for a December 2018 opening.

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It becomes even more of a puzzle when we find two years ago (19th February 2017) the line’s electrics were a total mess and that “Productivity levels have gone to pieces while the management are all over the place and Crossrail leaders in denial. The whole thing is in meltdown.” I don’t know what to make of this however when we are told the management were in denial two years ago, it seems its something that’s been rather characteristic of the new railway since.

In a previous article I posted a picture of what was claimed to be dodgy Crossrail electrical work. Perhaps that had something to do with the whole shebang at Pudding Mill Lane? As it stands no-one knows the truth, not even now because even though we have a little more information on what exactly ails this most troublesome of railway lines, most of it is reports that are very heavily redacted – which isn’t exactly a help for those of us who would like to know how this railway, that was said to be on the latest estimates in mid 2018, 93% complete when it wasn’t anywhere near even 50% by the look of it, got so terribly behind under a lot of prominent people’s watch.

As for dynamic testing itself this still remains a puzzle. In February 2018 the Mayor was informed this would start that month, and it does indeed seem it did start in February 2018. If it didnt what exactly were they testing then?

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Mayor’s new Crossrail weekly February 2018 including dynamic testing.

This was a new weekly update from 15th February 2018 and these were being issued in sense of the urgency Crossrail had experienced some slippage in the project. Nevertheless it held fast that dyanmic testing would still be underway….

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The second new weekly update, 22 Feb 2018, still advocated that dynamic testing was underway…

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Perhaps it just turns out they hadn’t really done anything – except drive the trains manually – which isn’t exactly dynamic testing is it? In the You Tube video one can almost read the screen on the train’s console as saying ‘ATO down.’ Maybe this is what CEO Mark Wild was saying?

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But in March 2018 the drum on dynamic testing was still being banged and it essentially said all systems were go – there was a checklist that said Dynamic testing Zones 1&2 had been achieved and the other zones were ‘on target.’ Not only that there was a diagram showing all Crossrail projects were on target – with the possible exception of Woolwich….

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Its interesting how just a few months back the Elizabeth Line was said to be on time and on budget and almost complete – with the certainty trains would be running in December 2018. However that would mean dynamic testing would have to have been largely undertaken to a considerable extent. Was It?

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The Mayor’s update for 3 June 2018 indicates trains were undoubtedly being dynamically tested…. and the latest was the section to Westbourne Park was about to be included in this testing – and just about everything was progressing so fantastically well because the entire project was by then 93% complete!

Twice in June we are told dynamic testing was being achieved and its scope increased considerably. On 11th June three class 345’s were being used for dynamic testing in the core section. On 19 June it had increased to five trains being dynamically tested in the core section.

But let’s remember Mark Wild said last month no dynamic testing was done. So why is it that the Mayor’s reports constantly discuss dynamic testing and report upon the fact these have been done/are successful/on target etc and use these as some sort of indication that the line is well on the way to its projected opening date? Its a mystery.

Anyway the first indications dynamic testing hadn’t been properly achieved or whatever, came in the Mayors report for 7 August 2018. The next report however seems to suggest that whilst there were problems, dynamic testing was still actively begin done and that it would soon enter a five day window – in other words a full working week of tests.

The final report before that fateful day – when the Mayor claims he was informed Crossrail was on its knees and could not commit to a December opening, we are still being told oodles of dynamic testing was being undertaken. In fact the most comprehensive detail on dynamic testing yet emerged.

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The most comprehensive detail of dynamic testing as shown in the Mayors report 28 August 2019.

Even after that fateful day the Mayor’s weekly reports continue to discuss dynamic testing. Later it the year this ‘dynamic testing’ became an “important precursor to critical dynamic testing which is due to commence on 13 January 2019.” (Link.) In December 2018 it became instead “an important precursor to main dynamic testing which is due to commence by 14 January 2018.”  (Link.)

Indeed they had been doing dynamic testing all along but it all turned out to be just stages in Crossrail’s evolution. Yet the new Crossrail CEO claims NO dynamic testing was done so what the hell were they doing – playing trains?

Mystery or no mystery, by roughly this time last year (eg February/March) everyone was extremely confident the new railway was well ahead and work was at least ninety percent complete, thus Crossrail was able to announce the line was now in its final stages….

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The Elizabeth Line is announced as nearly completed. March 2018.

In March 2018 the project was touted as nearly completed and the Elizabeth Line would be open in December 2018. The ‘complete-o-meter’ on Crossrail’s website showed the line as 90% complete. By May it would be 93%.

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In mid-April 2018 the ‘complete-o-meter’ announced the line as over 90% complete – on time and within budget!

In May 2018 Crossrail made the following announcement – this is from its Moving Ahead update and it does indicate publicly that proper dynamic train testing is indeed underway and the line would definitely be handed over to TfL later in the year…

“The new Elizabeth line trains are currently being tested between Abbey Wood and Canary Wharf using the line’s new automatic train control system which operates in the central section of the route. Train testing is taking place in the tunnels at speeds of up to 60 mph. The overhead power equipment has also been successfully switched on in the remaining section between Westbourne Park and Stepney which means that the Elizabeth line tunnels are now fully energised.”

“Later this year, the first completed infrastructure will be handed over to Transport for London, who will lead the trial operations and commissioning phase ahead of the opening of the Elizabeth line in December. London’s newest railway is on its way.”

It will be found if one looks at the Moving Ahead Quarterly update (Crossrail has since deleted this page) touted as the very final update, as it is seen on Crossrail’s site the second paragraph doesn’t exists. However if one looks at an archived version of this the second paragraph will be found. I do not know why the second paragraph was taken out anyhow the later edited version can be seen here archived matching what’s said on the modified version found on Crossrail’s own site – thank goodness there is someone out there busily archiving these pages!

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Crossrail’s exposition in May 2018 this graphic shows what the Elizabeth Line would definitely look like in December 2018.

After May 2018 the Crossrail site was almost not updated anymore. It remained almost entirely static as the archives show and by the fated date of 31st August 2018 it was still announcing the Elizabeth Line would be open in December 2018.

Crossrail didn’t ever say ‘sorry everyone, we’re not opening after all in December 2018, we let you down completely.’ Its tweets just ended on 20th July 2018 with a retweet that it was the company’s 10th birthday and the assertion they were readying for the Elizabeth Line. See the screencaps below.

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Its Twitter account stopped posting anything after just one more on 10th September 2018 (advertising a book.) These eventualities were a result of Crossrail winding down their operations. They of course have had to restart them, much like they have had to re-start many other things…. including dynamic train testing – which they claim was never done in the first place…..

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