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Speculation Grows About Crossrail Launch Date

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The ambitious Crossrail project is set to partially open this summer, but transport chiefs are remaining tight-lipped about an exact date. The mammoth underground tunnelling scheme will link London from east to west with 26 miles of rail lines. The tunnel boring process began nearly a decade ago, and took about 3 years to complete.

The twin-bore tunnels run to depths of up to 40 metres, with one tunnel each for westbound and eastbound services. Four pairs of boring machines were used, weighing 1,000 tonnes each, which extracted over 7 million tonnes of earth along the way. Numerous archaeological artefacts were uncovered during the process.

The majority of the extracted soil has been used to build a nature reserve in Essex. Crossrail has been one of the largest and most complex engineering projects in Europe, and costs have mounted to around £20bn. After its original opening date of 2018 was delayed, Crossrail looks set to begin operations soon.

Transport for London (TfL) have described the current phase of the project as Trial Operations, which are design to test the smooth running of the Elizabeth Line. Trains have been running through the tunnels since last May, to road-test their safety and reliability, and weed out any problems before the line opens to the public.

As well as the tunnels, 41 new stations have been carved out to link the rail lines, with each station 240m or more long. The whole system is geared up to carry 1,500 people per train, with up to 24 trains running per hour.  The Crossrail project, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line, is set to expand London’s railway network by 10%.

The east to west line will link Reading and Heathrow with central and west London, bringing an additional 1.5 million people within a 45-minute journey of the city centre. The BBC reports that a recent ‘breakdown practice’ took place on the line, involving a thousand volunteers.

The guinea pig passengers boarded a train from Woolwich Crossrail Station, before being informed that the train had broken down. They were transferred to a rescue train and taken to Canary Wharf, where they rehearsed an emergency evacuation of the station. The trial procedure appeared to run as expected.

Speculation is now mounting in the media about the exact opening date of the Elizabeth Line, with Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford speaking to the London assembly in mid- March.

Mr Byford said: “I can confirm this morning we remain on track… to open the Elizabeth line… within the first half of this year, by June 30, 2022. That date has not and will not slip on my watch.”

He added: “We have a date that we are working towards but until I’m certain… that we can open on that particular date, I’m not going to commit to it or publicly opine on it. There are a lot of dates that have come and gone. I am determined to stick to my promises. It will open by June 30.”

The Crossrail project is already running four years behind schedule, and billions over its original budget.

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