The Elizabeth Line (or Crossrail as we’ll refer it to in this article) is edging closer to accepting paying passengers – with the central core section moving to Trial Operation.
The move is part of the commission of Crossrail to accept passengers from next year sometime. It also marks one o the final steps before passenger services can commence.
Trial Operations involves operational exercises to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway for public use and to fully test the timetables. More than 150 scenarios will be carried out over the coming months to ensure the readiness of the railway for passenger service.
These include exercises to make sure that all systems and procedures work effectively and staff can respond to any incidents, including customers being unwell or signal failures.
The start of Trial Operations is the latest milestone in turning the project into a live railway, which has been the focus since the project’s governance was transferred to TfL in October 2020.
In the new year, a series of more complex exercises will include evacuations of trains and stations using thousands of staff. The final step will see a period of ‘shadow running’, operating timetabled services ahead of the Elizabeth line opening.
It’s going to be a few months yet.
The trial operations phase will take several months to complete, due to its complexity.
According to TfL, the Elizabeth line is an immensely complex railway and Trial Operations will continue until it can operate at the highest levels of safety and reliability before the start of passenger services.
Only then will a specific opening date for the railway be announced.
Trial Operations will also see several organisations, including London Underground and Transport for London, MTR Elizabeth line, Network Rail and the emergency services all working together to respond to the trial scenarios.
In addition, further software adjustments to the train and signalling and tunnel ventilation system will take place in December and over the Christmas period.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“Reaching the start of Trial Operations is a significant milestone in the delivery of the Elizabeth line, and it’s really exciting to be moving into this phase. The next few months are crucial to making sure the railway can open safely next year, and everyone is working incredibly hard to reach that goal. The Elizabeth line will help transform travel in London and the South East, dramatically improving transport links, supporting regeneration and boosting our economic recovery.”
Andy Byford, Transport for London’s Commissioner, said:
“Everyone is working hard to make sure we can open the Elizabeth line safely and reliably in the first half of 2022.
“The project continues to have my full, personal attention, and with huge progress made to date, it is great to now enter this final stretch. The Trial Operations phase will see staff really get to grips with all aspects of this complex and transformational railway to ensure we are ready to welcome customers next year.”
Minister Baroness Vere said:
“I’m pleased that a key milestone has been achieved with the start of Trial Operations – a crucial, final step to ensure the highest standards of performance and safety of the railway, ahead of the Elizabeth line opening to passengers next year.”
Mark Wild, Crossrail Chief Executive, said:
“We are delighted to have reached the next key stage in delivery of the Elizabeth line with the start of Trial Operations. It will take several months to complete this final phase. This is an immensely complex railway and we must be able to demonstrate the highest levels of reliability. Everyone is working hard to deliver the Elizabeth line as soon as practically possible and we remain on track to commence passenger services in the first half of 2022.”
After the trials and shadow running… what then?
When the central Crossrail core opens in 2022, the first section that will open to traffic will be the Abbey Wood to Paddington route.
When the Elizabeth line opens it will initially operate as three separate railways. Customers from the west will initially need to change at Paddington for services into the central section of the route, and customers from the east will initially need to change at Liverpool Street.
The latest plans ensure that Elizabeth line services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield can connect with the central tunnels as soon as possible after the opening of the central section of the railway. The earliest expected date for this is autumn 2022. The final milestone will be no later than May 2023, when the final timetable will be in place.
It’s a long way to go yet for the Crossrail dream to be realised.
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