London’s Elizabeth Line skytrain opens today

The Elizabeth line, named after the oldest monarch in British history, opens to Queens and commoners today, just in time for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Tunneling under some of the most expensive real estate in the world, the new railway is set to transform travel and communications in London and the South East, and relieve chronic congestion on some of the busiest parts of the tube. With this promise of transformation brought by the lavish scale of the Elizabeth line, however, comes a fair royal price tag.

With a per-meter budget that makes HS2 look like a cut-price branch line to a provincial backwater – which of course it is, as most Londoners would never admit – the overdue, overpriced line, aerial and then underground has been the subject of damning documentaries and reality TV telethons. Starting today, Tuesday May 24, it’s finally time for everyone to find out for themselves what it’s all about. So, for the price of a single central zone ticket of two pounds and fifty pence, you can try the tracks that only every film crew in Britain has ever ridden (Concessions and Reigning Monarchs are free).

Twelve trains per hour and more to come

Ten percent is the key figure, as requested by the capital’s multimodal authority – Transport for London (TfL). “Our new rail line will add approximately 10% more capacity to the central London rail network,” their statement read. Most commuters, visitors, theatre-goers and Londoners going about their business respond warmly: “About time. Yes, it’s true. With a train every five minutes for eighteen hours every weekday, and each of them able to accommodate 1,500 passengers, this is a huge addition to the capacity of existing metro lines. Note – this is space for 1500 passengers, not all of these spaces are seats on the 200 meter long trains.

200 meter long Class 345 – of which 70 sets form the Crossrail (MTR) fleet

The Elizabeth line will operate twelve trains per hour in the central section of the underground between Paddington and Abbey Wood, Monday to Saturday from 06:30 to 23:00. Frequencies will be lower in the West and East branches, but still incredibly frequent for anyone used to services more than ten miles from Trafalgar Square. While the line is polished and all frills are completed, work will continue during nighttime engineering hours and on Sundays. TfL says this is to enable a series of tests and software updates in preparation for more intensive services from the autumn.

Bond Street is not yet open

Anyone expecting to travel from Kent or Essex via London to Heathrow or Reading will still have to wait a while. Although London’s Elizabeth line opens today, it will be three railways for the price of one. “The Elizabeth Line will operate in London as three separate railways, east, west and through central London,” says Julie Dixon, in her interim role as Chief Customer and Revenue Officer. . An appropriate job title, as this is a tentative set up for the line. “When the last leg is complete, customers will be able to travel from Abbey Wood without any problems [Kent] to Heathrow and Reading, and from Shenfield [Essex] at Heathrow,” she said.

Julie explained that from today the Central Section opens, adding nine new stations to the TfL network. Nine? Yes, we are not ready yet. Bond Street – Queen’s home station – has been plagued with problems and is not yet ready. As if inserting a half-mile-long box under one of London’s most expensive shopping and residential streets presents unexpected problems.

River and rail freight saved 10,000 truck movements

The Elizabeth Line (only hardline refuseniks still call it Crossrail) is best known for its relatively short central section. Nevertheless, it was this section that made all the headlines. For just over three years, eight huge 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machines have built 42 kilometers of new railway tunnels, totaling an average of 38 meters per day. More than 3 million tonnes of material excavated from the tunnels has been shipped to Wallasea Island in Essex to create a new 1,500-acre (610-hectare) nature reserve.

Big tunnels and lots of them – 42km in fact. The central section of the Elizabeth Line under central London grabbed the headlines. Image: Chantal Joffe, 2017 © Thierry Bal

Rail freight played an important role in construction. From manufacturing plants across Britain, over 200,000 tunnel segments were delivered to a preparation site in the East End, and either moved directly to the tunnel head or moved by river , in an exercise that manufacturers say saved 10,000 highway truck movements.

200 million annual passengers

The vast tunnels are the posters of the Elizabeth line. In fact, although it is a new 60 mile (100 kilometer) railway comprising 31 unlisted stations and 10 new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood. Yes, keen observers will have noticed that none of the new resorts are actually ‘new’ – but a visit to one will prove they’ve been given an upgrade on steroids to cope. to the expected 200 million annual passengers who will use the Elisabeth line. It’s about an hour of construction work for each of these passengers.

According to the consortium, the very existence of the line will generate 75,000 business opportunities, with enough work to support the equivalent of 55,000 full-time jobs. They also say it’s not just London and the South East that are benefiting. During construction, 96% of contracts were awarded to UK-based companies, with 62% outside London, including the manufacture of the tunnel wall sections.

Three for an ROI

The conundrum is that if the Elizabeth line is the hit everyone agrees it will be, then the extra patronage will soon swallow up the increased capacity, and it’ll be back to queuing in the rain of November on Langham Place to enter Oxford Circus tube station. . Accessibility will bring an additional 1.5 million people within a 45 minute journey of existing major employment centers in the West End, City and Canary Wharf.

Descent? (TfL)

Famous, the television documentary series, “The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway”, covering the construction started life as a single series called Eight Billion Pound Railway. Like its subject, it went well over budget and ended as three series in one. Two more series, and five years later, the series finale is the start of the line. Boldly though, the partners behind the project claim that even at the eventual cost, the line will still be a fantastic return on investment. They estimate that for this down payment, the UK economy as a whole will benefit to the tune of 42 billion pounds (50 billion euros).

At least for now, the Elizabeth line is also a three-for-one deal. Time will tell if it is very expensive.

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Bonny J. Streater