Crossrail costs continue to rise as opening further delayed

Out-Law News | 13 Nov 2019 | 4:48 pm | 1 min. read

The cost of delivering the Crossrail project could rise by £650 million more than the latest budget forecast, with the opening of the London rail link’s central section also delayed to 2021, it has emerged.

Transport for London (TfL) told the London Stock Exchange last week that the latest cost projections showed that the cost forecast for the central section of the project would be around £15.4 billion, or £400m more than the funding which the UK government committed in a financing package in December last year.

TfL said “further modelling scenarios” suggested that the cost could even rise by £650m more than committed funding. Crossrail’s total cost is now likely to exceed £18 billion.

Meanwhile Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said the latest assessment for opening of the central ‘Elizabeth Line’ section was now “as soon as practically possible in 2021”. The Elizabeth Line was originally scheduled to be up and running by early 2019.

Wild said although the central section would be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter of 2020, software development and safety approvals needed more time.

“These must be done to the highest quality standards to ensure reliability of the railway from day one of passenger service,” Wild said. “The Trial Running phase will begin at the earliest opportunity in 2020, this will be followed by testing of the operational railway to ensure it is safe and reliable.”

Infrastructure expert Robbie Owen of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “It will be important to learn the lessons quickly, and in an open and candid way without seeking to lay blame, to help other publicly funded infrastructure projects throughout England which are in the pipeline and which all the main parties support to varying degrees," he said. "It would seem likely that those lessons will go far beyond governance and client management matters, to core decisions taken several years ago on the whole construction procurement strategy to be adopted."

Infrastructure expert Anne-Marie Friel of Pinsent Masons said: “The Elizabeth line will be one of the most digitally enhanced railway systems in the world. What started life as an ambitious and challenging construction and tunnelling project has evolved into an enormously complex technology integration project involving some of the world’s foremost rail technology experts.”

The delays to the project follow similar issues with the High Speed 2 railway project. HS2 chairman Allan Cook recently told the government the scheme’s budget was too low by at least £20bn and that the timetable for completing phrase one of the project was unrealistic.

Issues with HS2 have prompted an independent review of the scheme to determine whether and how the project should proceed.