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Crossrail is set to open in June as trial operations are carried out

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Crossrail will operate empty trains for several weeks to ensure the service is ‘absolutely flawless’ when it opens, Transport for London revealed today as the network prepares to launch public services by the end of June.

The much-anticipated line is already three-and-a-half years late and £4billion over budget, but London’s transport commissioner Andy Byford will not allow customers to travel on it until he is certain the service will run smoothly.  

TfL is trying to avoid comparisons being drawn to the botched launch of London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, which saw hundreds of flights cancelled and tens of thousands of bags delayed when it opened in March 2008.

The capital’s new railway was initially planned to be opened in full – from Reading in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in South East London – in December 2018, and was set a budget of £14.8billion in 2010. But the project’s total cost is now estimated to have ballooned to £18.9billion, including £5.1billion from the Government.

The line has been hit by construction delays and difficulties installing complex signalling systems, and so will now initially operate in three sections, with the central part between Paddington and Abbey Wood using new tunnels.

Volunteer'passengers' travel during a test run of an Elizabeth line train from Paddington to Woolwich and back on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ travel during a test run of an Elizabeth line train from Paddington to Woolwich and back on Sunday

Volunteer'passengers' board a carriage during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train at Paddington station on March 13

Volunteer ‘passengers’ board a carriage during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train at Paddington station on March 13

People travel on an escalator at the new Paddington Crossrail station on Sunday before an Elizabeth line train test run

People travel on an escalator at the new Paddington Crossrail station on Sunday before an Elizabeth line train test run

Volunteer'passengers' arrive on a platform during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train at Paddington station on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ arrive on a platform during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train at Paddington station on Sunday

Volunteer'passengers' leave a carriage and walk onto a platform at Paddington Crossrail station during a trial on March 13

Volunteer ‘passengers’ leave a carriage and walk onto a platform at Paddington Crossrail station during a trial on March 13

Volunteer'passengers' look at information boards as they travel on a train during a test run of a Crossrail service on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ look at information boards as they travel on a train during a test run of a Crossrail service on Sunday

An Elizabeth line train is driven from Paddington to Canary Wharf station yesterday ahead of the opening of Crossrail

An Elizabeth line train is driven from Paddington to Canary Wharf station yesterday ahead of the opening of Crossrail

Volunteer'passengers' travel on board a train during a test run of a Transport for London Elizabeth Line train on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ travel on board a train during a test run of a Transport for London Elizabeth Line train on Sunday

Information boards show live updates of other Transport for London lines on a Crossrail trial service on Sunday

Information boards show live updates of other Transport for London lines on a Crossrail trial service on Sunday

Volunteer'passengers' take a selfie photograph as they travel on board a Crossrail train during a test run on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ take a selfie photograph as they travel on board a Crossrail train during a test run on Sunday

Volunteer'passengers' wait on the platform during a test run of an Elizabeth line train at Paddington Station on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ wait on the platform during a test run of an Elizabeth line train at Paddington Station on Sunday

Signage displays directions to lifts at Paddington station on the new Crossrail line on Sunday, ahead of its opening in June

Signage displays directions to lifts at Paddington station on the new Crossrail line on Sunday, ahead of its opening in June

Volunteer'passengers' walk through ticket gates during a test run of an Elizabeth line train at Paddington on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ walk through ticket gates during a test run of an Elizabeth line train at Paddington on Sunday

Volunteer'passengers' wait on the platform during a test run of an Elizabeth line service at Paddington station on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ wait on the platform during a test run of an Elizabeth line service at Paddington station on Sunday

Signs for Transport for London's new Elizabeth line are pictured at Paddington Station in London on Sunday

Signs for Transport for London’s new Elizabeth line are pictured at Paddington Station in London on Sunday

Volunteer'passengers' board a carriage during a test run of an Elizabeth line service at Woolwich station on Sunday

Volunteer ‘passengers’ board a carriage during a test run of an Elizabeth line service at Woolwich station on Sunday

The Crossrail route map is displayed, with the complete line set to be operational in its full form by May 2023 at the latest

The Crossrail route map is displayed, with the complete line set to be operational in its full form by May 2023 at the latest

The Crossrail map is shown on top of the existing Transport for London map, showing how it interconnects with Tube lines

The Crossrail map is shown on top of the existing Transport for London map, showing how it interconnects with Tube lines

The Crossrail route is shown on a geographical map which displays how passengers will be able to travel through London

The Crossrail route is shown on a geographical map which displays how passengers will be able to travel through London

STAGE 1: When the'Elizabeth line' first opens by the end of June, it will operate as three separate railways - from Reading or Heathrow to Paddington; Paddington to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street; and Liverpool Street to Shenfield

STAGE 1: When the ‘Elizabeth line’ first opens by the end of June, it will operate as three separate railways – from Reading or Heathrow to Paddington; Paddington to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street; and Liverpool Street to Shenfield

STAGE 2: The second stage, for which Crossrail says the'earliest expected date' is'autumn 2022', will ensure the services from Reading or Heathrow towards Paddington can run all the way through to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street. At this stage, there will also be trains running direct from Paddington to Shenfield, also via Liverpool Street

