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Crossrail delayed again as £1.4bn bailout confirmed

Crossrail tunnel with Elizabeth Line train inside

The government and Transport for London (TfL) have confirmed a ‘financing package’ for the Crossrail project as it faces another delay beyond the autumn 2019 opening.

Today’s announcement from London mayor Sadiq Khan, TfL and the Greater London Authority (GLA) included the news that Crossrail Ltd would receive a further £1.4 billion to assist the company in filling a gap it estimates to be between £1.6 billion and £2 billion.

A new completion date has not been announced, with TfL saying “it has now become clear that more work is required than had been envisaged to complete the infrastructure and then commence the extensive testing necessary to ensure the railway opens safely and reliably”.

Crossrail, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line when it opens to the public, was originally scheduled to open this month. In August, the company announced the project would be delayed until late 2019 to allow for the completion of infrastructure and a testing phase.

In addition, the major project – one of Europe’s largest – was given nearly £600 million of government funding on top of its £14.8 billion budget by former rail minister Jo Johnson, as well as the offer of another £350 million in October.

To meet the deficit, the GLA is borrowing £1.3 billion from the Department for Transport (DfT) and will also provide a £100 million ‘cash contribution’.

Meanwhile, TfL has agreed a contingency plan with the government that will see the DfT loan a further £750 million to the project should the higher end of the new estimated cost be needed. This will replace the £350 million loan offered in October.

The news comes just days after former Crossrail and HS2 chairman Sir Terry Morgan resigned from both roles. Morgan claimed he expected to be fired due to the government’s disappointment in the delays to the opening of the Elizabeth Line.

New Crossrail boss Mark Wild said his team was working on “a robust and deliverable schedule”.

Wild added: “Since I joined Crossrail Ltd in November I have been reviewing the work still required to complete the core stations and rail infrastructure and begin the critical safety testing. It is evident that there is a huge amount still to do. Stations are in varying stages of completion and we need time to test the complex railway systems. This means that I cannot at this stage commit to an autumn 2019 opening date. My team and I are working to establish a robust and deliverable schedule in order to give Londoners a credible plan to open the railway and provide a safe and reliable service.

“Once that work is completed we will then be in a position to confirm a new opening date.”

Tony Meggs, who is stepping down as CEO of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, has been brought in to oversee the final stages of Crossrail.

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said: “I haven’t hidden my anger and frustration about the Crossrail project being delayed. This has a knock-on consequence of significant additional cost to the project. It has been increasingly clear that the previous Crossrail Ltd leadership painting a far too optimistic picture of the project’s status.

“I have ordered the release of all Crossrail board minutes in the last five years to provide transparency to Londoners on their decision making, and working with the DfT brought in a new leadership team.

“With London's population continuing to grow, our priority must be getting this monumental project completed as soon as possible, with Londoners enjoying all the benefits the Elizabeth Line will provide. This agreement means that, working with TfL and the government, Crossrail's new leadership can get the job done.”

According to the BBC, TfL estimates it will miss out on £20 million in revenue as a result of the delay.

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