Queen Elizabeth II surprised viewers last week when she joined other dignitaries at Paddington Station in London for the somewhat surprising opening of the new Elizabeth line, a week before the official date. Together with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Transport Minister Grant Shaps and London Transport Commissioner (TfL) Andy Byford, she congratulated construction workers who will play a key role in the line’s operations.

Formerly known as Crossrail, the line – which is due to open to the public tomorrow – is designed to carry passengers through the capital and surrounding areas. He will work from Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London to Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow Airport on the outskirts of West London.

The official opening was the culmination of more than 12 years of project work, worth almost £ 19 billion ($ 23.7 billion). The final budget was significantly higher than originally anticipated, expected to be £ 14.8 billion ($ 18.5 billion) in 2010. Project funding was hampered almost from the start; complications that also occurred during the construction phase.

At around 6:30 a.m. on May 24, the first passengers will board the trains and leave Paddington and Abbey Wood Elizabeth Line stations when the service is open to the public. The trips will mark the beginning of a new era for transport in London, with additional services to be introduced later in the year. The second phase of the line’s full opening will take place in the autumn of this year, expanding its operational footprint from Reading to Schoenfield.

Politicians, including the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, are sitting on the Elizabeth Line train at the opening ceremony.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right), British Transport Minister Grant Shaps (2R), London Mayor Sadiq Khan (2L) and Crossrail Chief Operating Officer Howard Smith (left) sit in the train car of Elizabeth during a visit at Paddington Station on 17 May 2022 to mark the completion of the Crossrail project in London. Credit: Andrew Matthews / Pool / AFP via Getty Images

The figures of the project are stunning – not only from a financial point of view. Travel time will be drastically reduced, halved between Abbey Wood-Paddington (reduced by 29 minutes) and Liverpool Street-Woolwich (reduced by 15 minutes). Travel from Faringdon to Canary Wharf will also be 14 minutes faster, in just 10 minutes.

Although it was declared a success at the opening ceremony, the project was mired in difficulty since being first approved in 2005, Prime Minister Gordon Brown finally signed the project in late 2007, expecting it to open in December 2017 and cost £ 15.9 billion (£ 19.9 billion). . dollars).

What happened next was often contradictory, indisputable and, unfortunately, several times tragic. The schedule below covers important construction dates and events – political and financial – that affected the project schedule and led to a delay in the Crossrail project.

May 2009: Breakthrough

London Mayor Boris Johnson was joined by Transport Minister Lord Adonis to begin construction with a demolition ceremony that included laying the foundation stone of the project at Canary Wharf.

Crossrail has already issued a number of mandatory purchase orders for several properties in the Tottenham Court Road area, including the legendary 2,000-seat music venue. Astoria. These mandatory purchase orders were the first to be sent on behalf of the project, which marked the beginning of the preparatory work.

London Mayor Boris Johnson stands on a balcony overlooking Tottenham Court Road.
London Mayor Boris Johnson stands on a balcony overlooking the Crossrail construction site at Tottenham Court Road Underground Station on 27 October 2009 in London, United Kingdom. Credit: Olli Scarf / Getty Images

October 2010: Crossrail is entertained by the coalition

A little over a year in construction and the first example of the impact of the policy on the project was underway. The election of the first coalition government of the United Kingdom after World War II, composed of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, dramatically changed the political landscape, as well as the priorities of public spending.

After a comprehensive review of spending, the budget was cut by almost £ 1 billion ($ 1.3 billion) and Crossrail was slow; the schedule was shifted a year ago. The written opening was already scheduled for December 2018.

May 2012: drilling, drilling and tunnels

The tunneling phase of the project has begun. It will run for three years and will include eight huge tunnel machines operating under the streets of London, day and night. Each machine was operated by a team of 20 “tunnel gangs” and included not only mechanical tools but also a kitchen and toilets.

At 1,000 tons and 150 meters in length, they can drill up to 38 meters a day together. As drilling continued, more than 200,000 tunnel segments were combined to create 42 km of new tunnels.

January 2014: more Crossrail delay warnings

One of the first signs was that construction would not be planned, as the UK’s National Audit Office warned that Crossrail could be further delayed, saying the project was “just behind schedule”. However, he added that Crossrail Ltd is confident that it will open as planned.

