CRossrail trains that provide a direct link between Heathrow, the city and Canary Wharf are expected to start running around nine months earlier than expected, it has been learned.
This is made possible thanks to an “ingenious” initiative to speed up the integration of the east and west branches of the line, revealed Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford.
According to revised plans from August of last year, trains from Reading and Heathrow would not have traveled to Shenfield, at the east end of the line, until May 2023, and instead would have been completed at Paddington.
The goal is now to have direct services to and from Heathrow and Reading to Abbey Wood by September next year, meaning passengers at the city’s stations and Canary Wharf will not have to change by train to Paddington.
When the line opens under central London next year, services will initially operate between Abbey Wood and Paddington, at a frequency of 12 trains per hour.
The addition of the Heathrow and Reading trains will increase peak frequencies in the London Central Tunnel section to 24 trains per hour.
Crossrail trains already run between Reading, Heathrow and Paddington, and Shenfield and Liverpool Street, although they are currently known as TfL Rail.
The ability to run Crossrail West Branch trains through central London from September next year is made possible by accelerating integration with Network Rail timetables.
However, direct trains to and from Shenfield will not begin until May 2023. In the initial period following the opening of the central section, they will end at Paddington. There will also be a “reduced” number of trains before the full end-to-end railroad opens.
A report to TfL’s Elizabeth Line committee said: “The proposed changes have the potential to help minimize the costs of the Crossrail project in its later stages, as well as a potential opportunity to improve revenues.
In addition, the introduction of transit services from the west builds on the government’s ‘road map’ to support recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Providing much-needed public transport capacity and connectivity will be key to ensuring that passengers, particularly in the West Corridor and the Thames Valley, can access the services and facilities which in turn support economic growth and recovery. “
The changes effectively split Crossrail into two “separate but overlapping” railways in the meantime – which will hopefully make it more reliable, mean fewer drivers and trains are needed initially and should. reduce the number of trains to be “reversed” at Paddington. .
Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild told the House of Commons public accounts committee on Monday that the first possible date for Crossrail to open was next February.
Indeed, “test operations”, a process described as “dress rehearsal” and using thousands of volunteers to test trains and stations, will not start until November at the earliest and will take 10 to 12 weeks.
However, Crossrail leaders remain concerned that any issues with the final train software upgrade, which is expected to occur around September, could result in “months” of delay.
The committee heard that Crossrail’s £ 18.9bn cost did not include the £ 1bn train fleet or the cost of the rail depot, estimated to be between £ 250m and £ 300m, which means the total bill exceeds £ 20 billion.
Crossrail Paddington Station is due to be handed over to TfL next month, with Canary Wharf station being completed in October – leaving Bond Street as the last of nine new stations to be completed.