Elizabeth line: ‘Historic’ day for Londoners as long awaited Crossrail project opens

More than 130,000 enthusiastic passengers climbed on board the first trains running on the new £18.9billion Elizabeth line within the first few hours of its launch.

After years of delays, the Crossrail project’s Elizabeth line finally opened to passengers in a “historic” moment for Londoners.

More than 130,000 enthusiastic passengers climbed on board the first trains running on the new £18.9billion Elizabeth line within the first few hours of its launch.

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Sadiq Khan at new station in Woolwich

Transport enthusiasts gathered at 6.30am this morning at Abbey Wood and Paddington stations to be the first to board the capital’s newest line in 43 years.

Before the Elizabeth line, the newest underground route built was the Jubilee Line, with the first section opening in 1979 and extending to the London Docklands in 1999.

Ian Kelly (left) with his friend Timothy Leberl (right) at Woolwich station

Ian Kelly, from Ealing, was up since 5.30am in order to be one of the first passengers to board the new purple line.

Donned in the his Elizabeth line moquette-designed scarf and purple t-shirt - which read “I only want to see you riding on the purple train” - he said he aims to visit each of the new stations by the end of the day.

“This is a historic day for us Londoners, the opening of a new railway line doesn’t happen very often and it’s such a pleasure to be here amongst everyone,” Kelly told LondonWorld.

Rail and underground enthusiasts queue for the first Elizabeth line train from Paddington. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

“The atmosphere is fantastic, everyone is very excited and very happy to be here.

“It’s the first time in my lifetime to experience the opening of a whole new line so it’s a very rare thing for me.”

It will operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year.

Andy Lord, Transport for London’s chief operating officer, hopes that the new line will be the catalyst that will bring customers back onto the public transport network.

“I think it’s going to be the catalyst that we need post-pandemic,” he said, speaking at the launch in Woolwich.

“We need a bounce back, obviously there’s a wider cost of living issue at the moment, hopefully this will be the catalyst that will bring customers back onto the public transport network.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (R) and TfL Commissioner Andy Byford disembark after travelling on the first eastbound train on the Elizabeth line. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

“We need London to thrive, we need people to come back into the city both for business and leisure reasons.

“We see high ridership at the weekends, we need to get people back in during the week and I think the Elizabeth line is going to be a great opportunity to do that and visit parts of the city that before were really difficult.

“Here we are in Woolwich, you can now get from Paddington to Woolwich in 21 minutes, yesterday the quickest journey would have been about 55 minutes, that’s transformative,” said Lord.

Local businesses also hope to benefit from the new railway.

James Heaton, CEO of Woolwich Works, a new performance centre in the Royal Arsenal buildings is hoping the Elizabeth line will reposition Woolwich as a new cultural hub for the capital.

“When Woolwich Works was being developed it was kind of predicated on the fact that the Elizabeth line was coming and part of what we wanted to do and what the council wanted to do in putting the money into the project was repositioning Woolwich as a creative hub for all of London,” he told LondonWorld.

“The Elizabeth line has the potential to redraw the boundaries of what we perceive as being central London and for us that means opening up our reach to audiences elsewhere in the east and across the city.

“There’s so much potential here in Woolwich and the only thing we’ve been waiting for to unlock it is an easy way to get here.”

When fully open the Elizabeth line will run from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

The route will use 42km of new tunnels beneath central London. Crossrail will serve 41 stations including 10 new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood.