|Service type||Hybrid urban-suburban rail|
|First service||24 May 2022|
|Current operator(s)||MTR Elizabeth line Limited|
|Annual ridership||204.296 million (2022/2023) passenger journeys|
|Termini||West: Heathrow Terminal 4, Heathrow Terminal 5 and Reading|
East: Abbey Wood and Shenfield
|Distance travelled||73 miles (117 km)|
|Rolling stock||Class 345|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||25 kV 50 Hz AC (overhead lines)|
The Elizabeth line is a high-frequency hybrid urban–suburban rail service in London and its suburbs. It runs services on dedicated infrastructure in central London from the Great Western Main Line west of Paddington station to Abbey Wood and via Whitechapel to the Great Eastern Main Line near Stratford; along the Great Western Main Line to Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west; and along the Great Eastern Main Line to Shenfield in the east. The service is named after Queen Elizabeth II, who officially opened the line on 17 May 2022 during her Platinum Jubilee year; passenger services started on 24 May 2022. Despite being named under the same system as London Underground lines, and having sections which are underground, the Elizabeth line is not classified as a London Underground line.
Under the project name of Crossrail, the system was approved in 2007, and construction began in 2009. Originally planned to open in 2018, the project was repeatedly delayed, including for several months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May 2015, existing commuter services on a section of one of the eastern branches, between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, were transferred to TfL Rail; this precursor service also took control of Heathrow Connect in May 2018, and some local services on the Paddington to Reading line in December 2019. These services were augmented by a new central section in May 2022, and rebranded as the Elizabeth line. The outer services were connected to the central section in November 2022. Since May 2023, the central section has up to 24 nine-carriage Class 345 trains per hour in each direction. Elizabeth line services are operated by MTR Elizabeth line.
In 2001, Cross London Rail Links (CLRL), a 50/50 joint-venture between Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT), was formed to develop and promote the Crossrail scheme, and also a Wimbledon–Hackney scheme, Crossrail 2. In 2003 and 2004, over 50 days of exhibitions were held to explain the proposals at over 30 different locations.[non-primary source needed]
2005 route development
In 2005, ahead of Crossrail's hybrid bill submission, a number of feeder routes were considered by CLRL west of Paddington and east of Liverpool Street. It was viewed, given the 24 trains-per-hour (tph) core frequency, that two feeder routes, each of 12 tph, could be taken forward.
In the west, a route to Maidenhead (later extended to Reading) and Heathrow Airport was selected. In the east, routes to Abbey Wood (curtailed from Ebbsfleet to avoid conflicts with the North Kent lines) and Shenfield were selected.
The Crossrail Act 2008 authorising the construction project received royal assent on 22 July 2008. In December 2008, TfL and the DfT announced that they had signed the "Crossrail Sponsors' Agreement". This committed them to financing the project, then projected to cost £15.9 billion, with further contributions from Network Rail, BAA, and the City of London.
Boring of the railway tunnels was officially completed in June 2015. Installation of the track was completed in September 2017. The European Train Control System (ETCS) signalling was scheduled to be tested in the Heathrow tunnels over the winter of 2017–2018.
At the end of August 2018, four months before the scheduled opening of the core section of the line, it was announced that completion was delayed and that the line would not open before autumn 2019. After multiple delays, in August 2020 Crossrail announced that the central section would be ready to open "in the first half of 2022".
In May 2021, trial running commenced.
On 17 May 2022, the line was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in honour of her Platinum Jubilee. She was not scheduled to attend the event, but decided to attend with her son, Prince Edward, to unveil the plaque commemorating the official opening.
Though the main tunnels under central London had not yet been opened, passenger operations on the outer branches of the future Elizabeth line were transferred to TfL for inclusion in the concession – this took place over several stages beginning May 2015. During this initial phase of operation, services were operated by MTR under the TfL Rail brand. Following the practice adopted during the transfer of former Silverlink services to London Overground in 2007, TfL carried out a deep clean of stations and trains on the future Elizabeth line route, installed new ticket machines and barriers, introduced Oyster card and contactless payment, and ensured all stations were staffed. Existing rolling stock was rebranded with the TfL Rail identity.
|0||May 2015||31 May 2015||—||Existing "metro" service between Liverpool Street (main line station) and Shenfield transferred from Abellio Greater Anglia to TfL Rail|
|1||May 2017||22 Jun 2017||1 month||Class 345 trains start running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in reduced length format|
|2a||May 2018||20 May 2018||—|
|5a||—||15 Dec 2019||—|
|2b||May 2018||30 July 2020||2 years and 2 months||Class 345 trains start running between Paddington and Heathrow|
|4a||—||26 May 2021||—||Class 345 trains in full length format start running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield|
|3||Dec 2018||24 May 2022||3 years and 5 months||Services between Paddington and Abbey Wood begin; this section and existing TfL Rail routes rebranded as the Elizabeth line, up to 12 tph|
|4b/5b||—||6 Nov 2022||—||Services begin between Paddington and Shenfield; and between Reading and Abbey Wood; and between Heathrow and Abbey Wood. The services are operated in parallel, sharing the central tunnel.|
|5c||Dec 2019||21 May 2023||3 years and 5 months||Full route opens, with services between Heathrow and both Abbey Wood and Shenfield; and between Reading and Abbey Wood.|
The Elizabeth line runs on an east–west axis across the London region, with branches terminating at Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east, and at Heathrow Terminal 4, Heathrow Terminal 5 and Reading in the west. There are 41 stations. In the central section, there are interchanges with London Underground, National Rail, and Docklands Light Railway lines.
Design and infrastructure
Name and identity
The Elizabeth line is the name of the new service that is on signage throughout the stations. It is named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. The Elizabeth line roundel is coloured purple, with a superimposed blue bearing white text in the same style as for Underground lines. However, unlike Underground lines, the Elizabeth line roundel includes the word "line".
TfL Rail was an intermediate brand name which was introduced in May 2015 and discontinued in May 2022. It was used by TfL on services between Paddington and Heathrow Terminal 5 and Reading, as well as trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.
|All stations have step-free access|
- Reading branch services skip Hanwell, West Ealing, and Acton Main Line stations
- Some early-morning and late-night services instead use the National Rail terminal platforms
- Services using the National Rail terminal platforms commenced on 20 May 2018
- From Paddington (Bakerloo, Circle, and District) tube station
- From Paddingdon (Circle and Hammersmith & City) tube station
- Some early-morning, late-night, and peak-time services instead use the National Rail terminal platforms
- Services using the National Rail terminal platforms commenced on 31 May 2015
- Only limited service
- From Moorgate station
- From Canary Wharf tube station
- From Canary Wharf, Poplar, and West India Quay DLR stations
- From Woolwich Arsenal station
- From Wanstead Park station
Ten new stations have been built in the central and south east sections of the line, and 31 existing stations were upgraded and refurbished. Nine of the ten new-build stations opened for revenue service on 24 May 2022; the remaining station – Bond Street – required additional finishing works before commissioning could proceed. Trains passed through its platforms non-stop until it opened five months later on 24 October. All stations are equipped with CCTV and because of the length of trains, central stations have train indicators above the platform-edge doors. All 41 stations are step-free, with 13 of these (the central and Heathrow stations) having level access between trains and platforms.
Although the trains are 200 metres (660 feet) long, platforms at the new stations in the central core are built to enable 240-metre-long (790 ft) trains in case of possible future need. In the eastern section, Maryland and Manor Park have not had platform extensions, so trains use selective door opening instead. At Maryland this is because of the prohibitive cost of extensions and the poor business case, and at Manor Park it is due to the presence of a freight loop that would otherwise be cut off.
|Old Oak Common||—||Core||c. 2030|
|Current rolling stock|
|Name||Manufacturer||Number built||Entered service||Currently owned||Currently active|
|Class 345 Aventra||Bombardier||70||2017||70||70|
|Retired rolling stock|
|Name||Manufacturer||Number built||Entered service||Retired||Currently owned||Replacement|
|Class 315 BREL 1972||British Rail Engineering Limited||61||1980||2022||1 preserved||Class 345 Aventra|
Services on the Elizabeth line are operated exclusively by a fleet of nine-car Class 345 trains that was procured especially for this purpose. The service specifications called for approximately 60 trains, each 200 metres (660 feet) long and capable of carrying up to 1,500 passengers, of which 57 would be in service at any one time. In March 2011, Crossrail indicated that five bidders had been shortlisted as potential suppliers of both the new fleet and its depot facilities; Alstom, CAF, Siemens Mobility, Hitachi Rail, and Bombardier Transportation – although Alstom withdrew four months later. Crossrail issued invitations to negotiate to the remaining bidders in March 2012, with submission of tenders expected between June and August. It was stipulated that bidders should offer a fleet based on technology that was "already developed", with the expectation that an "evolutionary, not revolutionary" product would help to ensure "value for money" and "[the] utmost reliability from day one". Siemens withdrew their rolling stock bid in July 2013, citing an increase in other business and a need to protect their "ability to deliver ... current customer commitments", which included the £1.6 billion Class 700 order for Thameslink. Their contract to supply Crossrail's signalling and control systems was unaffected.
In December 2013, the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed to provide TfL loans of up to £500 million to fund the rolling stock procurement, following TfL's decision in March of that year to abandon plans to cover most of the cost with private financing.
