Major news broke this week as the Elizabeth line opening date was announced. Conrad Emmett looks at what this project means to people living in London and further afield — and also at how the new stations will operate and integrate into the existing network.
It has been a long time in the making – since the 1940s if you look at the earliest design aspirations for the route. The ambition behind this now-realised vision is to create better links while alleviating pressure on the bustling Central Line.
Finally, after much anticipation, there’s a date: the Elizabeth line is set to launch on 24 May – safety approvals pending – following years of Crossrail working on the highly complex major project whilst seeing timelines extend and costs increase.
Originally the hope was that the line, which connects services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield, would be available in 2018.
But it should be worth the wait, and any extra cost put up by the government, bringing as it opens £1.5 million people within 45 minutes of employment centres including Canary Wharf, the City and the West End.
And, looking back, the project was not just for the benefit of Londoners – 62% of suppliers working on the project came from outside the capital.
The new rail map is being circulated and, as the date draws near, Elizabeth line signs will continue to be revealed across the network.
The new line in action
The Elizabeth line will operate 12 trains every hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood from Monday to Saturday 06:30 to 23:00, and can be booked using the TfL Go app and Journey Planner. During engineering hours and on Sundays, teams will continue to carry out testing and putting in place software updates in preparation for more intensive autumnal services.
Meanwhile, the following service changes will take place:
- All services between Reading and Heathrow to Paddington and Shenfield to Liverpool Street, currently operating as TfL Rail, will be rebranded to the Elizabeth line.
- Customers travelling between Reading or Heathrow into London will need to change at Paddington for services into the central section of the route.
- Customers from Shenfield into London will need to change at Liverpool Street.
- Services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield will connect with the central tunnels in autumn when frequencies will also be increased to 22 trains per hour in the peak between Paddington and Whitechapel.
Every train will be staffed, and there will be a ‘turn up and go’ service offered to anyone needing assistance. Step-free access is in place from street to train across all Elizabeth line stations between Paddington and Woolwich.
Andy Byford, Transport for London’s Commissioner, said: “I am delighted that we can now announce a date for the opening of the Elizabeth line in May. We are using these final few weeks to continue to build up reliability on the railway and get the Elizabeth line ready to welcome customers. The opening day is set to be a truly historic moment for the capital and the UK, and we look forward to showcasing a simply stunning addition to our network.”
One station not opening on the big day will be Bond Street. TfL says it is making “good progress” and will open to customers “later this year”.
Changes to buses
Changes will be made to 14 bus routes to improve links to Elizabeth line stations in east and south-east London, where many customers will use buses to get to and from stations. The changes will take effect from Saturday 14 and Saturday 21 May. This includes the new route 304, which will operate between Manor Park and Custom House stations from 21 May.