London‘s new multi-billion-pound Crossrail service will miss its opening date by the best part of a year, a spokesman for the service has said.
More time is needed to complete “final infrastructure and extensive testing” for the 73-mile, west-to-east express train line 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 underground section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will now not be opened until autumn 2019.
Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, called the delay “disappointing”.
Rail minister Jo Johnson announced last month that the scheme’s budget had been hiked by hundreds of millions of pounds, from £14.8bn to £15.4bn, due to “cost pressures”.
The railway is known as Crossrail during its construction phase but will become the Elizabeth line once services start running. Some 200 million passengers are expected to use it every year.
When it is fully opened, trains will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west through 13 miles of new central London tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
Crossrail 2, which will run north-to-south from Wimbledon to Tottenham Hale, is expected to open in the 2030s.
Crossrail Limited described the 10-year project – one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure undertaking – as “hugely complex”, stating that the original timetable for testing has been reduced by contractors needing more time to complete work in the central tunnels and develop software.
The firm insisted that “the focus remains” on opening the full line “as soon after the central tunnels open as possible”.
Simon Wright, Crossrail Limited’s chief executive, said: “The Elizabeth line is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and is now in its final stages.
“We have made huge progress with the delivery of this incredible project but we need further time to complete the testing of the new railway.
“We are working around the clock with our supply chain and Transport for London to complete and commission the Elizabeth line.”
A spokesman for Mr Khan added: ”It is essential that a safe and reliable railway operates from day one, and this has to be the top priority.”
Andrew Adonis, the former transport secretary and national infrastructure chairman, called the delay “more Grayling catastrophe”, referring to the current transport secretary Chris Grayling.
The Independent has contacted the Department for Transport for comment.