Huge cost increases on 19 of Crossrail’s 36 main works contracts have been revealed, including cost hikes at three of the line’s Central London stations.
Figures released by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveal that 19 of the 36 main works contracts have increased in value since Crossrail missed its original December 2018 opening date and the project’s cost was reset.
Cost increases across all main work contracts are up by £1.34bn since the project’s schedule and budget was reset by the new management team in 2019.
It means that the total cost of all main works contracts is now £6.2bn above the original target costs set when contracts were awarded.
Cost hikes at three stations are among the jobs to see the largest cost rises in the last three years.
Whitechapel station is now forecast to cost £831M, up by £184M since December 2018 and a staggering £721M more than the original forecasted cost of £110M.
Meanwhile, Paddington station has seen a £111M cost increase in the last three years, meaning the station will end up costing £538M more than its original £147M forecasted cost.
Problem-hit Bond Street station has also seen major costs increases. In the last three years the cost of the station has increased by 67% and is now forecast to cost £660M, almost £550M more than its original £111M estimate.
The NAO report adds that “depending on when the central section opens between January 2022 and June 2022, Bond Street may not yet be complete for passenger services”.
However, papers released ahead of next week’s Elizabeth Line Committee meeting are more optimistic about Bond Street opening with the rest of the line.
A Project Status Update adds: “Bond Street is currently showing encouraging signs that it will meet its requirements to be able to support Trial Operations, although there is still considerable work to do at the station for it to be ready for passenger service at the front end of our opening window”.
The NAO report also reveals that major cost hikes have also been recorded on contracts to install track and overhead line equipment as well as on signalling and communications system contracts since 2018.
The NAO report concludes that the latest cost rises are because “the programme was further from being complete than Crossrail Ltd realised when it set the revised cost and schedule in April 2019”.
It adds that “Crossrail Ltd did not understand the work required to bring a digital railway into service when it set its April 2019 plan”.
Head of the National Audit Office Gareth Davies added: “Crossrail was further from completion than anyone understood when the Department, TfL and Crossrail Ltd reset the programme in 2019. The problems we identified in our previous report have been difficult to address and have continued to affect the programme.
“There are now encouraging signs that Crossrail is in a more stable position. However, it will require further funding to complete, and there are still significant risks that must be managed as the Elizabeth line undergoes operational testing.
“As the Elizabeth line nears the start of services in 2022, TfL and government must think through how to realise the benefits of the railway in order to maximise the return on almost £19bn of investment.”
In response to the NAO report, Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild added: “Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages with the NAO recognising that significant progress has been made since 2019.
“Crossrail remains on track to open the Elizabeth line in the first half of 2022. We have recently commenced the major railway trials that will take place throughout the rest of this year involving trains running to a timetable through the central tunnels, remaining construction activity is coming to an end and we have now transferred five major new stations to Transport for London, who will operate the Elizabeth line. The forecast cost of completing the project remains unchanged at £18.9bn.
“Now more than ever Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the Elizabeth line will bring. We are doing everything we can to complete the Elizabeth line as quickly as possible, but there are no short-cuts to delivering this hugely complex railway. The Elizabeth line must be completed to the highest safety and quality standards.”
That additional funding would be within the revised cost for the project set last summer following the impact of Covid-19.
Crossrail is still working to an opening window of the first half of 2022. However, as revealed by NCE earlier this week an opening date for the Elizabeth line was included in a West London bus study carried out by TfL.
In the study, 14 May 2022 is earmarked as the current target date for the opening of the Elizabeth line.
However, a Crossrail spokesperson said that the date was an error and that the official opening window remains in place for the first half of next year.
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