Elizabeth line. Credit Paul Carstairs; Elizabeth line. Credit Paul Carstairs;

Crossrail / Elizabeth line: operational readiness, London

Crossrail: How does operational readiness ensure a multi-decade rail project becomes a reality?

How can you be assured that a new rail system will operate seamlessly from day one? With more than one million passenger journeys made during its first week of opening, the Elizabeth line (constructed as part of the Crossrail project) increases central London’s rail capacity by 10%, and brings together a myriad of new processes, technologies and people.

The size and complexity of delivering the Elizabeth line programme required a tried and tested approach to de-risk the process from the very beginning, not only to avoid the associated reputational and financial damages that unexpected failures in operations can bring for operators but to ensure the delivery and maintenance of a safe, efficient and reliable service for passengers.

Arup has been a part of preparing the Elizabeth line for operations since 2015, supporting Crossrail and Transport for London (TfL) with training, assurance, trials and supplier engagement. Using our comprehensive operational readiness activation and transition (ORAT) methodology, we have helped plan and prepare the mobilisation of the new line, building confidence for a successful first day and for operations beyond.

Project Summary

508 training sessions

5major evacuation exercises

3,500volunteers across trials

An integrated training programme

From construction to operations and maintenance, the Elizabeth line relies on a diverse team of highly-trained specialists. Through extensive stakeholder engagement with contractors appointed to build the railway and stations, we developed a comprehensive training programme to familiarise and upskill TfL staff, who operate and maintain the new line. Our thorough and collaborative methodology ensured an efficient and effective delivery of the programme, helping to align contractors’ requirements with infrastructure managers’ expectations.

We engaged with infrastructure managers to develop a complete picture of their training needs and streamlined the process by reducing duplication of training between different contracts. The team provided strategic coordination across 25 contracts to deliver 41 training plans, with each requiring careful support to transform technical material into concise learning modules.

In total, 278 training packages were developed, with 508 training sessions delivered across a 14-month period. A training programme of this nature was a first for UK rail and the approach was emulated by other workstreams, helping the infrastructure managers with their readiness, and setting the standard for operational readiness in the industry.

© Transport for London

Preparing for mobilisation

Preparing a rail project of this scale is no small feat. To enable the project to move from construction to operations required TfL to demonstrate that Crossrail and its partners had delivered a railway which is integrated, safe, operable, maintainable and meets the required performance and reliability levels.

Working closely with TfL, we were crucial in supporting the development of the joint trial operations plan to meet assurance and documentation requirements. We reviewed standards and helped to identify any gaps, writing new standards where needed. We worked in collaboration with Network Assurance teams to integrate and implement critical operations systems. 

Ensuring a smooth transition to live operations

Transitioning from construction to live operations, requires people, procedures, systems, and assets to be trialled to ensure confidence; ensure multiple delivery organisations are coordinated and aligned in delivery of trials, and subsequently future operations.

We supported TfL to identify more than 100 real-life scenarios that would need to be trialled. In a series of workshops with network control, operations, maintenance, and trial operations teams, we mapped out the scenarios, rating the risk and prioritising them, which ranged from a sick person on the train through to a complete station evacuation.

Various scenarios were tested, from regular occurrences to highly technical signalling scenarios and evacuations, ensuring the trial operations programme delivered across the objectives of safety, operability, maintainability, customer service and reliability.

Crossrail trial evacuation. Credit Crossrail Ltd Crossrail trial evacuation. Credit Crossrail Ltd
A station evacuation, which formed part of the 100+ scenarios identified for the trials programme. © Transport for London

Trialling the new line

The trials brought together the interactions between people, processes and systems into a live railway environment. The programme consisted of approximately 150 trials followed by five major mass volume volunteer exercises ranging from 300 to 2,000 people.

The ORAT methodology not only provided a platform for the stakeholders to prepare for the opening of the new line but also identified operational opportunities for improvement and corrective actions.

We continually collated and analysed trial operations data and feedback, tracking each trial to ensure key actions were captured, progressed and incorporated into further trials. This ranged from addressing technical operational issues, through to equipment provisioning, and enhancing passenger communications, demonstrating the railway was ready for live operation.

These exercises signified the trialling of an efficient response to major incidents with large numbers of passengers, which was realised on day one of the Elizabeth line’s operations where a brief closure of Paddington station was managed safely and efficiently by station staff.

Since the official opening of the Elizabeth line in May 2022, we continue to measure feedback on performance and customer feedback to ensure the continuation of smooth operations.