We hate to say we told you so, but... we had our doubts that Crossrail would launch on time. Now it's official, we've been thinking about the knock-on effects of missing the December launch date. It's thrown up a few questions:
1. What about the Queen?
Ever since TfL announced Crossrail's official name, rumours have been rife than Brenda will be doing the honours for the official opening (she was there to unveil its official Elizabeth line moniker after all). TfL has never confirmed this, but it makes sense that Her Majesty would be involved with the launch of such a major infrastructure project, especially one named after her. But now Crossrail faces significant delays, perhaps she'll be otherwise engaged.
2. Will this mean the rest of Crossrail is delayed?
The above shows what was due to open in December 2018 — just the Abbey Wood to Paddington core section, as the other parts of the map are already running. The next stage of Crossrail was due to open in May 2019, when two branches would effectively be joined up — direct trains will run from Shenfield to Paddington without the need to change at Liverpool Street.
Given that the core section will now likely not open until at least autumn 2019, we can expect a knock-on effect for the other phases.
3. Will more manpower be brought in to try to catch up?
There has been no mention of any extra manpower being added to the project in a bid to claw back time. Given that the project was already running £600m over budget in July 2018, the extra cost of more manpower is something that they may not be able to justify. Then again, it's not making any money from Crossrail until it's up and running so it might be better to bite the bullet, cough up now, and start making some of that £600m back.
4. Will future infrastructure projects be delayed?
The next big transport infrastructure project for London is the Northern line extension to Battersea, due to open in 2020. Tunnelling on that one is already complete, but the tracks are still being laid, and the station buildings are still being built and will need to be fitted out. If the same builders, labourers and electricians who are working on Crossrail are due to move onto this next, will we see a delay in the launch date for this? Possibly.
5. Has TfL Rail had a last-minute reprieve?
TfL Rail is the interim service, currently running the Liverpool Street to Shenfield service, and the Paddington to Heathrow service, both of which were due to be transformed to Crossrail in December 2018. This won't happen now, so TfL Rail will continue to exist — something that this writer might be happy about.
6. Will there be a knock-on effect for National Rail services?
A new National Rail timetable is due to be introduced on Sunday 9 December — the same day Crossrail was due to launch. They do cross over in some places. The Crossrail route between Liverpool Street and Shenfield (currently TfL Rail — see above) shares a route with Greater Anglia services, and although they don't affect each other too much, they share track space, station resources, possibly even platforms — all of which will (or at least, should) have been taken into consideration when the powers that be planned the new National Rail timetable.
If TfL Rail now continues to run after 9 December, and takes up the same 'timetable' that Crossrail was due to run on this line, it shouldn't be a problem. But if for any reason the last-minute TfL Rail timetable differs, it may trigger delays on the other operator.
7. Have new tube maps been wasted?
TfL must have already designed the December 2018 edition of the tube map, including the pocket maps, and the poster maps for stations. We hope they learnt from 2016's mistakes and had the good sense not to have them printed until the opening was confirmed, but what does this mean for tube maps now?
The current pocket tube is the May 2018 edition, which is due to be replaced in December. As it stands, this map is still mostly valid (although it does contain temporary information such as the lack of step-free access at Brixton, which is now out of date). Will TfL keep the slightly outdated May 2018 edition until Crossrail does open? Will we get a hurriedly-produced December 2018 edition that differs only slightly from the May one?
8. Is this why the Spurs stadium has been delayed?
There may not be an obvious link, but Crossrail and the new Spurs Stadium are both massive London construction projects entering their final stages (and deferring on their launch dates) at a similar time. Both require many builders, electricians and other skilled labourers, and it has been suggested that there simply aren't enough of them in London to go round, hence the delay in both. In mid-August, we met a builder in a pub who'd been brought down from Middlesbrough to work on Spurs, because of a shortage in London. (The fact that he'd been in the pub since lunch time on a Friday *may* be another reason Spurs aren't back in Tottenham yet...).