Crossrail leaders have admitted there will be further construction hold ups on the line after weeks of optimism in the face of coronavirus.
Project chiefs said yesterday night (Thursday July 23) the long-delayed rail link will not open in summer next year as planned.
The scheme was already due to open two and a half years late – and now there will be more delays after Covid-19 shut down construction sites.
Once complete, Crossrail will bring passengers from Reading, Berkshire, and Heathrow in the west and Shenfield, Essex, in the east to central and south east London.
Originally budgeted at £14.8 billion, costs have ballooned to as much as £18.25 billion – and could rise further with more delays.
Last month, chairman Tony Meggs remained bullish despite the impact of the virus – pledging to “meet or beat” the timetable for opening.
But monthly reports on the scheme by engineering consultant Jacobs highlighted unrealistic targets and fears of growing costs.
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said yesterday Covid-19 was a major factor in the delays – with on site construction halted for almost three months at the peak of the virus.
But he admitted that “existing schedule pressure” was also behind the hold ups.
“Everyone working on the Crossrail project knows London needs the Elizabeth line more than ever and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and as quickly as we can,” Mr Wild said.
“Our focus right now is on completing the remaining infrastructure works so that we can fully test the railway,” he added.
Next month, Crossrail will start intensive 24-hour work on tunnels, portals and shafts to make up time lost to the virus.
But Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon said Londoners will now be “lucky” if the line opens by the end of next year.
“This further delay is terrible news, for passengers and London’s businesses. The hole in TfL’s budget is also set to become even bigger,” she said.
Ms Pidgeon questioned Mr Meggs’ claim last month that Crossrail would still “meet or beat” its target opening date.
“Clear answers are now needed as to why such claims were made just a few weeks ago,” she said.
“The lack of honesty about the real progress in completing Crossrail has been staggering.”