Elizabeth line

The Elizabeth line is a high-frequency hybrid commuter rail and rapid transit service in London and its suburbs. It runs services on dedicated infrastructure in central London between London Paddington and Abbey Wood; along the Great Western Main Line from London Paddington to Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west; and along the Great Eastern Main Line between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in the east. The service is named after Queen Elizabeth II, who officially opened the line on 17 May 2022 during her Platinum Jubilee year; passenger services started on 24 May 2022.

Elizabeth line
Elizabeth line roundel.svg
345001 ABW.jpg
An Elizabeth line train at Abbey Wood in May 2022
Service type
SystemNational Rail
First service24 May 2022
Current operator(s)MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd[2]
TerminiWest: Heathrow Terminal 4, Heathrow Terminal 5 and Reading
East: Abbey Wood and Shenfield
Rolling stockClass 315, Class 345[3]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz AC (overhead lines)
Operating speed
  • Crossrail: 60 mph (95 km/h)
  • GWML, Heathrow and GEML: 90 mph (145 km/h)
Track owner(s)

Under the project name of Crossrail, the system was approved in 2007, and construction began in 2009. Originally planned to open in 2018, the project was repeatedly delayed, including for several months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May 2015, existing commuter services on a section of one of the eastern branches, between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, were transferred to TfL Rail; this precursor service also took control of Heathrow Connect in May 2018, and some local services on the Paddington to Reading line in December 2019. These services were augmented by a new central section in May 2022. By May 2023, the central section will have up to 24 nine-carriage Class 345 trains per hour in each direction.


In 2001, Cross London Rail Links (CLRL), a 50/50 joint-venture between Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT), was formed to develop and promote the Crossrail scheme,[4] and also a Wimbledon–Hackney scheme, Crossrail 2. In 2003 and 2004, over 50 days of exhibitions were held to explain the proposals at over 30 different locations.[5][non-primary source needed]

2005 route developmentEdit

In 2005, ahead of Crossrail's hybrid bill submission, a number of feeder routes were considered by CLRL west of Paddington and east of Liverpool Street. It was viewed given the 24 trains-per-hour (tph) core frequency that two feeder routes each of 12tph could be taken forward.[6]

In the west, a route to Maidenhead (later extended to Reading) and Heathrow Airport was selected. In the east, routes to Abbey Wood (curtailed from Ebbsfleet to avoid conflicts with the North Kent lines) and Shenfield were selected.


The Crossrail Act 2008 authorising the construction project received royal assent on 22 July 2008.[7][8] In December 2008, TfL and the DfT announced that they had signed the "Crossrail Sponsors' Agreement". This committed them to financing the project, then projected to cost £15.9 billion, with further contributions from Network Rail, BAA and the City of London.[citation needed]


Construction of Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road in September 2011

Work began on 15 May 2009 when piling works started at the future Canary Wharf station.[9]

Boring of the railway tunnels was officially completed in June 2015.[10] Installation of the track was completed in September 2017.[11] The ETCS signalling was scheduled to be tested in the Heathrow tunnels over the winter of 2017-18.[12]

At the end of August 2018, four months before the scheduled opening of the core section of the line, it was announced that completion was delayed and that the line would not open before autumn 2019.[13] After multiple delays, in August 2020 Crossrail announced that the central section would be ready to open "in the first half of 2022".[14]

In May 2021, trial running commenced.[15]

On 17 May 2022, the line was officially opened by the Queen in honour of her Platinum Jubilee. She was not scheduled to attend the event, but decided to attend with her son, Prince Edward, to unveil the plaque commemorating the official opening.[16]


Though the main tunnels under central London have been open, passenger operations on the outer branches of the future Elizabeth line were transferred to TfL for inclusion in the concession – this took place over several stages beginning May 2015. During this initial phase of operation, services were operated by MTR under the TfL Rail brand. Following the practice adopted during the transfer of former Silverlink services to London Overground in 2007, TfL carried out a deep clean of stations and trains on the future Elizabeth line route, installed new ticket machines and barriers, introduced Oyster card and contactless payment, and ensured all stations were staffed. Existing rolling stock were rebranded with the TfL Rail identity.[17]

TfL Rail and Elizabeth line services
Stage Map Completion dates Notes Completed?
Original Actual
0   May 2015[18] 31 May 2015[19] Existing "metro" service between Liverpool Street (main line station) and Shenfield transferred from Abellio Greater Anglia to TfL Rail   Yes
1   May 2017[18] 22 June 2017[20] Class 345 trains start running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in reduced length format[21]   Yes
2a[22]   May 2018[18] 20 May 2018[23] Existing service between Paddington (main line station) and Heathrow Terminal 4 transferred from Heathrow Connect