Crossrail Ltd was established in 2001 to oversee the construction of lines and stations. Owned by TfL, the company is funded by the Transport Operator and the Ministry of Transport of the United Kingdom Government. Once operational, the line and its stations will be operated by TfL, which will include more than 100 kilometers of track and 41 stations – 10 of those specifically built for the service.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is standing with Crossrail workers near one of London's 1,000-ton tunnel boring machines.
London Mayor Boris Johnson (C) stands with Crossrail construction workers near one of the 1,000-tonne tunnel boring machines in the Port of London area on May 31, 2013. Credit: Leon Neal / AFP via Getty Images

March 2014: deaths and fines

A 43-year-old construction worker was killed while working on Fisher Street in Holborn. Rene Tkacik worked in the tunnels while the construction of a cross tunnel between two train tunnels was in progress. He sprayed the walls of the tunnels with concrete when part of the roof fell.

His death was one of several incidents that led to a number of construction companies receives huge fines worth a total of £ 1 million ($ 1.3 million) after being brought to justice by the Health and Safety Executive. The three – BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) and Kier Infrastructure and Overseas – were fined £ 300,000 ($ 374,724) for Tkáčik’s death and another £ 775,000 ($ 968,037) for two more unrelated incidents that led to two other workers. .

Unfortunately, there were several other deaths and construction-related injuries, also above ground. Many cyclists and drivers have been involved in accidents with Crossrail trucks carrying machinery and construction waste over the years.

July 2018: additional budget

Despite some success, the seriousness of Crossrail’s delays has now come to light. The project was affected by what a government minister called “spending pressure”, which led to an increase in his budget.

Just a few weeks later, speculation emerged that Crossrail was facing construction delays and challenges with the complex signaling systems needed to operate. Taking into account these concerns, Crossrail Ltd postponed the opening of the line from December 2018, adding that it hopes to achieve a reduced opening of only the central part of the line at the end of 2019.

April 2019: optimistic forecasts

Following a further increase in the budget through a financial package made up of TfL, the UK government and the London mayor’s office – as well as the departure of the chairman of Crossrail Ltd – the so-called “delivery window” sometime between October 2020 and March 2021. was confirmed by Cross Wilde CEO Mark Wilde – at least for the central section.

October 2019: Action on Bond Street

After the sudden deaths of up to five Crossrail employees, although not directly involved in the work they were doing at the time, workers “dropped tools” at the Bond Street station. They were concerned about working conditions, while one worker said management was “more interested in making sure it didn’t come out.” Indeed, they are trying to keep everything quiet. ”

Responding to speculation that the deaths were related to underground conditions, a Crossrail spokesman told the media: “Crossrail Ltd requires the highest standards of health and safety throughout the project and we continue to work closely with our contractor on Bond Street Costain Skanska Joint Venture in support of making sure that this is the case. ”

A worker walks through the partially completed tunnel at Crossrail Bond Street.
A worker walks through the partially completed tunnel at Crossrail Bond Street on December 8, 2014. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

March 2020: The pandemic leads to further delays

In March 2020, Crossrail was amused by something no one could see coming when the project was in the planning stages: a global pandemic. Almost all work on the project was halted due to the arrival of Covid-19 in the UK. According to a report by the Public Accounts Committee in October 2021, the pandemic added £ 234 million ($ 292.3 million) to the already inflated project budget.

After saying that costs had risen again and that the line would open as soon as possible in 2021, in November 2020 Crossrail Ltd was forced to abandon plans to open in the summer of the same year, citing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is later said that the new opening working date is sometime in the first half of 2022.

March 2021: TfL transmission continues

The Farringdon station was the last to be broadcast on TfL after Custom House. Ownership of several other stations was transferred to the transport body later that year, including Tottenham Court Road, Uluwich, Liverpool Street and Paddington.

Even today, the Bond Street station remains a thorn in the side of the full opening of the central section of Crossrail, with current expectations that it will open in late summer 2022. The long saga became public in August 2019, as Crossrail requires changes at the top by the two companies in charge of building it. In June of the following year, Crossrail abandoned both construction partners.

Wilde said earlier that the delays were due in part to tunneling problems; other delays included the pandemic. However, speaking to the TfL board shortly after taking over as CEO of Crossrail in November 2018, Wilde said the expectations for the project’s launch in late 2018 were “fantasy”, adding that the new project management is “more rooted in realism than the previous regime”.

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