Transport for London (TfL) has today confirmed that, subject to final safety approvals, the Elizabeth line will open on 24th May.
The formal start of construction for the £19bn Crossrail project was marked at Canary Wharf on 15th May 2009. The main construction phase began in 2011; tunnelling for the new rail tunnels began in May 2012 and was completed in May 2015. The past seven years have been spent installing railway systems and getting them to work.
Extensive commissioning of the railway started in spring 2021 when trial running began. Trial operations then started in November 2021.
TfL is still, even now, not yet ready to offer the full service. Work is still continuing at Bond Street Elizabeth line station, so it will not open until later in the year.
And the Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year.
For the time being, 12 trains per hour will run between Paddington and Abbey Wood from Monday to Saturday 06:30 to 23:00. Work will continue in engineering hours and on Sundays to allow a series of testing and software updates in preparation for more intensive services from the autumn.
All services between Reading and Heathrow to Paddington and Shenfield to Liverpool Street, currently operating as TfL Rail, will be rebranded to the Elizabeth line. Customers travelling between Reading or Heathrow into London will need to change at Paddington for services into the central section of the route, and customers from Shenfield into London will need to change at Liverpool Street. Services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield will connect with the central tunnels in autumn when frequencies will also be increased to 22 trains per hour in the peak between Paddington and Whitechapel.
Andy Byford, Transport for London's commissioner, said: “I am delighted that we can now announce a date for the opening of the Elizabeth line in May. We are using these final few weeks to continue to build up reliability on the railway and get the Elizabeth line ready to welcome customers. The opening day is set to be a truly historic moment for the capital and the UK, and we look forward to showcasing a simply stunning addition to our network.”