TfL and the Department for Transport announced in early February 2014 that Bombardier's bid had been successful. The 32-year contract for the supply and maintenance of the trains and depot was valued at £1 billion. It included a firm order for 65 units from Bombardier's new Aventra family, plus an option for a further 18. The trains have air-conditioning and are designed to be as accessible as possible, including wide aisles and gangways, dedicated areas for wheelchairs, audio and visual announcements, CCTV, and passenger intercoms connected to the driver for use in the event of emergency. They will run at up to 90 mph (140 km/h) on certain parts of the route.
Due to limited platform lengths at both Liverpool Street and Paddington National Rail stations, most Class 345 units were initially delivered as seven-car formations, then later extended to the intended nine. The first unit entered service on 22 June 2017, between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. TfL exercised an option to acquire a further five units in July 2017, bringing the total number on order to 70.
A number of Class 315 units that had been operating with TfL Rail remained in use on Elizabeth line services between Liverpool Street's terminal platforms and Shenfield alongside Class 345 units while the introduction of the new fleet – including the extension to nine-car formations – was completed. The Class 315 units, which had been built for British Rail in 1980–1981, could not be used in the line's core section. The final four were withdrawn from service on 9 December 2022.
Electrification and train protection
The Heathrow branch started using the European Train Control System (ETCS) in 2020. The Automatic Warning System (AWS) and Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS) are used on the Great Western and Great Eastern Main Lines, with possible later upgrades to ETCS. Communications-based train control (CBTC) is installed in the central section and the Abbey Wood branch.
Upon opening, the line ran as three physically separate services: between Reading or Heathrow Airport and Paddington in the west; from Paddington via Liverpool Street to Abbey Wood in the centre; and between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in the east. To connect between services, a walk between the separate stations at Paddington or Liverpool Street was required. Operating hours were limited, as well as the service running Monday to Saturday only - allowing for further testing and software updates to take place. When through-running began in November 2022, there were two main service groups, overlapping through the core section: from Reading or Heathrow Airport to Abbey Wood; and from Paddington to Shenfield.
As of 21 May 2023, the off-peak weekday service is as follows:
|Reading to Abbey Wood||2|
|Maidenhead to Abbey Wood||2|
|Heathrow Terminal 4 to Abbey Wood||4|
|Heathrow Terminal 5 to Shenfield||2|
|Paddington to Shenfield||6|
Some early morning and late night services run into Paddington mainline terminus instead of going through central London. Likewise, some early, peak-direction, and late trains run between Liverpool Street mainline terminus and Gidea Park, bypassing Whitechapel.
|Route||Pre-Elizabeth line time||Elizabeth line time|
|Paddington to Tottenham Court Road||20||4|
|Paddington to Canary Wharf||34||17|
|Bond Street to Paddington||15||3|
|Bond Street to Whitechapel||24||10|
|Canary Wharf to Liverpool Street||21||6|
|Canary Wharf to Heathrow||55||39|
|Whitechapel to Canary Wharf||13||3|
|Abbey Wood to Heathrow||93||52|
Ticketing is integrated with the other London transport systems, but Oyster pay as you go is not accepted on the western section between West Drayton (the limit of London fare zone 6) and Reading, with only contactless cards valid there. The concessionary travel Freedom Pass is valid for the whole length of the route, including stations outside London. The Elizabeth line is integrated with the London Underground, the wider Transport for London network and the National Rail networks; it is also included on the standard Tube map.
Journeys to or from Heathrow Airport are priced at a premium due to using the rail tunnel between the airport and Hayes & Harlington. That stretch of line is not part of the Network Rail system but owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings, who charge TfL an additional fee for each train that uses it. Heathrow is nevertheless included within the Travelcard scheme and daily/weekly fare capping as a fare zone 6 station.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Elizabeth line was predicted to carry over 200 million passengers annually immediately after opening; this was expected to relieve pressure on London Underground's lines, especially the Central line. Farringdon is expected to become one of the busiest stations in the UK, due to it being the key interchange station with Thameslink services. In a business plan for the line published in January 2020, Transport for London predicted total annual revenues from the line of nearly £500 million per year in 2022/23 (its first full year of operation) and over £1 billion per year in 2024/25. By the time the line opened, TfL had reduced their passenger forecasts because passenger travelling habits changed during the pandemic; the estimate was between 130 and 170 million passengers by 2026. However, the Elizabeth line carried 62.2 million passengers in the last quarter of 2022 alone. That was one-sixth of the UK's total rail journeys, and double the number the line carried during the same period one year earlier. TFL later stated the line had carried over 150 million passenges in its first year of operation.
New stations have been proposed to serve London City Airport, and extensions have been put forward to Ebbsfleet in the south east, Milton Keynes in the north west, Staines in the south west, and Southend Airport in the east.
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