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Crossrail restarts its engine ready for trial runs after slamming to a halt in Coronavirus lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:40 24 July 2020

'The next Crossrail train on Platform 2 has been delayed three years.' Picture: Monica Wells

'The next Crossrail train on Platform 2 has been delayed three years.' Picture: Monica Wells

Monica Wells

Work has now resumed on Crossrail ready to start test runs after time lost caused by the Coronavirus emergency.

Work on Crossrail track junction at Whitechapel now complete, ready for trial runs summer of 2021. Picture: Mike BrookeWork on Crossrail track junction at Whitechapel now complete, ready for trial runs summer of 2021. Picture: Mike Brooke

Everything has been rescheduled as the company now goes into “catch up” time to get the £17billion project back on track.

Completing the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages, originally due to open in 2018 giving east London a direct “fast track” link to Heathrow Airport when the whole project hit the buffers by rocketing costs, signal system failure, over-confident completion date... and then the Covid-19 lockdown.

Opening the central section through Whitechapel and Canary Wharf from Paddington to Abbey Wood is now set for next summer, 2021, with Crossrail’s “recovery plan” for the remaining work.

Safety screen on platform at Crossrail's Canary Wharf station ready for passengers, summer of 2021. Monica WellsSafety screen on platform at Crossrail's Canary Wharf station ready for passengers, summer of 2021. Monica Wells

“But pressure with Covid-19 has had an impact on the schedule and time has been lost,” the company’s chief executive Mark Wild admitted.

“Our focus right now is completing remaining works with intensive activity from August, testing the tunnels, portals and shafts to help recover lost time.”

That should pave the way for trial runs, probably by the new year, for Europe’s most complex civil engineering project. But it has millions of separate elements which have to work reliably to make sure the new Elizabeth line operates safely before the Office of Rail and Road waves the green flag next summer.

Elizabeth line...  tunnels ready for full train run tests. Picture: Monica WellsElizabeth line... tunnels ready for full train run tests. Picture: Monica Wells

That means a “construction blockade” sealing tunnels, portals and shafts from next month to help recover that lost time and complete all tasks that were shunted to a halt.

But Crossrail isn’t the first major project through east London delayed by national emergency.

Construction on extending the Central line from Liverpool Street out to Stratford and Epping hit the red light when war broke out in 1939. Tunnels under Bethnal Green and Mile End were complete, but no tracks laid. The extension finally started opening from 1946 onward.

Tunnels used as public air raid shelter... an earlier major rail project stalled just like Crossrail, when Central line extension was delayed by outbreak of war in 1939. Picture: Tower Hamlets ArchiveTunnels used as public air raid shelter... an earlier major rail project stalled just like Crossrail, when Central line extension was delayed by outbreak of war in 1939. Picture: Tower Hamlets Archive

Much use was made in the war years of what was built so far, like the half-finished deep-level Bethnal Green tube station turned into a public air-raid shelter and tunnels used for public sleeping quarters and even a factory to help the war effort.

No such use can be made 80 years on for Crossrail’s massive works under Whitechapel, however, because of modern day public health and safety rules.


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