Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there today for this special day, but thankfully Laura Porter was able to get out there and check out London’s new railway today and write up this report for everyone. Thank you, Laura!
We’ll soon forget the long delay and the enormous cost as the Elizabeth Line opens today (24 May 2022). This is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades.
The Elizabeth Line should transform travel across London and the South East by improving transport links and cutting journey times. The line is over 60 miles long with 41 stations and is Europe’s largest engineering project. There’s additional capacity to reduce crowding and much better accessibility so more can use the line. The trains are all the ‘walk-through’ type and not separate carriages and there are new larger, lighter, and brighter stations.
How Long Have We Waited?
There have been hopes for an east-west railway under London since the Second World War. It took until 1991 for the first full Crossrail scheme to be submitted to Parliament, and then until July 2008 for The Crossrail Act to be passed. The formal start of construction for Crossrail was marked at Canary Wharf on 15 May 2009 although the main construction phase was launched in 2011. Tunneling for the new rail tunnels began in May 2012 and was completed in May 2015.
The Elizabeth Line was originally planned to open in December 2018. But today, 24 May 2022, is the official opening day after close to £19 billion has been spent (£4 billion over budget). Not everything is connected today but full services across the entire route will be introduced by May 2023.
Note, The Elizabeth line is the official name for the now-open, passenger-carrying service. Crossrail was the name used during the construction and testing phases. (Good luck getting everyone to use one name!)
The Elizabeth Line is the new rail route from Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London via the center of the capital.
We are not supposed to call it a ‘tube’ line but should think of it as a new mode of transport like the RTR in Paris or the S-Bahn in Munich.
The Elizabeth Line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow, and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn 2022.
This means that, for now, you do still need to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street to board the central section of the Elizabeth line.
Once the line is fully open, this will be the route map.
What’s Open Now?
The central section of the line – from Paddington in the west to Abbey Wood in the east – opens today.
The train services from Reading and Heathrow to Paddington mainline station, and from Shenfield to Liverpool Street mainline station, have been operating since 2015 (as TfL Rail, and under other franchises before that). But, from today, they are rebranded to the Elizabeth line.
There are nine brand new Elizabeth Line stations: Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House, and Woolwich.
All the stations on the Elizabeth Line – except for Bond Street – are open today. (Bond Street tube station for Jubilee and Central line trains remains open as usual but you can’t yet alight or board Elizabeth Line trains from here.)
These new stations are impressive. The platforms are much larger and there’s no ‘mind the gap’ as the trains were made for the tunnels so the doors cover the platform edge.
At Canary Wharf, the escalator glass sides are yellow. I’ve no idea why. (Yes, I too had thought about yellow canaries so maybe that’s it.) At Paddington, there’s a brick wall built from the same Imperial bricks that Isambard Kingdom Brunel used for his original Paddington station. And we’re told you could fit The Shard inside Paddington’s Elizabeth Line station.
All 41 stations are step-free to platform level (with the exception of Ilford which will be ready by summer 2022). Farringdon and Liverpool Street have incline lifts alongside the escalators. (These are cool as it’s an elevator going diagonally so you travel in the same line as people standing on the escalators.)
All Elizabeth Line stations will be staffed for the whole day with 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.
Between Paddington and Abbey Wood, there are 12 trains per hour (every five minutes) in each direction between 6.30 am and 11 pm on Monday to Saturday.
From autumn 2022, there will be 22 trains per hour (every 3 minutes) at peak times.
The full timetable will not be in place until May 2023.
Initially, this new central section of the line (Paddington to Abbey Wood) will be closed on Sundays. This is for engineering testing and software updates.
The Sunday closures will be lifted on 5 June 2022 to help people traveling in the capital during the Platinum Jubilee weekend with trains running from 8 am to 10 pm.
Services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, and Paddington to Heathrow and Reading will continue to operate on Sundays as usual aside from any planned weekend closures.
