Crossrail to stagger opening.
Although the first trains will not run on the new line until December 2018, Crossrail chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme said engineers and planning managers had already devised a detailed launch programme that would minimise the risk of damage to the new railway's reputation. This plan meant there would be no "big-bang" day one start of rail services that would put all the new civil, mechanical and electrical systems under pressure at the same time, he said.
Delivering the Lloyd's Register foundation lecture in London at the end of last month, Wolstenholme, who led the delivery of the 4.3 billion [pounds sterling] Terminal 5 programme for BAA, said the mistakes on that project would not be made again. "Sensible lessons have been learnt from the past. You have to design in the 'soft-starts' [staggered starts] to get the track miles on the rolling stock, to get technical interfaces ironed out--and to do things in such a way so that the press don't get the only story that they want, which is a failure on day one."
Wolstenholme said the soft-starts meant the infrastructure would be eased in a staged manner. "So when we talk about December 2018, that's the stage three opening. Stage one is taking on the existing Liverpool Street to Shenfield services with existing rolling stock. Stage two is putting the new rolling stock on the existing line from Heathrow to Paddington above ground. And stage three is to put that rolling stock below ground.
"A lot of attention is going into the reputational side of Crossrail."
Wolstenholme said that similar careful thought had gone into the layout of the rolling stock. Crossrail will effectively act as a high-volume, high-throughput metro service in central London, but its link to Heathrow means it will also be expected to carry a lot of travellers with luggage. Those conflicting requirements have been a challenge in terms of how the interior of the new trains will look.
"We have spent a long time researching what is ultimately going to be a hybrid train," he said. "If you currently get the 8.24 from Maidenhead, the orientation of your seat will be as a four with a table in between. If you get on the tube at Bond Street, then you will be sitting down longitudinally. So what we are trying to do is to mix and match the best orientation for all those journey types.
"There's been a great debate around the space we have for luggage, and around whether or not we have toilets. I think people will begin to understand the geometry and layout of the rolling stock to be one that is highly suitable. It will be air-conditioned, it will be light and free: it will set a new benchmark."
Wolstenholme said that Crossrail was in the middle of the procurement process for the 1 billion [pounds sterling] order for new rolling stock, with a decision due in the first quarter of 2014. There are three shortlisted bidders: Bombardier, based in Derby; Hitachi, which is building an assembly plant at Newton Aycliffe in the North East, where it will make the replacement rolling stock for Britain's ageing Intercity fleet; and CAF in Spain.
Wolstenholme said that the rolling stock was politically the most sensitive procurement contract of the entire Crossrail project.