News raises hopes that the much delayed and over-budget project that runs west to east (and vice versa) across London will open to customers within a year, possibly by Christmas.
Test train services have begun running under London on the Crossrail project, boosting confidence that the new Elizabeth line should finally open to customers within a year, adding 26 miles of new tunnels to the city's tube network. Four trains an hour are operating as part of rigorous safety testing described as a crucial milestone in the completion of the £19bn east-west rail link across the capital. Though, when open, there will be a train - 200m long, accommodating up to 1,500 passengers - every two and a half minutes at peak times.
The trial runs will be followed by tests of the stations and systems later this year.
Crossrail said it was on track to open in early 2022, although the Transport for London commissioner, Andy Byford, has indicated that the line might be operational by Christmas, just over three years behind the original schedule.
“Reaching this crucial project milestone of running trains through the tunnels is a real testament to the teams who have worked so hard to get the railway ready for trials to ensure we can operate safely and reliably,” he said.
“There is still much to do, but I know everyone is pulling together and when we open the Elizabeth line it will make a real difference to those travelling across London.”
Trains are now running in tests along the length of the line, combining the new tunnelled underground sections with the overground stretches of the Great Western and Eastern mainlines, eventually linking Reading in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex.
Combining the three different stretches, which run on separate signalling systems, had been one of the main engineering difficulties Crossrail encountered as its budget spiralled upwards and repeated delays were announced from 2018.
Construction of the revamped Tottenham Court Road station, set to become one of London’s busiest interchanges, has now been completed.