August 31, 2018 / 9:27 AM / 2 months ago

London's 15 billion-pound Crossrail link delayed by nearly a year

LONDON (Reuters) - The opening of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, London’s new Crossrail train line, has been delayed by about nine months because the 15 billion pound ($19 billion) scheme requires more time for testing and for final work to be completed.

FILE PHOTO: Crossrail employees walk in the new Farringdon underground station of the Elizabeth line which was due to open in December 2018, in London, Britain, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

When fully open, the Elizabeth line, as it is officially known, will connect destinations such as Heathrow Airport in west London to areas such as the Canary Wharf financial district in the east.

It will alleviate overcrowding and speed up journeys between key transport hubs in Britain’s capital city.

The central section was meant to open in December this year but it has now been delayed until next autumn.

FILE PHOTO: The entrance to Crossrail's new Farringdon underground station of the Elizabeth line which was due to open in December 2018, is seen in London, Britain, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

“The original programme for testing has been compressed by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out activity in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software,” Crossrail said in a statement.

“Testing has started but further time is required to complete the full range of integrated tests.”

More than 200 million passengers are expected to use the Elizabeth line every year once it is operational.

Britain has a chequered past when it comes to delivering large infrastructure projects on time and within budget, including high-profile overspends such as the Millennium Dome and the 2012 Olympic Games.

It has taken decades for politicians to decide on building a new runway at Heathrow airport.

FILE PHOTO: Crossrail employees visit the new Farringdon underground station of the Elizabeth line which was due to open in December 2018, in London, Britain, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

In January, a report issued by regulator Transport for London (TfL) said construction was “now 90 percent complete.”

July board meeting minutes said: “Progress is being made across all areas of the programme; however significant cost and schedule pressures remain across the project.”

Crossrail received 11.7 billion pounds from the Department for Transport and TfL between July 2008 and May 2018, according to the British parliament’s website.

TfL said on Friday it was working closely with Crossrail to ensure all necessary work was completed.

“The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance,” said Mark Wild, London Underground and Elizabeth line Managing Director.

Additional reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison

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