Before the Elizabeth Line, a journey from Paddington to Canary Wharf would take 30 minutes. But traveling on the Elizabeth line reduces the travel time to 17 minutes.
According to the travel app Citymapper, platform-to-platform journeys between Liverpool Street and Paddington will be cut from 18 minutes to 10 minutes.
When heading outside of the central stretch, it should be noted that the Elizabeth Line trains stop at local stations, so journeys will be slower compared with the fastest mainline services. This affects the sections between Reading and Paddington or Shenfield and Liverpool Street. But once the three sections are integrated, passengers will benefit by not having to change between trains and tube services.
Connecting Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf has got to be good for international businesses in the Docklands. Convenience over time may well win the travelers’ choice.
Any journey within zones 1-6 costs the same on all tube lines. So, you could get the Central Line or the Elizabeth Line to Liverpool Street and pay the same fare. Outside of the TfL zones, fares are the same as those on the pre-existing TfL rail services.
Oyster cards can be used between any stations in zones 1-6, as well as out to Shenfield in the east. Stations beyond West Drayton to the west, however, do not accept Oyster. It is recommended to use contactless payment. (Tapping your bank card on the reader.) The Elizabeth Line is also part of TfL’s Pay As You Go capping system, which means the maximum you will be charged for a day’s travel is £14.10 (2022 rate).
From today (24 May 2022), limited edition (1.2 million) Elizabeth Line Oyster cards are available from ticket machines at the Elizabeth Line stations, all Zone 1 tube stations, and Heathrow stations. It costs £5 plus the travel credit you want to add.
From Autumn 2022
The lines from Reading, Heathrow, and Shenfield will connect with the central tunnels. This means customers traveling…
from Reading and Heathrow can travel east all the way to Abbey Wood without changing at Paddington.
from Shenfield can travel west all the way to Paddington without changing at Liverpool Street.
By May 2023
The separate sections of the Elizabeth Line will be fully connected and services run to the final timetable.
24 trains an hour will run at the busiest times between Paddington and Whitechapel.
The London Transport Museum has an extensive range of homeware and accessories in the Elizabeth Line moquette. I already have the socks and the face mask.
The new moquette was created by British textile design studio Wallace Sewell in 2015. The purple color reflects the royal connection with Queen Elizabeth II, who the Elizabeth Line is named after, and matches the purple of the Elizabeth Line on the London Underground map. The pinstripe details of the pattern are a reference to the suits traditionally worn in the City of London. The lines aim to create a sense of speed.
The Elizabeth Line is using a combination of amazing new stations and upgraded stations that were there already. This means the long trains – over 200 meters (650ft+) long – do not fit on all of the station platforms. You’ll know when you’re at a shorter station as there is an announcement that the doors in the rear carriages will not open so you need to walk through the train to another carriage to exit.
This doesn’t affect the central section of the line although at Paddington the center door on each of the rear 6 cars cannot open due to platform curvature.
The Elizabeth Line is mostly using 9-car trains. In the central section of the line, the platforms have been built even longer than this to ‘future proof’ things. If a 10-car train is needed to increase capacity, it will still fit in the new stations.
Let’s Take a Ride!
So, on the Elizabeth Line’s first day, I’ve been out to see what it’s like. I started my journey at Paddington so I could take a trip all the way to Abbey Wood in southeast London. I then did the return journey from Abbey Wood and got off at Liverpool Street station.
The line opened around 6.30 am but I didn’t aim to be on the first train as some people had queued overnight for that treat. Even so, I was on the Elizabeth Line within the first hour and then left before the rush hour got too intense.
“This is the train to Abbey Wood via Canary Wharf.”
Firstly, the Elizabeth Line is noticeably quieter and a much smoother ride compared to other tube lines. The walk-through trains have a variety of seating options including two seats opposite two seats to the more usual along-the-wall seats. There are plenty of flip-down seats too so they can be flat if the space is needed for wheelchairs, buggies, or luggage.
