New £1bn rail route opened

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The Independent Online

The first section of a new £1 billion rail route, which will feature a fleet of new air-conditioned trains, was officially opened today.

London mayor Boris Johnson signalled the start of London Overground's East London route, which builds on and extends the old East London Line.

The line is opening at first with a "preview running" service which will feature eight trains an hour from Dalston Junction in north London to New Cross Gate in south east London.

A full service from Dalston Junction to West Croydon will begin on May 23. Around 100,000 passengers a day will travel on 20 Class 378 Electrostar trains, with a further 13 trains joining the fleet by 2012.

Mr Johnson said today: "This new railway will bring jobs and opportunities to communities up and down the line, massively improving access for hundreds of thousands of people.

"In this £1 billion upgrade, the old has been fused with the best of the new. The Victorian genius of Brunel's tunnel under the Thames now comprises part of a network of almost space-age stations, which will soon form an orbital railway around the capital.

"This type of investment is essential if London, throwing off the shackles of recession, is to emerge with the ability to grow, prosper, and secure its position at the summit of world cities, to the benefit of all Londoners."

London's transport commissioner Peter Hendy said: "Not since the (Underground's) Jubilee line was extended over 10 years ago have we seen such a transformational transport project delivered in London.

"The new East London route has been eagerly awaited by people who live in, work in and visit the areas it serves.

"It delivers four new London Overground stations and a huge increase in the number of travel possibilities to residents and travellers in a single day. It is also an important part of the 2012 (Olympic) transport network and has been delivered ahead of schedule and on budget."

Liberal Democrat London Assembly transport spokeswoman Caroline Pidgeon said: "Right in the middle of a General Election campaign, the mayor is desperate to claim credit for something he didn't initiate.

"The East London Line opening will be welcomed by many Londoners, but must not be used as a political football."

Ms Pidgeon, who is also chairman of the London Assembly transport committee, added: "The fact that two 'official openings' have already been postponed on technical grounds clearly demonstrates that political convenience has been the key factor driving the date of the official opening.

"Transport for London would do everyone a favour if they stayed well clear of political stunts relating to the opening of the East London Line."