Crossrail: What is the £19bn Elizabeth Line, when is it opening and what is the route map?

The new Aventra range of trains with Crossrail liveryThe new Aventra range of trains with Crossrail livery
The new Aventra range of trains with Crossrail livery
Crossrail - also known as the Elizabeth Line - was due to open in December 2019 at a cost of £14.8bn, but has risen to £18.8bn.

The £19bn railway linking Paddington and Liverpool Street is set to open in the first half of 2022, project bosses have insisted.

The Crossrail scheme has been beset with delays and overspending, but advocates vow the line will boost the capital’s economy and is a historic investment in the city’s infrastructure.

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However, the project - also known as the Elizabeth Line - was due to open in December 2019 at a cost of £14.8bn, but has risen to £18.8bn and is yet to fully launch.


The original idea for the project was first mooted in 1941 by railwayman George Dow in the Star.

Plans advanced in the 1970s and the idea was then dubbed Crossrail, while a bill failed to get through Parliament in 1991 for a line from Paddington to Liverpool Street.

Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT) formed Cross London Rail Links (CLRL) in 2001 to develop the scheme.

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Finally in 2008, the Crossrail Act was passed, allowing CLRL to build the line, starting with a £1bn loan in 2009 to kick off the project.

In the 2010 election campaign, both Labour and the Conservatives made manifesto pledges to complete Crossrail.

The Crossrail route map. Credit: CrossrailThe Crossrail route map. Credit: Crossrail
The Crossrail route map. Credit: Crossrail | Crossrail


The route is a 118km railway linking Reading and Heathrow in the west with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. Known as the Elizabeth Line, it crosses the city via 21km of double tunnels under London.

It will link 41 stations - including newly built stops at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood - across the South East.

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According to Crossrail, it required 42 kilometres of new tunnels, over 50 kilometres of new track, integration of three signalling systems and upgrades across existing infrastructure.

And existing National Rail stations in Berkshire, Essex, and London are being upgraded - including new ticket halls, new lifts and footbridges, and platform extensions.


Construction of Crossrail broke ground on May 15, 2009, at a ceremony attended by then-London mayor Boris Johnson and then-rail minister, Andrew Adonis.

The 42km of tunnels were constructed by eight 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machines which were made in Germany, beginning in 2012.

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Named Phyllis and Ada - after Phyllis Pearsall, who created the London A-Z and Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer - Elizabeth, Victoria, Jessica, Ellie, Sophia and Mary, they dug out 6.2m diameter rail caverns.

The tunnels had to intersect existing Tube lines, listed buildings and infrastructure, and at one point, at Tottenham Court Road, the route is less than a metre from the Northern Line.

The Elizabeth Line was expected to open in 2018. Credit: TfLThe Elizabeth Line was expected to open in 2018. Credit: TfL
The Elizabeth Line was expected to open in 2018. Credit: TfL | TfL


In the 1970s, very early proposals for Crossrail were then thought to cost around £300m, approximately £4.8bn in today’s money when adjusted for inflation.

While in 1991, further proposals were then estimated to cost £885m, now around £2bn.

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When Crossrail first began building in 2009, the project was expected to cost £14.8bn but the price has since soared and will top £19bn by the time of completion.

As of August 2020, the project was estimated to cost £18.7bn, following a further £2.15bn in funding via TfL in December 2018, taking it to £17bn, and an extra £1.1bn on top of this.

Now project bosses have admitted the total cost will top £19bn by the time the line opens.


Crossrail was expected to open in December 2018, but is now not anticipated to be fully operational until 2023.

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In late August 2018, Crossrail announced it was delayed and would not open ahead of 2019.

However, in April 2019, it was announced the line was to be finished between October 2020 and March 2021, making it two years behind schedule. This timeline did not include opening the new Bond Street station, one of 10 new stops.

Crossrail said delays were due to major challenges with software, track signalling and installing equipment.

In July 2019, bosses said the line would not open in 2021, while Covid delays further impacted the project.

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In May 2021 trial running commenced, and Crossrail and TfL have said the middle section of the line will be open to passengers in the first half of 2022.

Will you use Crossrail’s new Elizabeth Line when it opens? Let us know on Twitter @LondonWorldCom.

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