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Crossrail reveals wide-ranging implications for infrastructure delays

Posted 05/09/2018

by Tom Brooks

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My girlfriend and I exchanged contracts on our first house last Friday. It’s in Reading. The same Reading that sits snugly at the west end of the Crossrail line. And while the section from Paddington to my future home station wasn’t due to open until December 2019, the opening of the central section in December 2018 would have shaved about 10 minutes off each leg of my commute.

That’s 20 minutes a day, or 1 hour and 40 minutes a week. Or, as it turns out, roughly 2 days and 17 hours in the 9 months (at least) by which the central section of Crossrail is now delayed, in a shock announcement made, coincidentally, also last Friday.

That’s 2 days and 17 hours of my (usually) productive working time lost, and I dread to think how that works out when multiplied across the millions that will be commuting via Crossrail when it finally opens. Not to mention the millions more who will be using it for quicker transport across the City for business meetings.

With just over two months to go until Crossrail was supposed to open, it also seems shockingly late to make the announcement, especially for the small businesses who had been making strategic decisions based on the opening date. Wider regeneration strategies in the outer Boroughs will also be affected. Presumably the sales of new housing developments in future Crossrail hubs will slow down when potential buyers realise that the commute promised in the marketing brochure won’t materialise until next Autumn.

And yet, why does this announcement not really come as a surprise? Having worked on several of Network Rail’s upgrade projects, advising on the engineering works to heritage structures along the routes, I am aware that programme delays are somewhat par for the course in the rail industry. So Crossrail’s motto of “On time and on budget”, which always seemed too good to be true, is now painfully ironic.

I’m sure when Crossrail finally opens it will be worth the wait, but this delay just seems a bit predictable, and the additional costs of the delay go far beyond the public purse, to affect businesses and employees across the capital. Crossrail is forecast to add £42bn to the economy of the UK – a sum for which we’ll now have to wait a little longer. Not to mention that extra ten minutes I’ll have to wait before putting my slippers on each evening.