Abbey Wood roundel
Abbey Wood will not see Crossrail trains until summer 2021

Woolwich and Abbey Wood Crossrail stations will finally open their doors in summer 2021, two and a half years behind schedule, the company building the troubled rail link announced this morning.

The line’s central section – between Paddington and Abbey Wood – had been due to open at the end of 2018, but the £18 billion project has been hit by a series of delays in construction and installing the complex signalling system designed to get Elizabeth Line trains to work on the east and west sides of London.

On Monday, the Transport for London commissioner, Mike Brown, said that TfL was not budgeting for any income from Crossrail until autumn 2021. But today, Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said his team was working to open in summer 2021, and would begin services earlier if possible. Bond Street station, which had been expected to face further delays, is likely to open with the central section, he added.

Routes out to Heathrow and Reading in the west, and to Shenfield in the east, would be connected to the main Crossrail service by the middle of 2022. TfL is already controlling these services and running Elizabeth Line trains on these routes under the name TfL Rail, resulting in Reading and Slough appearing on the tube map last month.

The infrastructure between Paddington and Abbey Wood is entirely owned by Transport for London, but the outer sections are part of Network Rail and use different signalling systems. The trains must be able to work with all three for full service to begin.

Full testing of the Elizabeth Line service is due to start in the autumn, Wild said.

“I know that Londoners are deeply frustrated by the delays to the Elizabeth line and we are doing everything we can to get this railway finished and open,” he said. “We continue to make good progress with the central section now reaching substantial completion and we are increasingly confident that Bond Street station will be ready to open with the rest of the railway. We have a comprehensive plan to complete the Elizabeth line and the milestones we must hit during 2020, including the testing of the signalling and train systems and safety assurance, but there are no shortcuts to delivery of this hugely complex railway.

“Our latest assessment is that Elizabeth line services through central London will commence in summer 2021 but we are aiming to open the railway as soon as we can. This forecast assumes a period of time will be required to undertake intensive operational testing. The key focus for everyone on the Crossrail project is commencing intensive testing of the Elizabeth line as soon as we can in 2020, to enable passenger service as early as possible in 2021.”

Last year, businesses in Abbey Wood said they were being “crucified” by delays to the project, while in Woolwich the delay was partially blamed for the closure of the street food venue in the old covered market.

Berkeley Homes, which is developing the Royal Arsenal site, and Greenwich Council agreed to up the bill for fitting out the Woolwich station after central government refused to fund a new station – so far the council has paid £2.5m of a promised £15 million contribution. Woolwich station was described as “substantially complete” in a video released last summer.

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