Tens of thousands travel on Elizabeth line on first morning of passenger service

The project to build the railway was delayed and over budget.

Neil Lancefield
Tuesday 24 May 2022 12:50
Thousands of people travelled on London’s £18.9 billion Elizabeth line railway in the first few hours of operation on Tuesday morning (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Thousands of people travelled on London’s £18.9 billion Elizabeth line railway in the first few hours of operation on Tuesday morning (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Around 130,000 people travelled on London’s £18.9 billion Elizabeth line railway in the first few hours of operation on Tuesday morning.

Hundreds of transport enthusiasts gathered at stations in Paddington, west London and Abbey Wood, south-east London to be on the first trains which departed shortly after 6.30am.

Transport for London (TfL) commissioner Andy Byford said the service was running “so far so good” and “on time”.

Paddington station was closed for around half an hour due to a fire alarm being activated.

TfL said an estimated 130,000 journeys were made up to 10am on the entire line, which stretches from Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow Airport in west London to Abbey Wood in south-east London and Shenfield in Essex.

Around 65,000 of those involved the new central section between Paddington and Abbey Wood.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who travelled on the first departure from Paddington, said it was “a fantastic day”.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s been fantastic to see these amazing stations being used by members of the public.

“It’s one of those pinch-me moments.

Crowds wait in line to board the first Elizabeth line train to carry passengers at Paddington Station, London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“We’re experiencing an expansion of public transport in London we’ve not seen in more than 50 years.”

He added: “These trains are speedy, spacious, silent, comfortable.

“We know now they are fit for a Queen and, as importantly, fit for Londoners.”

The head of state visited Paddington last week to mark the completion of the Crossrail project to build the railway.

The Queen unveils a plaque to mark the Elizabeth line’s official opening at Paddington station (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Absolutely delighted that the Elizabeth Line has opened to the public today.

“Long-term investment in UK infrastructure pays off – with this project alone supporting 55,000 new jobs, 1,000 apprenticeships, and forecast to boost the UK economy by £42bn.”

Danny McLaren, 21, from Edinburgh, arrived at Paddington at 1.30am to ensure he would be near the front of the queue to be on the first train.

He said: “It’s an epic day to experience it when it’s brand new.”

Crossrail route (PA Graphics)

Another passenger, Colin Farmer, 84, from Croydon, south-east London, said: “It’s history. It’s about time there were trains right through London without changing to the Underground.

“I’m very excited. We’ve been waiting long enough for it.

“It’s a great achievement.”

James Robert, 48, from Wigan, was on the train with his 11-year-old son Matthew.

“It’s lovely and bright and fast,” Mr Robert said.

“I wish we had trains like this in Wigan.”

Undated Marylebone Boys’ School handout photo of art work by pupils from Marylebone Boys’ School (Marylebone Boys’ School/PA)

Clare Cenci, 43, from Maidenhead, Berkshire travelled on an early morning Elizabeth line service from Paddington on her commute to Liverpool Street.

She said there is “a lot more space” compared with Tube trains.

She went on: “The air-conditioning makes it a lot better.

“The Central line in the summer isn’t good.”

The Elizabeth line initially operates in three separate sections, which are expected to be integrated in the autumn.

Demand for the railway has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

TfL estimates that annual passenger numbers will not reach 170 million by 2026.

Before the virus crisis, it expected the line to carry more than 200 million passengers annually.

The new central section, built by the Crossrail project, runs through tunnels from Paddington to Abbey Wood.

It will initially be closed on Sundays, apart from during the Platinum Jubilee weekend, to allow further testing and software updates to take place.

Crossrail suffered numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications installing signalling systems.

It was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010.

The final total cost has been estimated at £18.9 billion.

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