London's New Elizabeth Tube Line Delayed by at Least Nine Months

(Bloomberg) -- The opening of the Elizabeth Line, the 15 billion-pound ($19.5 billion) London railway that will connect Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf, has been delayed by at least nine months to allow for more safety testing.

The start date for the initial phase of service, previously set for December, has been moved to autumn 2019, the line’s builder said Friday. Construction delays on the tunnels and developing the software that controls the railway have eaten into time that was set aside for testing, Crossrail added.

“The Elizabeth line is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the U.K.,” Crossrail Chief Executive Officer Simon Wright said in a statement. “We have made huge progress with the delivery of this incredible project but we need further time to complete the testing.”

Limited testing has started, with trains doing runs east and west of central London, and in tunnels around Heathrow Airport. The 10-year construction project named after Queen Elizabeth II will ultimately stretch from Reading west of London to Shenfield in Essex. Some sections between Heathrow and Shenfield had been slated to be the first to open, with the entire line being completed by December 2019.

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the delay is “obviously disappointing,” while acknowledging the project’s complexity. When completed, the line will lift central London’s rail capacity by 10 percent to 200 million passengers annually. It is expected to boost the economy by about 42 billion pounds.

The train will allow passengers to travel across the capital faster than the existing network. Travel between Paddington and Canary Wharf, London’s second business district, will take only 17 minutes. The line’s direct trains from Heathrow to central London will end the monopoly of the Heathrow Express train link.

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