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Three years late and half-a-billion over budget—that's Crossrail for you!

PUBLISHED: 17:57 10 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:08 12 January 2020

Why the train arriving at this platform in Whitechapel is three years late... Picture: Monica Wells

Why the train arriving at this platform in Whitechapel is three years late... Picture: Monica Wells

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The first train arriving at the Elizabeth line platform will be three years late — and half-a-billion over budget.

Work on the tracks at Whitechapel finishes on time...  but not the line. Picture: Mike BrookeWork on the tracks at Whitechapel finishes on time... but not the line. Picture: Mike Brooke

That's the latest forecast for the long-awaited opening of Crossrail's "super Tube" which means waiting till the summer of 2021 for that train.

Most of the deep-level stations are still not completed, with Whitechapel taking till the end of the year, the East London Advertiser has learned.

Then only the central section of the line will be running from Abbey Wood under the Thames through Canary Wharf, Whitechapel, the City and West End to Paddington.

The much promised link to Heathow Airport and to Shenfield through Stratford still won't be connected for another year, some time in 2022.

Crossrail's chairman Terry Morgan at Whitechapel in 2017 before he quit, unable to finish construction on time or on budget. Picture: Mike BrookeCrossrail's chairman Terry Morgan at Whitechapel in 2017 before he quit, unable to finish construction on time or on budget. Picture: Mike Brooke

An extensive nine-month trial period starts this summer testing the tracks, train systems, signalling and platform sliding-door barriers before it takes passengers.

"Londoners are deeply frustrated by the delays," Crossrail's chief Mark Wild admited. "But we are doing everything we can to get the Elizabeth line finished and are making progress with the central section reaching substantial completion."

The company has set itself milestones to complete the trials in nine months.

"There are no shortcuts to this hugely complex railway," Mr Wild adds. "Our latest assessment is that services through central London begin in summer 2021."

End of the line for Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan failing to meet the 2018 opening date. Picture: John ZammitEnd of the line for Crossrail chairman Terry Morgan failing to meet the 2018 opening date. Picture: John Zammit

The original budget set in 2006 by prime minister Tony Blair was £16bn, three years before work started on the first station at Canary Wharf in 2009.

Then Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor managed to lop £1bn off in 2010 — but that was over-optimistic, with Crossrail coming back to the government needing more money.

Things seem to be on track with the tunnel boring starting in 2012 and completed on time by 2015 and tracks ready by 2017, the last section finished at Whitechapel when transport secretary Chris Grayling tightened the last bolt in the tunnel 150ft below ground.

He even gave a completion date to the Advertiser that the Eizabeth line would open on December 18, 2018.

But then the project hit the buffers with delays to completing the stations including Whitechapel and Liverpool Street. Problems with the signalling system added further delays as costs mounted.

The 2018 opening date promised by Chris Grayling came and went.

The London Assembly summoned the mayor and Crossrail's chairman to explain why Europe's largest civil engineering project had failed to meet its opening date and why the delay was kept quiet for 16 weeks before it leaked.

The Assembly's Caroline Pidgeon said at the time: "We are bitterly disappointed. The mayor must come clean over when he knew about the Crossrail delay."

Crossrail chairman Sir Terry Morgan resigned and a new management team had to be brought in — while costs escalated still further.

A revised opening date was set for September 2019, but even that was shunted into the sidings. A new date was set for summer 2021 for the central section through Whitechapel and West End, with the Heathrow direct link another 12 months after that.

Crossrail would need a topping up of funds which was agreed in November "between £400m to £650m more" than the £17.8bn marked up a year before. The new budget was now £18bn.

The Elizabeth line with its twin tunnels twice the diameter of the deep-level London Underground is designed to relieve the overcrowded Central line with trains that can each seat 1,500 passengers, double the Tube train capacity, and running 24 every hour at peak time.

By 2022, passengers at Whitechapel going west will arrive at Heathrow in just 39 minutes, even with stops at Liverpool Street and the City and West End.

The line going east diverts at Whitechapel with one branch to Canary Wharf, Silvertown and under the Thames to Woolwich and Abbey Wood, the other to Stratford and on to Ilford and Shenfield.

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