London’s oft-delayed £19bn Elizabeth line finally opens to the public
Image credit: Tfl
The Elizabeth line, London’s first new Underground train route in decades, opened at 6.30am this morning serving passengers between Paddington and Abbey Wood.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that benefits of the new line will extend beyond London and the South East with the whole country “reaping the rewards” of a potential multibillion-pound boost to the economy created by the major infrastructure project.
The project has been in the making for a long time, with Crossrail being given an initial £14.8bn budget that slowly ballooned over time following repeated delays to stand at around £19bn.
Nine new stations are opening in central London which will provide Elizabeth line services every five minutes from 06:30 until 23:00, Monday to Saturday.
The new railway will also connect some of London’s major employment centres with outer boroughs and increase central London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent, the largest single increase in more than 70 years.
Throughout its construction, the railway has required an extensive supply chain that has supported businesses across the UK.
“As the Elizabeth line opens to the public, we know it’s not just Londoners that will reap the rewards, but the whole country – because better transport grows the economy, levels up opportunity and creates jobs,” Johnson said.
“We’re going further and faster to ensure that by investing in infrastructure right across the UK, our massive transport projects will get the nation firing on all pistons again as we recover from the pandemic.”
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, echoed his sentiments, saying the line’s opening would “provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country”.
Khan, who took a trip on the first train from Paddington, said: “Today is a historic day as the Elizabeth line opens to passengers. This is a huge moment, not just for London but the entire country, particularly in this special Jubilee year.
“It will add billions to our economy and is set to serve up to 200 million passengers each year. I’m sure passengers will enjoy the modern trains, beautiful step-free stations and the reduced journey times across the capital and the South East.
“The Elizabeth line is much more than just a new railway, it will provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country and help to turbo-charge our recovery from the pandemic.”
The Class 345 trains running on the new line were built in Derby, while roundels and signage for were supplied by a family-run business on the Isle of Wight. A company based in Leeds strengthened and protected London’s Victorian sewer networks during construction.
It is hoped the Elizabeth line will also help London to avoid a car-led recovery from the pandemic by providing new journey options.
In January, Khan warned that Londoners may be facing air pollution-related health problems due to pandemic-led changes to the way in which people travel in the capital.
Since the start of the pandemic, public transport usage has fallen and has yet to recover to 2019 levels as people try to avoid crowded spaces that put them at risk of contracting the virus.
London is paying for most of the Elizabeth line, with nearly 70 per cent of the total funding paid by London - made up of roughly 30 per cent from London’s farepayers, around 40 per cent from London’s businesses - combined with 30 per cent from central government.
Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, commented: “Railway businesses from all over the UK have played a key role in making this landmark project happen, whether train manufacturing in Derby, station construction in the East Midlands, signalling expertise from Chippenham and Stockport, or telecoms in London.
“Furthermore, the scheme has supported thousands of skilled railway jobs and significant investment in other parts of the economy beyond rail.
“With passengers now returning there is a strong long-term future for rail, and the Elizabeth line will make that future even brighter.”
Engineering work on the new line will continue in engineering hours and on Sundays to allow a series of testing and software updates in preparation for more intensive services later in the year.
Prior to its opening, E&T took a sneak peek around the new Farringdon station which is expected to be among the new line’s busiest.
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