Crossrail’s Maidenhead to Paddington section will open in December 2019, the project’s chair and deputy chair have confirmed.
The opening date was revealed in a letter to Windsor and Maidenhead council leader Simon Dudley from chair Tony Meggs and deputy chair Nick Raynsford.
The letter said: “We are working with Network Rail and the train operating companies to introduce TfL Rail services between Reading and Paddington in December this year.”
Speaking at a Construction Products Association event yesterday, Mr Raynsford confirmed a new schedule for the opening of the rest of Crossrail was in its final stages.
“These are in an advanced stage of preparation but have not yet been considered or agreed by the Crossrail board.
“Only when the board is satisfied that this new earliest opening programme is robust and deliverable will we commit to a timetable,” he said.
Openings for the different sections will be given date ranges rather than specific opening days, Mr Raynsford added.
As the work progresses the ranges will be narrowed until firm opening dates can be committed to.
There is still a “huge amount of work” left to do on the scheme, Mr Raynsford said, including the completion of construction work on several stations.
“The scale and complexity of the task is massive,” he added.
“Bringing together three different signalling systems, brand new trains and software for a fully enabled digital railway with 10 new central stations on a scale never before attempted in this country.”
Mr Raynsford took up the deputy chair position last December. He called it a “a huge privilege as well as a very demanding one”.
The former Labour MP’s appointment came amid an overhaul of Crossrail’s top team after it missed its 2018 opening and went over budget.
Former chair Sir Terry Morgan was replaced by Mr Meggs in January, while former London Underground managing director Mark Wild was installed as chief executive.
Mr Raynsford acknowledged questions remained about what went wrong on the project, but said “it is not our job to dig up the past”.
He did offer some observations about the project’s history based on what he had learned in the past three months including that Crossrail’s good start led to a culture of overconfidence.
“That the project was on time and budget was given wider credence than was justified by actual progress on some major elements,” he said.
Once the progress began to slow, the opening date was “considered absolutely sacrosanct” and never reconsidered.
He said: “Instead, the timetable for the later stages of the project, which included the most complex systems integration and testing programme, was compressed, becoming increasingly unrealistic over time.”
His final observation was that the contracts used on the project did not allow for easy rescheduling to overcome conflicts in access to sites and the re-sequencing of works.
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