Transport for London has confirmed that the much delayed Crossrail project will not now open until 2022.

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.

Last month Crossrail Ltd said that the route – known as the Elizabeth Line – would not open in summer 2021, and today it said that “the latest assessment, based on the best available programme information right now, is that the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will be ready to open in the first half of 2022”.

In addition the company said that the cost to complete the project could be up to £1.1bn above the Financing Package agreed in December 2018 – a figure which is £450 million more than the upper end of the range announced in November 2019.

Crossrail said that it planned to start intensive operational testing, known as Trial Running, “at the earliest opportunity in 2021”, including a final phase “involving people being invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios to ensure the readiness of the railway”.

In a statement the company said:

“A programme of this scale and complexity was already challenging, with pressures on the schedule before Covid-19 became a factor; the impact of Covid-19 has made the existing pressures more acute. The schedule delay is due to three main factors:

“Routeway: we have had lower than planned productivity in the final completion and handover of the shafts and portals. The shafts and portals form a critical part of the routeway and contain many of the complex operating systems for the Elizabeth line. We have now completed handover of eight of the ten shafts and portals to TfL and will complete handover of the final two this autumn.

“Stations: as more detailed plans for the completion and handover of the ten central section stations have developed, we have revised our previous schedule assumptions about the pace at which these large and complex stations can be handed over to TfL. The completion and handover of all the stations in the central section is a monumental task – in our updated plan we have phased the transfer of stations to take account the scale of this undertaking.

“Covid-19: Covid has further exacerbated the schedule pressures due to a pause of physical activity on sites during lockdown to keep the workforce safe and significant constraints on ongoing work and productivity due to the reduced numbers that can work on site to meet strict social distancing requirements. We now have a maximum of around 2,000 people on our sites, less than 50 per cent of our pre-Covid complement.”

Crossrail said that despite these challenges “good progress continues to be made with completing the remaining construction works, with much of this work coming to an end along with software testing for the signalling and train systems”.

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

“Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible. Now more than ever Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the Elizabeth line will bring, and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and quickly as we can.

“We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway and we are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity. Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risk and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks.

“We are working tirelessly to complete the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway and successfully transition the project as an operational railway to Transport for London.”