Existing shuttle service between Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 and Heathrow Terminal 4 transferred from Heathrow Express, both to TfL Rail

5a[24]   N/A 15 December 2019[25] Most stopping services between Paddington and Reading transferred from Great Western Railway to TfL Rail, operating up to 4tph
The first TfL trains in public service to Reading ran on 25 November 2019 as a soft launch of the service.[26]
2b[22]   May 2018[18] 30 July 2020[27] Class 345 trains start running between Paddington and Heathrow   Yes
4a[28]   N/A 26 May 2021[29] Class 345 trains in full length format start running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield[29]   Yes
3   Dec 2018[18] 24 May 2022[30] Services between Paddington and Abbey Wood begin; this section and existing TfL Rail routes rebranded as the Elizabeth line, up to 12tph   Yes
5b   N/A Expected Autumn 2022[31] Services begin between Paddington and Shenfield; and between Reading and Heathrow, and Abbey Wood. The two services are operated in parallel, sharing the central tunnel.   No
5c   Dec 2019[18] Expected May 2023 Full route opens, with services between both Reading and Heathrow in the west, and Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east.   No


Design and infrastructureEdit

Elizabeth line roundel
Seven Kings station name on an Elizabeth line roundel
The Elizabeth line logo is a Transport for London roundel with a purple ring and blue bar with white text.

Name and identityEdit

Crossrail is the name of the construction project and of the limited company, wholly owned by TfL, that was formed to carry out construction works.[17][32]

The Elizabeth line is the name of the new service that is on signage throughout the stations. It is named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II.[33][34] The Elizabeth line logo features a Transport for London roundel with a purple ring and blue bar with white text.

TfL Rail was an intermediate brand name which was introduced in May 2015 and discontinued in May 2022. It was used by TfL on services between Paddington and Heathrow Terminal 5 and Reading, as well as trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.[35]


Elizabeth line
  All stations except Ilford have step-free access from street to platform or train
      Heathrow T5
  Heathrow T4
    Heathrow T2&3
West Drayton
Hayes & Harlington  
West Ealing  
Ealing Broadway      
Acton Main Line
Old Oak Common
(under construction)
Old Oak Common depot
link opens autumn 2022
Royal Oak portal
opens 2022
    Bond Street
    Tottenham Court Road
Liverpool Street
link opens autumn 2022
    Canary Wharf
Pudding Mill Lane portal
Victoria Dock portal
  Custom House
Connaught tunnel
under Royal Docks
Forest Gate
Manor Park
  Abbey Wood
Seven Kings
Safeguarded extension
to Gravesend
Chadwell Heath
Romford Control Centre
and depot
Gidea Park
Harold Wood
Station Image TfL Rail/Elizabeth line service began Interchanges
Reading 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)   CrossCountry, Great Western Railway and South Western Railway
Twyford 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)   Great Western Railway
Maidenhead 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)   Great Western Railway
Taplow 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)
Burnham 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)
Slough 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)   Great Western Railway
Langley 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)
Iver 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)
West Drayton 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)   Great Western Railway
Terminal 5   9 May 2020    
Terminal 4   20 May 2018
Terminal 2 & 3   20 May 2018  
Hayes & Harlington 20 May 2018   Great Western Railway
Southall 20 May 2018   Great Western Railway
Hanwell 20 May 2018
West Ealing 20 May 2018   Great Western Railway
Ealing Broadway 20 May 2018       Great Western Railway
Acton Main Line 20 May 2018
Old Oak Common No image available yet Expected 2026   Great Western Railway
Paddington Main line station: 20 May 2018
Elizabeth line station: 24 May 2022
            Great Western Railway
Bond Street No image available yet Not yet in operation (delayed)[36]    
Tottenham Court Road 24 May 2022    
Farringdon 24 May 2022        
Liverpool Street Main line station: 31 May 2015
Elizabeth line station: 24 May 2022
              C2c, Greater Anglia
Whitechapel 24 May 2022      
Canary Wharf 24 May 2022    
Custom House 24 May 2022  
Woolwich 24 May 2022     Southeastern (both from Woolwich Arsenal)
Abbey Wood 24 May 2022     Southeastern
Stratford 31 May 2015           C2c and Greater Anglia
Maryland 31 May 2015
Forest Gate 31 May 2015   (from Wanstead Park)
Manor Park 31 May 2015
Ilford 31 May 2015
Seven Kings 31 May 2015
Goodmayes 31 May 2015
Chadwell Heath 31 May 2015
Romford 31 May 2015     Greater Anglia
Gidea Park 31 May 2015
Harold Wood 31 May 2015
Brentwood 31 May 2015
Shenfield 31 May 2015   Greater Anglia
The new platforms at Farringdon

