A major London rail link dogged by holdups could face further delays, according to Transport for London (TfL) bosses.
TfL Commissioner Mike Brown told the London Assembly that the central section of the Elizabeth Line could open as late as autumn 2021.
This means that services would finally run almost three years after the original opening date of December 2018.
The project also needs up to £650 million extra cash, despite already being almost £3 billion over budget.
Europe’s largest infrastructure project will connect Reading, Heathrow, and Essex to central London, with a branch to the south east of the city.
But Mr Brown said today the eastern line to Shenfield would now open in May 2022, with the Heathrow to central London link opening in December of the same year.
The commissioner said the Heathrow to Paddington route, providing more trains to the airport, would open late next year.
In evidence to the Assembly’s budget scrutiny committee this morning, he said TfL had drafted its budget with an autumn 2021 opening date in mind.
He said: “Clearly both the chief executive of Crossrail and the board know the imperative of bringing that date as far forward as they can possibly and safely, because of the imperative of getting the revenue beginning to flow into TfL.
“The assumption we have made is at the pessimistic end but it’s at the pragmatic end and you would expect us to take that approach.”
He added: “These dates are indicative from a business planning perspective.
“They are not the plans the supply team or indeed Crossrail have, which is to bring opening forward to the earliest possible date.”
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Crossrail chiefs admitted that their timescale was slipping late last year – but they have yet to confirm a new schedule.
The Crossrail board will meet on Thursday, and a public announcement is likely to follow.
But Mr Brown said today he had “no idea” what the board would be proposing as a time frame.
This is despite the fact that he attends board meetings, and that TfL owns Crossrail Ltd and is a co-sponsor of the rail project with the Department for Transport.
Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chairman of the London Assembly’s transport committee, said the prospect of more holdups made for “a depressing start to the New Year”.
She said: “These further delays will impact severely on TfL’s long term finances and have a serious knock-on effect on the funding of much-needed transport projects in many parts of London.
“Delays in the opening of Crossrail sadly mean further delays in many transport schemes, including improvements to vital parts of the London Underground.”
“The impact of the delayed opening of Crossrail affects every Londoner.”
Conservative assembly member Gareth Bacon, who chairs the budget committee, said he was frustrated by the lack of certainty.
He said: “We heard evidence today from TfL that they’re very confident of delivering Crossrail to the amended timescale and budget.
“However, there’s a significant degree of uncertainty that concerns me given that we’ve been here before, faced with the same delays and more costs to the taxpayer.”