by Telegraph Reporters, The Telegraph, August 31, 2018
London's new east-west railway Crossrail will miss its December opening date and services will not begin until autumn next year, a spokesman for the project said.
More time is needed to complete "final infrastructure and extensive testing" to ensure a "safe and reliable railway" is delivered, according to Crossrail Limited.
Services were due to begin running by the end of the year, but the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will not be opened until autumn 2019.
Rail minister Jo Johnson announced last month that the scheme's budget has been increased from £14.8 billion to £15.4 billion due to "cost pressures".
The railway is known as Crossrail during the construction phase but will become the Elizabeth line once services begin.
When it is fully opened, trains will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west through 13 miles of new tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
Responding to the delay in the Crossrail project, a spokesman for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: "It's obviously disappointing that Crossrail Limited have advised that they need more time than anticipated to complete the final pieces of infrastructure, and to carry out the extensive testing required before the next phase of the Elizabeth line can open.
"This has been a 10-year construction project and is one of the most complex engineering schemes ever undertaken. It is essential that a safe and reliable railway operates from day one, and this has to be the top priority.
"When complete, the Elizabeth line will transform travel across London and the South East, with new state-of-the-art trains taking millions of people more quickly across London, providing a boost to the economy worth billions of pounds."
Mark Wild, London Underground and Elizabeth line managing director, said: "We will continue to work closely with Crossrail Limited as they complete the remaining railway infrastructure work and testing needed to deliver the new railway.
"The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance."
Concerns over schedule, funding and safety
The announcement that Crossrail will not be operational until autumn next year is the latest hitch to the London engineering project. It has already proven to be a controversial project due to concerns over delays, funding and safety.
There have been a number of proposals for a Crossrail-style railway since the 1940s, but it was not until July 2008 that the current scheme was given parliamentary approval.
Services were originally due to begin in 2017, but a decision was made in October 2010 to push this back by 12 months.
The start date of December 2018 has now been delayed until autumn 2019 as more time is needed to complete building work and safety tests.
Crossrail's budget was set at £15.9 billion in 2007, but this was cut to £14.8 billion in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government's Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.
In July it was announced that £600 million of additional funding was required as Crossrail Limited and Network Rail both needed more money to complete the project.
Contractors working on the project were fined more than £1 million in July last year over the death of a worker and two other incidents.
A joint venture of three companies, Bam, Ferrovial and Kier (BFK), pleaded guilty to three offences at Southwark Crown Court following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Construction worker Rene Tkacik, 44, died after being crushed by falling wet concrete in March 2014.
Two other men were injured in separate incidents within six days of one another in January 2015. The HSE said the incidents could have been prevented if "simple measures" had been taken.
Investment in Crossrail has fuelled frustrations among people who believe regions such as the North of England are being discriminated against in terms of transport funding.
Think tank IPPR North claimed earlier this year that planned transport investment in London is two-and-a-half times higher per person than in the North.
The Department for Transport disputes the figures. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sparked anger in July 2017 last year by supporting a new £30 billion Crossrail 2 north-south scheme in London days after a series of rail electrification projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North were axed or downgraded.