Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages. The project has reached the next important milestone with Crossrail Ltd recently commencing timetabled train movements in the central operating section, known as Trial Running, as part of the major railway trials taking place this year.
This is ahead of the Elizabeth line opening and is a crucial moment in the project with the railway set to open in the first half of 2022. The Trial Running programme involves integrated trials to test that the railway is safe and reliable. Crossrail will steadily ramp up the numbers of trains running in the 42km of tunnels that have been built below London and on the existing rail network to allow the railway and the supporting systems to be operated as close as possible to an operational timetable.
It will take a period of time to fully test the Elizabeth line before it can open for passenger service. This includes a final phase known as Trial Operations involving people being invited onto trains and stations to test real-time service scenarios to ensure the readiness of the railway. Following the opening of the central section, full services across the Elizabeth line from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east will be introduced. The introduction of full services will be aligned with the National Rail timetable change.
Trial Running is vital to unlocking the pathway to passenger service. It involves multiple trains operating in the central operating section to demonstrate that the railway is capable of reliably meeting the capacity and other requirements, whilst the final works to the stations are completed.
Ahead of Trial Running commencing, the Great Western Main Line and Great Eastern Main Line were fully integrated with the Elizabeth line central section to form an operational railway ready for trains to run across the route.
The initial phase of Trial Running will see four trains per hour in operation on the central operating section to allow the infrastructure manager, TfL, to undertake a number of activities to achieve full readiness. The number of trains will gradually increase before further activities such as timetable operation, timetable demonstrations and integration testing can be undertaken.
Outstanding works have been scheduled into the programme and will take place during the Trial Running period. These works include a combination of project maintenance, snagging and enhancements and some testing and commissioning activity.
There will also be train signalling software upgrades during Trial Running and time has been allocated in the Trial Running programme for each to be tested as appropriate and deployed.