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Crossrail: engineering the basic tunnel, in the early days of the project

Getting cross about Cross-rail

CONFLICTING VIEWS are emerging this month about the progress being made on London’s Crossrail project – to be known as the “Elizabeth Line”.

Crossrail provides monthly updates to Caroline Pidgeon AM, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee. The latest update – a letter from Mark Wild, Crossrail CEO, to Ms Pidgeon, sent on 4th August – is almost impossible to understand. It seems to say that those in charge of the project want to have the new line up and running “as quickly and safely as possible”, while also admitting that the process is taking longer than had been hoped.

Now the BBC is reporting that a source inside the company has revealed that the project may not be open until spring 2020 at the earliest or even 2021.

Mark Wild has said that he will provide more detailed information at the end of the month. However, a key factor seems to be the “Main Dynamic Testing” currently underway. Wild warns Ms Pidgeon that this is “a lengthy process and not always straightforward.” He said that 29 out of 222 test cases have been passed – but some tests cannot be performed yet “due to a combination of insufficient software maturity, train maturity and incomplete interfacing systems.”

This seems to be a roundabout way of saying that the computer systems and the trains themselves were not ready when they should have been, and they haven’t got the computer programmes in the control rooms talking to the on-board computers yet – not so much a case of “computer says ‘no’” as “computer says ‘who?’”.

Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line will, when it opens, link Reading in Berkshire, west of London, to Shenfield in Essex, to the east of the capital. It was originally planned to be opened in December 2018, but has faced a series of delays – which could lead to significant extra costs.

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