Ten new stations have been built in the central and south east sections of the line, and thirty-one existing stations are in the process of being upgraded and refurbished.[37] Nine of the ten new built stations were fully opened on 24 May 2022 with Bond Street as the exception which, as of February 2022, still needed further final finishing prior to testing and commissioning.[38] All stations are equipped with CCTV[39] and because of the length of trains, central stations have train indicators above the platform-edge doors.[40] All 41 stations will be step-free, with 13 of these (the central and Heathrow stations) having level access between trains and platforms.[41]

Although initially the trains will be 200 metres (660 feet) long, platforms at the new stations in the central core are built to enable 240-metre-long (790 ft) trains in case of possible future need. In the eastern section, Maryland and Manor Park will not have platform extensions, so trains will use selective door opening instead.[42] At Maryland this is because of the prohibitive cost of extensions and the poor business case,[43] and at Manor Park it is due to the presence of a freight loop that would otherwise be cut off.[44]

A mock-up of the new stations was built in Bedfordshire in 2011 to ensure that their architectural integrity would last for a century.[45] It was planned to bring at least one mock-up to London for the public to view the design and give feedback before final construction commenced.[40]

It was announced in July 2017 that Crossrail services would be extended to Heathrow Terminal 5, meaning that all Heathrow terminals will have a Crossrail service when the full service commences.[46] Trains between Paddington and Abbey Wood commenced on 24 May 2022.[47]

Rolling stockEdit

Class 345 trains at the Paddington terminus in 2018

The Elizabeth line route exclusively uses nine-car Class 345 trains for the services on the routes.[48][30] The requirement was for 65 trains, each 200 metres (660 feet) long and carrying up to 1,500 passengers.[48] The trains are accessible, including dedicated areas for wheelchairs, with audio and visual announcements, CCTV and speaker-phones connected to the driver in case of emergency.[49] They will run at up to 140 km/h (90 mph) on certain parts of the route.[50]

In March 2011, Crossrail announced that five bidders had been shortlisted for the contract to build the Class 345 and its associated depot.[51] One of the bidders, Alstom, withdrew from the process in July 2011. In February 2012, Crossrail issued an invitation to negotiate to CAF, Siemens, Hitachi and Bombardier, with tenders expected to be submitted by mid-2012.[52] In 2013, Siemens also withdrew from the bid, but will provide signalling and control systems for Crossrail.[53] In December 2013, the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed to provide loans to Transport for London for the rolling stock of up to £500M.[54] On 6 February 2014, it was announced that Canada's Bombardier had been awarded a £1bn contract to supply 66 trains,[3][55] with an option for 18 more.[3]

The first train entered service on 22 June 2017 on the TfL Rail route between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield as a seven-carriage unit,[56] since, before the platforms were lengthened,[57] the complete nine-car sets could not be accommodated at Liverpool Street station.[58]

In July 2017 an option for five more units was exercised taking the order to 70 units.[59][better source needed]

Eight Class 315 trains, which were built in 1980-1981 are still needed to run on the Liverpool Street-Shenfield via Stratford section of the Elizabeth line. They will cover Elizabeth line services during weekday peak hours for an initial few months until there are enough Class 345 trains to run the service, as some are out of service temporarily whilst extra carriages are added to them.[60]

 Class Image Type  Top speed  Carriages  Number  Routes operated  Built  Years in operation
 mph   km/h 
Class 315   EMU 75 120 4 8[60] Liverpool StreetShenfield[61] (weekdays only) 1980–1981 1980–present
Class 345 Aventra   EMU 90 145 7 or 9 70 2015–2019 June 2017–present

Electrification and train protectionEdit

The Elizabeth line uses 25 kV, 50 Hz AC overhead lines, already in use on the Great Eastern and Great Western Main Lines.

The Heathrow branch started using the European Train Control System (ETCS) in 2020. The Automatic Warning (AWS) and Train Protection & Warning (TPWS) systems are used on the Great Western and Great Eastern Main Lines, with possible later upgrades to ETCS. Communications-based train control (CBTC) is installed in the central section and the Abbey Wood branch.[62][63][64]


The Elizabeth line has depots in west London at Old Oak Common TMD, in south-east London at Plumstead Depot, and in east London at Ilford EMU Depot.[65][66]

Service patternEdit

Initial serviceEdit

As of 24 May 2022, the line runs as three separate services; the east and west lines that were formerly known as TfL Rail, and the core section from Paddington to Abbey Wood. Through-travellers will need to change trains at Liverpool Street or Paddington as required. From 14 June 2022, when Heathrow Terminal 4 reopened, the timetabled weekday off-peak service pattern consists of:[67]