STAGE 2: The second stage, for which Crossrail says the ‘earliest expected date’ is ‘autumn 2022’, will ensure the services from Reading or Heathrow towards Paddington can run all the way through to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street. At this stage, there will also be trains running direct from Paddington to Shenfield, also via Liverpool Street

STAGE 3: The final milestone will be'no later than May 2023', when the full timetable will allow passengers to travel without changing across the entire line from Reading to Shenfield or Abbey Wood

STAGE 3: The final milestone will be ‘no later than May 2023’, when the full timetable will allow passengers to travel without changing across the entire line from Reading to Shenfield or Abbey Wood

When the ‘Elizabeth line’ first opens by the end of June, it will operate as three separate railways – from Reading or Heathrow to Paddington; Paddington to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street; and Liverpool Street to Shenfield.

The second stage, for which Crossrail says the ‘earliest expected date’ is ‘autumn 2022’, will ensure the services from Reading or Heathrow towards Paddington can run all the way through to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street. At this second stage, there will also be trains running direct from Paddington to Shenfield, also via Liverpool Street.

How Crossrail will open in three stages by May 2023

Stage 1: By the end of June 2022

The Elizabeth line will launch in the ‘first half of 2022’ – ie no later than June – with services from Paddington to Abbey Wood. Services from Reading and Heathrow to Paddington, and from Shenfield to Liverpool Street, will be rebranded from ‘TfL Rail’ to the ‘Elizabeth line’.

Stage 2: Autumn 2022 

The earliest expected date for the next phase is ‘autumn 2022’. When this phase launches, services from Reading and Heathrow will operate through to Abbey Wood. Services from Shenfield will go through to Paddington.

Stage 3: May 2023

Full timetable for travel from Reading or Heathrow to Shenfield or Abbey Wood without changing.

The final milestone will be ‘no later than May 2023’, when the full timetable will allow passengers to travel without changing across the entire line from Reading to Shenfield or Abbey Wood. By next year there will be one train every 150 seconds through central London.

Mr Byford said: ‘Opening is one thing, opening reliably is another. We all remember what happened at Heathrow T5, which is a beautiful facility, but they had all sorts of problems from day one.

‘We want this opening to be flawless, absolutely flawless. For that reason, even when we’re technically ready … we just want a few weeks for literally running up and down, ghost running, shadow running.

‘Literally have the trains go up and down, up and down, up and down, so that we can be sure to be reliable. The system must be reliable. Londoners have waited long enough. They should expect the system to perform admirably from day one.’

Mr Byford said TfL has ‘a date in mind’ for when public services will begin but refused to be more specific than ‘by the end of June’, which was the previously announced timeframe. The public will be given ‘several weeks’ notice’. 

Mark Wild took over as the chief executive of Crossrail in November 2018 when it was already behind schedule and over budget. He said it is ‘undoubtedly the most advanced railway in Europe and probably the world’.

Mr Byford added that it is ‘not a Tube line’, opting to describe it as ‘a new mode of transport’ for London. He said: ‘This is a completely different, transformative experience.’

Elizabeth line trains have been running through the tunnels for tests since May 2021, and the stock for the line is already in service between Paddington and Reading, and Shenfield and Liverpool Street under the ‘TfL Rail’ brand.

Thousands of staff from TfL, Network Rail and other partner organisations have been taking part in exercises in recent weeks to test timetables and simulate scenarios such as evacuations from trains and stations. 

Signs for Transport for London's new Elizabeth Line are pictured at Paddington Station in London on Sunday

Signs for Transport for London’s new Elizabeth Line are pictured at Paddington Station in London on Sunday

Volunteer'passengers' wait on a platform at Woolwich station on Sunday during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train

Volunteer ‘passengers’ wait on a platform at Woolwich station on Sunday during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train

Volunteer'passengers' wait on a platform at Woolwich station on Sunday during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train

Volunteer ‘passengers’ wait on a platform at Woolwich station on Sunday during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train

Volunteer'passengers' walk off a carriage at Woolwich station on Sunday during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train

Volunteer ‘passengers’ walk off a carriage at Woolwich station on Sunday during a test run of an Elizabeth Line train

Leaflets for Transport for London's new Elizabeth Line service are pictured at Paddington station in London on Sunday

Leaflets for Transport for London’s new Elizabeth Line service are pictured at Paddington station in London on Sunday

Andy Byford, Commissioner for Transport for London, poses for a photo on a platform at Woolwich station on Sunday

Andy Byford, Commissioner for Transport for London, poses for a photo on a platform at Woolwich station on Sunday

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the line

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the line

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the line

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the line 

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday as Crossrail bosses prepare for the line to open

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday as Crossrail bosses prepare for the line to open

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the line

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday ahead of the much-anticipated opening of the line

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday as trial operations are carried out

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday as trial operations are carried out

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday as staff gather on the concourse area

Signage on display at the Paddington Elizabeth line station yesterday as staff gather on the concourse area

A Transport for London employee stands on the platform at the Canary Wharf Elizabeth line station yesterday

A Transport for London employee stands on the platform at the Canary Wharf Elizabeth line station yesterday

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