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Crossrail: Elizabeth line to open on May 24

Gwyn Topham

Gwyn Topham

The Elizabeth line will open on 24 May, with the tunnelled central London section of the long-delayed £19bn Crossrail project now ready for passengers.

Transport for London said that the line will open, subject to final safety approvals, the week prior to the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

The line is set to massively boost capacity on transport in London and the South East, cutting journey times, with a number of new stations and much longer, spacious trains.

The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with the overground services already running as TfL Rail in the west and east planned to join directly with the central section from this autumn.

Abena Oppong-Asare, Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, tweets:

The economic clouds over the eurozone have darkened, with new data showing retail sales fell in March, by 0.4%.

It’s a bigger decline than expected, and suggests record high inflation and the Ukraine war hit confidence.

Many EU countries relaxed Covid-19 restrictions in March, which could have supported spending in the shops. However, households are now being hit by soaring energy prices and other costs instead.

The biggest monthly fall was for mail orders and internet purchases, down 4.3%, as people returned to shops rather than buying online.

Quite a deceleration in retail sales in Europe and the ECB has not tightened yet. Eurozone retail sales fell 0.4% in March from the previous month indicating that high inflation and concerns about the war in Ukraine are offsetting the boost from fewer pandemic restrictions.

— Nicola Lampis (@NicolaLampis) May 4, 2022

Eurozone retail sales back at their pre-covid trend, hard to see a lot of momentum for demand-driven goods prices in Europe at the moment. US looks headed in the same direction but still coming from incredibly strong levels.

— Ángel Talavera (@atalaveraEcon) May 4, 2022

Graphic: Crossrail links services

This graphic shows how Crossrail will link passenger services from the east and west of London.


Transport for London says it will transform travel across London and the South East, by:

“dramatically improving transport links, cutting journey times, providing additional capacity and transforming accessibility with spacious new stations and walk-through trains.

We’ve got big news! The Elizabeth line will open on Tuesday 24 May 2022 🎉

👏 Reduced journey times, 👏 more transport capacity, 👏 improved accessibility plus a huge economic boost to the capital and beyond 👏

— Transport for London (@TfL) May 4, 2022

Part of the delay and cost has been in Crossrail’s complicated signalling, which integrates three different systems, our transport correspondent Gwyn Topham explains:

Trains will run automatically in the central tunnels but need to switch to different signalling systems on both the eastern section of the railway to Shenfield and on the lines to Reading and Heathrow in the west.

Until that is fully operational, passengers travelling in the existing TfL Rail outer branches will need to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street stations. Trains from east or west will directly cross the central section later this year, and services running all the way through are expected to start next year.

More signs with the purple livery of the Elizabeth line will be uncovered in the coming weeks, as well as the updated tube map showing the connections with the rest of the TfL network. Bus services will also be changed in east London to connect with the new stations.

Here’s Gwyn’s full story on the Elizabeth line opening:

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has welcomed the news that Crossrail services will finally start running through central London on May 24:

“This is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades, and will revolutionise travel across the capital and the south-east – 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.”

NEW: The Elizabeth Line will open in 20 days time.

The most significant addition to our transport network in decades will:

✅ Revolutionise travel across London and the South East
✅ Give a £42bn boost to the UK economy
✅ Generate new homes and jobs

— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) May 4, 2022

Crossrail services will start with 12 trains per hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood, from 6.30am to 11pm.

But they’ll initially only operate from Mondays to Saturdays, with Sunday set aside for further testing and software updates, “in preparation for more intensive services from the autumn.”

The aim is to increase to 22 trains per hour in the autumn, in the peak between Paddington and Whitechapel.

At the start, passengers coming in from the west on trains from Reading and Heathrow to Paddington, and from Shenfield to Liverpool Street in the east, will need to change onto the new trains.

Services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield should connect with the central tunnels from this autumn this year.

The Bond Street Elizabeth line station is not ready, so won’t open on May 24 as work is still ongoing after construction problems. TFL hopes it will open by the end of the year.

TFL says:

The station continues to make good progress and the team at Bond Street are working hard to open the station to customers later this year.

Six days a week: that’s all the £19bn Crossrail scheme can manage. No Sunday service on the Elizabeth Line initially “to allow a series of testing and software updates in preparation for more intensive services from the autumn”.
Bond Street remains closed.

— Simon Calder (@SimonCalder) May 4, 2022

Sunday Times transport editor Nicholas Hellen points out that while Crossrail is finally opening in London, the North of England is still waiting for similar investment:

Official: Crossrail’s Elizabeth Line to open May 24th in time for Platinum Jubilee but almost £4bn over budget and more than 3 years late
London and SE will now have a slick service costing more than Channel Tunnel while comparable service from Liverpool to Hull stuck in sidings

— Nicholas Hellen (@NicholasHellen) May 4, 2022

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), or High Speed 3, is a proposal to connect Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds with new fast services, along with upgrades to services to York, Hull and Sheffield.

But in 2021, the government decided the full high-speed east-west line linking Manchester to Leeds will not be built, and scrapped the eastern leg of the HS2 project to Leeds.

Changes to HS2 include the scrapping of most of its eastern leg

The downgrade was heavily criticised, with senior Conservative MPs, regional leaders and industry figures accusing ministers of betraying the north with a delayed and downgraded £96bn rail plan.

Crossrail: much-delayed Elizabeth line to (almost) open on 24 May – notable that it will still have to operate as three separate railways. But at least they’ve got this far.

— William Upton QC (@willupton) May 4, 2022

Our transport correspondent Gwyn Topham toured the Elizabeth line in February, and reported:

On the first media trip to see the line in action, riding on spacious trains along the tunnels winding from Paddington to Liverpool Street, flaws appeared conspicuously absent. Twelve trains an hour are now running in the central section excavated under the capital, with an official deadline for opening at the end of June.

Andy Byford, the transport commissioner, said the opening would be “a massive fillip to London’s morale and confidence” after the capital was drained of so much life during the pandemic. “When people arrive, day one, they will be blown away by the scale and by how quiet and smooth the train ride is.”

On the concourse below the glass roof of Paddington’s Elizabeth line station, Byford’s words seemed no exaggeration, with trains arriving barely audibly behind the screens sealing the track from the platforms.

Mark Wild, the chief executive of Crossrail, said it was “epic, a beautiful outcome”. Most of the volumes of the newly built stations, such as the control rooms, aren’t even visible, he said: “The Shard would fit in here quite comfortably.”

Crossrail’s first official opening planned for December 2018 was cancelled, and Byford explained in February that the line “has to be flawless” before it launched.

Crossrail have put together this video showing the work behind the long-delayed £19bn line, which finally opens in three weeks:

London’s new Elizabeth line will open on May 24th, says TfL. It has taken years for crossrail to be a reality, and now it’s just days away

— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) May 4, 2022