The carriages are wider than usual so it feels more spacious. Are they taller too? It feels like it. The station platforms are wider as are the interconnecting corridors too. It all reminded me of the Jubilee Line at Canary Wharf but it all feels bigger and lighter. And it is very much wanted.
Everyone was taking photos this morning. From the be-proud-of-who-you-are train enthusiasts to the besuited city men grabbing a discreet shot of the Elizabeth Line roundel. Only about 1% of passengers were wearing a face mask (I was). It’s now advised and not a Condition of Carriage.
The air-cooled trains are a comfortable ride and the line is fast. Paddington to Abbey Wood took just over half an hour. If I had tried that route yesterday, it would have taken over 80 minutes and needed two changes.
Each carriage has a screen which switches between the destination, a section of the line map showing where you are, all tube line service report, noting which carriage you’re in (5 of 9, etc), the time, and the next station announcement. There are audio announcements for each station too.
I was surprised to see straphangers are back. These are the loops from the ceiling for standing passengers to hold onto when the train is moving. That would lead me to believe the trains are taller if these are needed as other lines now just have the bars.
On the way to Abbey Wood, the train first comes above ground just before Custom House station. And the whole journey just feels so fast. I almost took a ride back to Paddington just to check it was real. But I decided to get off at Liverpool Street to see another major station (and to let commuters have the train during rush hour).
While my plan today was to go to Abbey Wood and come back immediately, you might like to know what there is to do in the area. Sometimes we forget that place names can be quite literal. About a 10-minute walk from the station is Lesnes Abbey Woods which is a lovely park and woodland to explore with the ruins of the 12th-century abbey.
These gothic window arches make an interesting frame for the view of London beyond. And they give me an excellent reason to take another trip on the Elizabeth Line soon.
Heathrow Airport must reduce its passenger charges amid a surge in demand for flights, the aviation regulator has announced
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the cap on the west London airport’s average charge per passenger will fall from £30.19 today to £26.31 in 2026.
This is equivalent to nearly a 6% reduction each year when the effects of inflation are removed, according to the regulator.
The decision follows a bitter dispute between the airport and airlines about what the cap should be.
Charges are paid by airlines but are generally passed on to passengers in air fares.
Heathrow was given permission to increase its average fees on January 1 from the previous level of £19.60 due to the collapse in passenger numbers caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But the five-year control period from 2022 to 2026 announced by the CAA will see that cap cut to the lower end of the range of £24.50 to £34.40 which it consulted on.
The CAA said these are its “final proposals”, with a “final decision” due to be published in the autumn.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye claimed the regulator “continues to under-estimate what it takes to deliver a good passenger service, both in terms of the level of investment and operating costs required and the fair incentive needed for private investors to finance it”.
There is “still time for the CAA to get this right”, he said, adding: “Uncorrected, these elements of the CAA’s proposal will only result in passengers getting a worse experience at Heathrow as investment in service dries up.”
CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said the announcement is “about doing the right thing for consumers”.
He insisted the regulator has “listened very carefully” to arguments from Heathrow and airlines.
“Our independent and impartial analysis balances affordable charges for consumers, while allowing Heathrow to make the investment needed for the future,” he said.
The CAA believes Heathrow will still be able to invest in improvements, such as next-generation security scanners and a £1.3 billion upgrade of baggage facilities at Terminal 2.
Heathrow had called for the cap to range from £32 to £43.
The airport’s owners include sovereign wealth funds from China and Qatar, Spanish construction firm Ferrovial and large infrastructure funds.
Nearly £4 billion in dividends to shareholders has reportedly been paid out by the airport since 2012.
But it expects to remain loss-making and not pay more dividends in 2022.
The CAA’s figures for the control period are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for inflation.
The actual annual caps will be adjusted based on what happens to inflation.
