London's Crossrail delayed again until 2022 after COVID-19 disruption

LONDON (Reuters) - The opening of London’s multi billion-pound Crossrail train line has been delayed again and its central section is now due to open in the first half of 2022, its developers said on Friday, after construction was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, Transport for London said it was suspending construction work at sites, including Crossrail, to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The project is over-budget and four years behind schedule.

“Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risks and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks,” Crossrail Limited, the company responsible for the project, said in a statement.

“The board’s latest assessment, based on the best available programme information right now, is that the central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood will be ready to open in the first half of 2022.”

The $23 billion Crossrail project was originally due to be opened by Queen Elizabeth in December 2018 but had been repeatedly delayed by problems with safety testing and signalling systems, even before the onset of the pandemic.

Rebranded as the Elizabeth Line in 2016, Crossrail is expected to carry about 200 million passengers a year and alleviate pressure on London’s underground Tube network, parts of which date back to the 19th century.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Kate Holton