Transport for London has confirmed that the much delayed Crossrail project will not now open until 2021.

The central section of the east-west rail line had originally been scheduled to open in December 2018, but this was delayed until autumn 2019, and then again to between October 2020 and March 2021.

TfL now says that “Our latest assessment is that the opening of the central section will not occur in 2020”, adding that it will “provide Londoners with further certainty about when the Elizabeth line will open early in 2020”, with a view to opening “as soon as practically possible in 2021”.

The cost of the project has also been revised upwards, with between £400 million and £650 million now expected to be added to the bill. The budget was originally set at £15.9 billion, but may now reach £18.25 billion.

When the central section of the Elizabeth line does finally open, it will operate as follows:

  • Paddington (Elizabeth line station) to Abbey Wood via central London
  • Liverpool Street (main line station) to Shenfield
  • Paddington (main line station) to Heathrow and Reading

Following this, full services across the Elizabeth line, from Reading and Heathrow in the west, to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east, will commence “as soon as possible”.

The delays have also had a knock on effect to the Heathrow Express service, which will move to a single platform operation at Paddington, to make space for overground services from the station until the underground Elizabeth Line opens.

Commenting on the news Mark Wild, CEO of Crossrail Ltd said:

“The Crossrail project has made good progress over recent months as the new plan to complete the Elizabeth line is implemented by the supply chain.

“A key focus during 2019 has been finalising the stations, tunnels, portals and shafts. By the end of the year, Custom House, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations will be complete and the project is on track to finish fit-out of the tunnels in January. The central section will be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter in 2020, except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue.

“The two critical paths for the project remain software development for the signalling and train systems, and the complex assurance and handover process for the railway; both involve safety certification for the Elizabeth line. These must be done to the highest quality standards to ensure reliability of the railway from day one of passenger service.

“Crossrail Ltd will need further time to complete software development for the signalling and train systems and the safety approvals process for the railway. 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.”