Construction on the UK’s Crossrail has been further delayed, delivering fresh blows to the project that was originally scheduled to open in December 2018.

The central section of the line running between Paddington and Abbey Wood is now expected to open in the first half of 2022.

The new timeframe was announced following an assessment of the project by the Crossrail board. Earlier, the board announced that the section will become operational in mid-2021.

The latest cost estimate also indicates that the project may need up to an additional £1.1bn for completion than the financing package agreed in December 2018. It is £450m more than the upper end of the range announced last November.

Also known as the Elizabeth Line, the Crossrail project is designed to provide a high-capacity service connecting 41 stations across 100km from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east via central London.

The trial runs on the line are expected to commence next year, following the completion of the remaining construction and systems integration works.

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Once the central section opens, full services across the Elizabeth line will be introduced.

Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said: “Our focus remains on opening the Elizabeth line as soon as possible. Now more than ever Londoners are relying on the capacity and connectivity that the Elizabeth line will bring, and we are doing everything possible to deliver the railway as safely and quickly as we can.

“We have a comprehensive plan to complete the railway and we are striving to commence intensive operational testing for the Elizabeth line, known as Trial Running, at the earliest opportunity.

“Delivery of the Elizabeth line is now in its complex final stages and is being completed at a time of great uncertainty due to the risk and potential impacts of further Covid outbreaks.”