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Whitechapel Elizabeth Line station
Whitechapel Elizabeth Line station. Photograph: Nick Turpin

The new Elizabeth Line: your Crossrail questions answered

(Plus a couple of things you didn’t even realise you wanted to know)

Written by
Annette Richardson
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It’s been 13 years in the making and cost a staggering £19 billion. But now it’s here, fashionably late. The Elizabeth Line, aka Crossrail, spans a capital famous for offering no lateral travel. From Abbey Wood in the south east, to Reading all the way to the west, it’s been a mammoth undertaking that has seemed at times unlikely to be completed. But it has been. The Queen herself has opened it, so it’s totally legit. But, just in case you have questions about how she works, where she goes and how many trains she has, here’s the lowdown.

Have you always been known as the ‘Elizabeth Line’?

For ages, I was simply known as ‘Crossrail’, which is descriptive, I guess, as I run from east to west right across London, but what with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year and everything, ‘Elizabeth’ I became.

Favourite colour, Your Majesty?

It’s got to be purple: it’s regal. So all my signage at stations is solid purple, and then on the new tube map you’ll find me marked with purple on the outside and white in the middle.

When does the Elizabeth Line start running in London?

I officially open to the public on Tuesday 24 May at 6.30am. It’s an early start but I’m super-excited to start transforming Londoners’ commutes. I’ll be stopping at 11pm and taking Sundays off for a bit because I need time for beauty sleep, aka essential maintenance. At the moment, I’ll just be open in Zones 1-4, but just wait until May 2023, when all my networks will be up and running and linked up. Mind = blown.

How big are you?

I don’t want to boast, but okay I will a bit. I cover 41 stations, and they’ve had to open ten new stations just because of me. I’m just in zones 1-4 in London until autumn 2022, but my line extends as far as Abbey Wood in the south-east; Shenfield in Essex in the east; and Heathrow and Reading in the west. That’s 100km of connectivity. 

Your new Elizabeth Line stations? Where are they?

Well, there are the new TfL Crossrail ones: Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House and Woolwich. Abbey Wood is the tenth station in the central section and that’s been extensively redeveloped by Network Rail. Bond Street’s not due to open until autumn 2022, which is a bit annoying cos it’s great for shopping.

Is there a new London tube map with the Elizabeth Line on it?

There most certainly is, and you can gaze upon it here.

So how far can I go without changing from May 24?

How impatient! You can go from Abbey Wood to Paddington straight away, but any further west, such as Heathrow or Reading, you’ll need to change until this autumn. If you want to go east, you’ll have to change at Liverpool Street for now, but again, by the second phase later this year, Shenfield and Paddington will be seamlessly connected without needing to change.

Describe a typical Elizabeth Line day – how busy are you?

I’m still building up to peak fitness, so I’m currently at 12 trains per hour, but my aim by May 2023 is pretty ambitious: I’ll have 24 trains running every hour between Paddington and Whitechapel during London’s rush hours.

Wow. Erm, do you mind us asking how much your tickets cost?

Pretty personal, but okay. [Deep breath]

Prices stay in line with current prices for current rail services – inclusive of the fare cap. The cap for zones 1-6 was set at £14.10 in March for all travel within a 24-hour period, meaning that if you pay £11.60 to travel from Heathrow to Paddington, you will pay up to £2.50 for additional journeys on TfL services on the same day.

TfL says that ‘fares on the Elizabeth Line from the east or west into the central section stations will be exactly the same as travelling today to a London Underground station in the same zone as the required Elizabeth line station’. They’re rather dry like that.

You will also need to touch out at Paddington and Liverpool Street to change for trains towards Reading, Heathrow or Shenfield, although daily and weekly price capping still applies.

Contactless pay-as-you-go is accepted throughout the line, which is pretty convenient. TfL concessions are accepted and customers with a Railcard discount set on their Oyster card benefit from a third off off-peak pay as you go fares.

If you were travelling from Paddington to Heathrow come the autumn then I might actually save you some £££: £10.70 off-peak and £12.70 at peak times. That’s a big saving compared to the £25 for the same single fare on the Heathrow Express – albeit it will take about 25 minutes as opposed to 15 minutes. Granted, you could still take the Piccadilly line to the airport, and it would only cost £5.50 or £3.50 off-peak but that’s much slower.

Phew.

How accessible are the Elizabeth Line stations?

Well, I like to be there for all my fans, so there’s a number of accessible features, plus all my stations are step-free, right from street to platform. Oh, except for Ilford, but Ilford and I are working on it, with the help of TfL.

There’s some debate about whether you are even a tube line?

I like to defy genres, but yeah, I can see why I puzzle people: the short answer is that Transport for London says I’m not simply a tube line, because I also run across a large amount of the National rail network, plus my trains are significantly bigger. So I get a capital L on 'Line’. Anyway, it’s 2022, so let’s try not to put everything in boxes. Let’s just say I'm pretty special.

Find out even more about the Elizabeth Line at TfL.

Discover the new London Underground map with the Elizabeth Line included.

And here is our pick of the best places to eat along the line, from Bond Street to Abbey Wood. 

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