Let us go back in time to 2017, I had been to the Crossrail exhibition at the Museum of Dockland and was invited to go to look at the new Canary Wharf station for Crossrail.
With considerable excitement, I made my way down the escalators to the shiny new platforms and then peered along the tunnels.
Although the station was still being fitted out, there seemed no reason that the station would not be ready in 2018.
That early optimism was rather misplaced and here we are on the 24th May 2022 and I am making my way to the Canary Wharf station to take my first trip on the Elizabeth Line.
It is worth remembering that the new Elizabeth Line is one of the biggest changes in London infrastructure in a century. Three-and-a-half years late and at least £4bn over-budget, the Elizabeth line has finally opened. When it’s fully operational, the new rail line, will serve up to 200 million passengers each year. The line is expected to increase London’s train capacity by 10%.
The project was originally known as Crossrail has built a 73-mile (118km) railway line all across south-east England. It runs from Essex in the east to Berkshire in the west, running underground through central London. There are two western branches, which terminate at Reading and Heathrow Airport, and two eastern branches, ending at Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London.
Ten new stations have been built for the central London section, which connect Paddington, Bond Street, Liverpool St and Canary Wharf.
What you will first notice is trains are bigger, carrying up to 1,500 passengers – significantly more than a London Underground train.
They also seem quieter and more airy, although the train was not full, there seemed plenty of space.
For people that live on the Island and Canary Wharf, getting to Whitechapel is now only 5 mins away and Liverpool Street around 8 mins. The major difference is going east to west is now much easier and the once torturous trek to Paddington and Heathrow should now be much easier.
At the moment, a full service is not available yet. Initially, trains will run six days a week, every five minutes from 06:30 to 23:00 with no Sunday service. The line will operate in three parts – from Abbey Wood to Paddington, from Heathrow and Reading to Paddington, and Shenfield to Liverpool Street. Bond Street station in central London will not open until later this year, due to problems during construction. From the autumn, trains from Heathrow will no longer terminate at Paddington, and will continue on through the central section of the line. Passengers won’t be able to travel directly from one end of the line to the other until May 2023.
The new line will mean significant shorter times for many travellers. Elizabeth line fares are identical to those on London Underground. Services currently operating as TfL Rail will remain unchanged although there will be a £7.20 premium on journeys to and from Heathrow airport.
Peak single journeys to Heathrow from central London (weekdays between 06:30-09:30 and 16:00-19:00) will cost £12.70 and be £2 cheaper at other times. In comparison, peak and off-peak Tube fares are currently £5.50 and £3.50 respectively, while the Heathrow Express costs £25.
Older person’s freedom passes allowing free travel, including to Heathrow and Reading, will be accepted after 09:00 on weekdays and at weekends.
At last, Crossrail or the Elizabeth Line is here and opens up plenty of options for travel in and beyond London.