Elizabeth Line trains Abbey Wood-CJ

Two nine-car Class 345 EMUs wait to leave Abbey Wood on the first morning of Elizabeth Line operations.

UK: Elizabeth Line services began running on the Crossrail core route across central London on May 24, with an initial 12 trains/h linking Paddington station in the west to Abbey Wood in the southeast.


HM Queen Elizabeth II and the Earl of Wessex visited the Elizabeth Line on May 17, accompanied by TfL Commissioner Andy Byford.

The cross-city tunnel section had been formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II with a ceremony at Paddington on May 17, attended by around 500 VIPs including the Earl of Wessex, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Commissioner of Transport for London Andy Byford.

May 24 also saw the interim TfL Rail services from Shenfield to Liverpool Street and Paddington to Heathrow Airport, Maidenhead and Reading rebranded as part of the Elizabeth Line, although passengers must still change between the three sections pending the start of through services later this year.

Elizabeth Line crowds Paddington-CJ

Crowds flocked to the low-level station at London Paddington to mark the start of Elizabeth Line services.

With would-be riders queueing at both Paddington and Abbey Wood to take the first trains at 06.30, Transport for London reported that more than 130 000 passengers travelled on the Elizabeth Line by 10.00 on the first morning, of whom over half had used the new cross-city core.

Envy of the world

Elizabeth Line Khan Woolwich-CJ

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan visited each station along the Elizabeth Line to meet staff and passengers.

‘We are the envy of the rest of the world’, Khan said during opening celebrations at Woolwich station, enthusing over the Elizabeth Line’s ‘cathedral-like stations’ and fast air-conditioned trains. He hoped that the opening of the line would incentivise more people to get back to travelling in and out of the city centre, helping London’s post-pandemic recovery.

Asked about the final estimated cost of £18·9bn and the three year delay to opening, the Mayor emphasised that the new line was a ‘piece of national infrastructure’ which would provide a long-term incentive for businesses to invest in London. ‘The real prize is linking our financial centre to our international gateways’, which would come with the start of through running.

‘It is important to continue investing in infrastructure, not stop-start’, Khan continued. ‘This line will be here for the next 150 years.’ However, he added, ‘it is really important to recognise that investment in London should not be at the expense of the north’, as other cities around the UK also needed investment in improved rail networks.

Phased ramp-up

Elizabeth Line train passengers-CJ

Each nine-car Class 345 EMU has a crush load capacity of around 1 500 passengers,

Nigel Holness, Managing Director of operating concessionaire MTR Elizabeth Line, explained that 64 of the 70-strong fleet of Bombardier-built Class 345 EMUs were now required in traffic each day to work the three isolated sections. Some units are currently out of service being converted to nine-car sets from an interim seven-car formation, but this work should be completed by November.

TfL has announced that there will initially be no Sunday services through the core section, other than over the Jubilee holiday weekend on June 5. This is intended to allow more time for final testing and software updates, as well as the completion of the delayed intermediate station at Bond Street.

Rail for London Operations Director Howard Smith told Railway Gazette International that following the opening of the core, the next step for the project team would be to work towards through running, although no start date for that has yet been agreed. Elizabeth Line trains from the western termini would then begin running through to Abbey Wood via Canary Wharf and Woolwich, while Shenfield trains would be extended to Paddington.

Elizabeth Line platform Farringdon-CJ

Platform screen doors are provided at all underground stations, along with large platforms and generous walkways. Farringdon is set to become a key interchange between the east-west Elizabeth Line and the north-south Thameslink corridor.

This stage with two overlapping services would be limited to a maximum peak service of 22 trains/h pending the commissioning of the automated turnback facility at Westbourne Park, west of Paddington, Smith explained, adding that final testing of the technology is progressing well. The expectation is that six trains/h from Abbey Wood would continue to Heathrow Airport, four to Maidenhead and two to Reading.

Smith hopes that services can ramp up to a maximum of 24 trains/h through the core by May 2023, at which point the timetables would be adjusted to allow more through working between all of the end points. Running times on the Great Western Main Line would also be adjusted to reflect the performance of the Class 345 EMUs, potentially shortening some journey times.

Although proposals to develop a second Crossrail corridor linking southwest to northeast London were paused because of financial constraints, Byford confirmed that ‘the Prime Minister has asked us to dust off the plans for Crossrail 2, so I have told my team to do just that’.