Heathrow Airport or Reading to Paddington
Route tph Calling at Stock
Reading to Paddington 2
  • During peak times, service frequency increases up to 4 trains per hour.
Heathrow Terminal 4 to Paddington 2
Heathrow Terminal 5 to Paddington 2
  • Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3
  • Hayes & Harlington
  • Southall
  • Hanwell
  • West Ealing
  • Ealing Broadway
  • Acton Main Line
Paddington to Abbey Wood
Route tph Calling at Stock
Paddington to Abbey Wood 12
  • Service runs between Monday to Saturday, 06:30 to 23:00. (temporarily, will change soon)
  • Bond Street scheduled to open in Autumn 2022.
Liverpool Street to Shenfield
Route tph Calling at Stock
Liverpool Street to Shenfield 8
  • During peak times, frequency increases up to 12 trains per hour
  • Alternate trains on Sundays, and some peak trains, only run Liverpool Street - Gidea Park

Planned serviceEdit

The Elizabeth line (in purple) in relation to other commuter railway lines in central London

Once fully opened, the Elizabeth line will run a familiar London Underground-style all-stops service in the central core section and eastern branches, but initial timetable plans suggest that several trains on the western branches will run semi-fast. Initial proposals suggest that Acton Main Line, West Ealing and Hanwell will be served only by Heathrow-bound trains.

Like the outer sections of Thameslink, the Elizabeth line will share platforms and tracks with other services outside the tunnelled sections. Some run by other train companies will continue to call at various stations on the Great Western Main Line branch, and Heathrow Express will continue to run between Paddington and Heathrow stations.

Map of Transport for London services including the Elizabeth line

The indicative timetable consists of the following services on the Elizabeth line during peak hours: there will be 24 trains per hour (tph) in each direction in the central section (Paddington to Whitechapel): of these, 12 will run between Shenfield and Paddington, 6 will run between Abbey Wood and Heathrow, and 6 between Abbey Wood and either Reading or Maidenhead. Some trains on the Reading branch will not stop at all stations.[68][69][70] Passengers travelling between stations west of Paddington and those on the north-eastern branch will need to change trains in the central section. Changing trains at Hayes & Harlington will be required for travel between Hanwell, West Ealing or Acton Main Line and other stations on the Reading branch.

The north-eastern section via Stratford is expected to see an additional four trains per hour (tph) during peak times between Gidea Park and the existing main line Liverpool Street station's high level terminating platforms. Since these trains run over existing above-ground lines from Liverpool Street to Stratford, they will not call at Whitechapel.

Journey timesEdit

Minutes between stations[71]
Route Pre-Elizabeth line time Elizabeth line time
Paddington to Tottenham Court Road 20 4
Paddington to Canary Wharf 34 17
Bond Street to Paddington 15 3
Bond Street to Whitechapel 24 10
Canary Wharf to Liverpool Street 21 6
Canary Wharf to Heathrow 55 39
Whitechapel to Canary Wharf 13 3
Abbey Wood to Heathrow 93 52


Ticketing is integrated with the other London transport systems, but Oyster pay as you go will not be accepted on the western section between West Drayton (the limit of TfL's Zone 6) and Reading, with only contactless cards valid there. Travelcards and concessionary passes will be valid within Greater London. The Elizabeth line is integrated with the London Underground, wider Transport for London and National Rail networks, and it is included on the standard Tube map.[72]

Journeys to or from Heathrow Airport are priced at a premium due to using the rail tunnel between the airport and Hayes & Harlington. That stretch of line is not part of the Network Rail system but owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings, who charge TfL an additional fee for each train that uses it. Heathrow is nevertheless included within travelcards and daily/weekly fare capping as a Zone 6 station.[73]

Passenger numbersEdit

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Elizabeth line was predicted annual passenger numbers of over 200 million immediately after opening;[74] this is expected to relieve pressure on London Underground's lines, especially the Central line.[75] Farringdon is expected to become one of the busiest stations in the UK, due to it being the key interchange station with Thameslink services.[76] In a business plan for the line published in January 2020, Transport for London predicted total annual revenues from the line of nearly £500 million per year in 2022/23 (its first full year of operation) and over £1 billion per year from 2024/25.[74] By the time the line opened, TfL had reduced their passenger forecasts because passenger travelling habits changed during the pandemic; the estimate was between 130 and 170 million passengers by 2026.[77]

Further proposalsEdit

New stations have been proposed to serve London City Airport, and extensions have been put forward to Ebbsfleet in the south east, Milton Keynes in the north west, Staines in the south west, and Southend Airport in the east.

See alsoEdit




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General and cited sourcesEdit

Preceded by Operator of MTR Crossrail
Preceded by
Preceded by