Heathrow was previously branded a “monopoly-abusing hub airport” by the airline industry.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss said the CAA’s announcement was a “positive step towards a
price cap that puts customers first”.
But he insisted the regulator “can and must go further” to lower fees to reflect “robust demand for travel this summer and beyond”.
He added: “With travel recovery under way, our collective focus should be on upholding the best possible experience for customers with fair charges, especially with consumers facing cost-of-living pressures and our global Britain aspirations at stake.”
Luis Gallego, chief executive of British Airways’ parent company IAG, said: “The CAA has recognised that Heathrow needs to be more efficient for the benefit of consumers.
“In 2022, airport charges at Heathrow will still be three times more expensive than its EU rivals and 56% higher than last year.”
Heathrow increased its annual passenger forecast last week due to “stronger-than-expected demand”.
The airport said it expects 54.4 million passengers to travel through its terminals this year.
That is up by nearly nine million on guidance it gave in December, but remains around two-thirds of 2019 levels.
Heathrow was accused by airlines of playing down the recovery of demand for air travel in an attempt to convince the CAA to allow it to raise passenger fees further.
Growing out of the London Underground’s first line, the Metropolitan Railway, the Jubilee Line is named after Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. Of course, this route for the Tube is much older than that with origins that date back to the 1930s. Today it is one of the leading Tube lines when it comes to technology and it has a fascinating history both before and after it received its official name. Join us as we explore the first London Underground line named explicitly after Her Majesty from its earliest days to the present.
The history of the Jubilee line begins in 1932 when the Metropolitan Railway opened a branch that ran between Stanmore and Wembley Park. The purpose for the new branch was to alleviate some of the commuter traffic coming out of the ever-growing London suburbs. This line proved more popular than originally predicted and by the end of the decade the line was absolutely packed on a regular basis. This problem was only made worse with post-war flight of residents from the City of London to West London. To alleviate the problem, the Metropolitan Railway proposed a new line that ran along the existing railway from Edgeware Road to somewhere near Wilsden Green.
However, the London Passenger Transport Board had other ideas and moved the Stanmore branch to the Bakerloo line and closed the Lords, Marlborough Road, and Swiss Cottage, only opening them for special occasions or peak times. The new Bakerloo extension then opened in 1939 and the alleviation of increased post-war traffic was taken on by the Victoria Line which was completed in 1968. Even before the Victoria Line became operational, however, there was talk as early as 1965 of another line that would be referred to as the Fleet Line.
Construction on this new Fleet Line got its start in 1971, though funding questions and the uncertainty of the line’s final destination meant it would be constructed in phases. The first phase would run from Baker Street into Central London with stops at Bond Street and Green Park before terminating at a new station at Charing Cross. Phase 2 would extend along the River Fleet to Fenchurch Street, then Phase 3 would go under the river to Surrey Docks (known today as Surrey Quays on the DLR), and Phase 4 would continue on mainline suburban tracks to Addiscombe or Hayes.
Tunneling took place from 1972 to 1979 and during this time, the line’s name was changed to Jubilee to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. Prince Charles opened the line on April 30, 1979, and service began on May 1. Despite the initial plans for the phased extensions, no additional stations or rails were added to the Jubilee Line until the 1990s. By that point, the development of the London Docklands had taken center stage and the Jubilee Line was instead extended from Green Park to Stratford, foregoing the Charing Cross station and passing through the Docklands before heading north after passing through North Greenwich.
Since these expansions, the Jubilee Line has ever sought to be at the forefront of new technology for the London Underground. It received a seventh car on each of its trains beginning in 2005 and in 2011 it converted to Automatic Train Operation, increasing service capacity and decreasing wait times. Beginning in March 2020, a leaky feeder was installed that could provide the line with 4G service for commuters, a feature that is to be expanded to other Underground lines in the future. If you want to have a ride on the Jubilee Line, keep an eye on the London Underground map for the silver/gray path and hop on for an experience you won’t forget.