The Sleeper's Blog


Elizabeth Line: short-term pain for long-term gain?

Source: RTM Oct/Nov 2018

Tim Bellenger, director of policy and investigation at London TravelWatch, discusses the deferred opening of the central section of the Elizabeth Line.

The announcement on 31 August that the central core section of the Elizabeth Line would not be opening on 9 December was a cause for major dismay and disappointment amongst politicians and transport users alike.

Until this point, Crossrail had seemed to have escaped the public problems that had beset the other major rail project in London – Thameslink. However, there had already been signs that this major project – with its complex power supply, signalling and traffic management systems – was falling behind with its schedule, particularly in its systems integration that is critical to its effective operation.

Deferring the opening for nearly a year will have negative effects on passengers and on rail operators. These include crowding on existing lines such as the Central and the Jubilee, and extended journey times for passengers who had bought or rented property on the basis of the Elizabeth Line, for example from Woolwich to Canary Wharf. In addition, the benefits of combined journeys using the Elizabeth Line and Thameslink, such as faster journeys to the Oxford Street area, will all be lost over the next 10 months.

Completing this central section is essential for TfL’s finances, but also for providing an alternative route into the City of London during the upcoming long closure of the Northern Line Bank branch while Bank station is being rebuilt. Similarly, there will be a cost to the economy from the loss of job creation and productivity gains during this period.

However, the deferral does present the opportunity to ensure that when the Elizabeth Line does open, it can ensure safety and reliability at a much higher level. The trains are more ‘computer with wheels attached’ than previous generations of rolling stock, and have to cope with three different types of signalling and traffic management systems whilst on the route and to change from one to the other seamlessly and quickly. Software failures are much more likely to cause disruption now than in previous eras, and it would be of serious embarrassment to have major failures of this type with passengers on board if the line had opened on time but the systems were not up to scratch (who remembers the run-up to the opening of the Jubilee Line extension?).

Debugging of the trains in the meantime will be time well spent. This should have a further benefit when the full service begins and Elizabeth Line trains have to interact with others on the Great Western and Great Eastern main lines, and where reliability will be essential if disruption on the Great Eastern, for example, is not to spread contagiously down the Great Western all the way to Cornwall and Western Wales.

Deferral will also give a longer period to reassess the impact of changes to bus routes that are expected to come in on the ‘coattails’ of the Elizabeth Line. It has been assumed that many passengers will transfer from buses to the Elizabeth Line, but this may not be the case.

So, all in all this may be a case of some short-term pain for passengers followed by long-term gain. As they say in politics, ‘don’t waste a good crisis!’


Enjoying RTM? Subscribe here to receive our weekly news updates or click here to receive a copy of the magazine!


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment



rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Network Rail’s subsidiary secures systems integrator contract in Australia

14/12/2018Network Rail’s subsidiary secures systems integrator contract in Australia

The Australian subsidiary of Network Rail Consulting has been named as the systems integrator for the Digital Systems Program in Sydney by Transp... more >
Infrastructure giant Amey to be sold to private equity firm in new year

14/12/2018Infrastructure giant Amey to be sold to private equity firm in new year

 Infrastructure giant Amey is expected to be sold to a private equity firm in the new year, according to reports. The Financial Times b... more >
HS2 and Crossrail suppliers admit to running ‘illegal cartel’ for 7 years

14/12/2018HS2 and Crossrail suppliers admit to running ‘illegal cartel’ for 7 years

Two UK rail suppliers to major projects such as HS1, HS2, and Crossrail have admitted to operating an illegal cartel for almost seven years with ... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the TOC, gives RTM an update on the innovative scheme. Recognising that young people are more likely to take a risk trespassing on railway tracks, CrossCountry and the Scouts have come together to encourage Britain’s younger generations to be... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

27/11/2018Spotlight on Coventry Very Light Rail

Olivia Brown, business development officer at Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), an academic department of the University of Warwick, outlines the four exciting projects currently taking place as part of the Coventry Very Light Rail (VLR)  programme. In RTM’s June/July issue, readers were introduced to the concept of VLR and th... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Passenger safety: Respect the edge

27/11/2018Passenger safety: Respect the edge

Claire Coward, communications lead at the RSSB, discusses her organisation’s latest passenger safety campaign. Incidents at the platfo... more >
Night Tube: The twilight economy

27/11/2018Night Tube: The twilight economy

Dr David Lutton, executive director of economy and tax at London First, argues that the capital’s night-time economy is just starting its j... more >
Monitoring the performance of earthworks

27/11/2018Monitoring the performance of earthworks

Dr Joel Smethurst, associate professor in geotechnical engineering, and Professor William Powrie, professor of geotechnical engineering, both of ... more >
Introducing iPort

20/11/2018Introducing iPort

Steve Freeman, managing director of iPort Rail, introduces the UK’s newest inland freight terminal. The UK’s newest inland rail ... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


HS2 train race: making the case

20/11/2018HS2 train race: making the case

Bombardier and Hitachi’s commitment to providing the best HS2 rolling stock pitch to the government was signified with the launch of their ... more >
Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

09/11/2018Finding positives in negative short-circuiting devices

Sponsored interview  Anything that brings about safety and time-saving benefits is a valued improvement for the rail industry, which is w... more >
Taking to the skies

30/10/2018Taking to the skies

Network Rail’s commitment to driving innovation is best encapsulated by its latest scheme involving high-definition imagery drones, or UAVs... more >