Crossrail restarts its engine ready for trial runs after slamming to a halt in Coronavirus lockdown
- Credit: Monica Wells
Work has now resumed on Crossrail ready to start test runs after time lost caused by the Coronavirus emergency.
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.
“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.
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“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.
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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.
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.