Elizabeth Line Tottenham Court Road station interior (Photo: TfL)

UK: Elizabeth Line services on the Crossrail route across central London will finally begin on May 24, Transport for London has announced.

‘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’, said Transport for London’s Commissioner Andy Byford when he confirmed the opening date on May 4.

Elizabeth Line Paddington station platform (Photo TfL)

There will initially be 12 trains/h from Paddington in the west to Abbey Wood in the east between 06.30 and 23.00. At first there will be no services after 23.00 or on Sundays, to allow testing and software updates in preparation for more intensive services from the autumn, although a special service will operate on June 5 for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend.

Elizabeth Line train interior (Photo TfL)

The existing services from Paddington to Reading or Heathrow Airport and from Liverpool Street to Shenfield, which are currently operated under the TfL Rail brand, will be rebranded as the Elizabeth Line, but will be operated as separate services until they are connected with the central tunnels from ‘autumn’ this year. Frequencies will then be increased to 22 trains/h in the peak between Paddington and Whitechapel. Full services across the entire route will be introduced by May 2023.

Work is still underway at Bond Street station, which will open ‘later this year’, TfL said.

Revolutionising travel

Various proposals for an east-west railway under central London have been made over several decades. Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave the go-ahead for the current Crossrail programme on October 5 2007, when the first services were expected to run in 2017 and the total cost was put at up to £16bn. The overall cost is now put at £18·9bn.

Elizabeth Line escalators (Photo TfL)

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the Elizabeth Line ’is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades, and will revolutionise travel across the capital and the southeast — as well as delivering a £42bn boost to the whole UK economy and hundreds of thousands of new homes and jobs.

‘Green public transport is the future and the opening of the Elizabeth Line is a landmark moment for our capital and our whole country, particularly in this special Platinum Jubilee year.’

Elizabeth Line platform signage (Photo TfL)

Nick Bowes, Chief Executive of the Centre for London think tank, said the opening would be ‘a major shot in the arm for the city after its toughest few years since the war. Yes, it’s late, and yes, it’s over budget, but London is getting a magnificent piece of public transport infrastructure that will blow Londoners away and change the mental geography of east-west city travel forever.’

General Secretary of the TSSA trade union Manuel Cortes said ‘there’s no doubt that the Elizabeth Line and the entire Crossrail project is a welcome addition to our capital’s rail network’, but added ‘we must not overlook the delays and huge overspend. I have said before that we need a public inquiry to better understand these failings and to make sure contractors and not Londoners carry the can for the final bill.’