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First Elizabeth Line train on track to enter service in May

Howard Smith, TfL’s operations director for the Elizabeth Line, on what the future looks like for London’s new east-west rail route as the first train readies to enter service in May this year

The Elizabeth Line is going to transform travel in London and the south of England. The line, currently being constructed by Crossrail Ltd, will be fully integrated into the TfL network and will reach from as far west as Reading and Heathrow across to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It will provide vital extra capacity, with the central section seeing up to 24 trains per hour in each direction and the railway carrying more than 200 million passengers annually.

It will mean a step change in the accessibility of the London transport network – with 10 new stations and 30 upgraded stations, all of which will be accessible with step-free access from street to platform. When fully opened, it will represent a much-needed increase in central London’s rail capacity by around 10%.

new station entrance at Ilford station built by TfL edit

But it’s not just London that will benefit. The railway will boost the UK economy by an estimated £42bn, supporting thousands of homes and new jobs. Over the course of the project, it is estimated that Crossrail Ltd and its supply chain will support the equivalent of 55,000 full-time jobs across the country.

Now, eight years after construction began and with more than 80% of the work complete, preparations for the line opening and running through new tunnels under London begin in earnest.

TfL Rail

On TfL’s behalf, MTR Crossrail has been running TfL Rail services from Shenfield into Liverpool Street since May 2015 with significant improvement in reliability since taking over.

In just under two years, the performance of the railway has increased – with delays reduced by over a third and TfL Rail now one of the best-performing operators countrywide. This has been achieved whilst running 35-year-old trains on existing infrastructure that is in the course of being upgraded – a particular challenge – as well as seeing an increase in passengers.

In addition to more reliable services, passengers will also notice the TfL culture for running services has been embedded. Stations are staffed from first to last train, new branding and signage has been installed and platforms and ticket halls have been cleaned and are being refurbished.

When the Elizabeth Line is fully operational, the stations will have a consistent look and feel, with central stations reflecting the history and character of their local areas.

What the future looks like

From May this year, the first new train will enter passenger service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. Each carriage will have three double-doors per side, which is quite different to other rolling stock running in London and is a key factor in achieving high levels of reliability.

Increasing the speed that passengers can board and alight the trains will reduce dwell time in stations. Trains on the eastern section of the route will initially have seven fully-interconnected, walk-through carriages. They will have a mix of longitudinal and bay seating, four dedicated spaces for wheelchairs, air-conditioning and real-time travel information.

In May 2018, TfL Rail will begin operating between Paddington and Heathrow Terminal 4. This will replace, and enhance, the current Heathrow Connect services: from two trains per hour to four. This will mark the railway operating in both east and west London as well as the introduction of the full-length, nine-carriage Class 345s being built by Bombardier at its Derby factory.

By the end of 2019, the Elizabeth Line will use a fleet of 66 new nine-carriage trains. The Class 345s have been designed and built in Britain and are the first to be based on Bombardier’s Aventra train – helping to support 760 UK jobs and 80 apprenticeships.

test train arriving at Ilford depot

Full-length nine-carriage trains, each one carrying up to 1,500 passengers, will be introduced on the western section of the route from May 2018. The shorter-formation trains will be extended to the full length from December 2018. This is due to the above-ground platforms at Liverpool Street station only being able to be extended once the central tunnels have opened.

Ahead of the first train entering service, MTR has been training its drivers using the simulators at Ilford depot. Ultimately, 400 drivers will be required across the railway.

The first of the trains was handed over to MTR for driver training in April and will also help station staff to familiarise themselves ahead of passengers using it – particularly training them in the use of ramps for passenger accessibility.

The most dramatic construction phase of the work to deliver a new railway across London is nearing its end. But the work to prepare for this vital service continues.

Ensuring the railway is a success

Now is the time that all the partners come together to ensure the railway is a success: TfL, Crossrail Ltd, Network Rail, London Underground, MTR Crossrail, Bombardier and others. All are working tirelessly during closures and whilst the railway is open to deliver London’s newest railway next year.

Beyond that, it is vital that we do not lose the specialist construction, tunnelling and engineering skills we have developed in the UK.

Despite the Elizabeth Line’s transformative nature, the pace of population growth in the south east means that we need to keep building if we are to support the homes and jobs that are needed and avoid stunting the economy. Crossrail 2 will provide the pipeline that the industry needs and is now garnering widespread support from business leaders, local authorities and the property industry, all urging the government to give the new railway the go-ahead.

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Andrew Gwilt   28/04/2017 at 11:01

The new Elizabeth Line Class 345's will soon replace the Class 315's once more Class 345's have been delivered and are to operate between Liverpool St-Shenfield until the whole Elizabeth Line (Abbey Wood-Heathrow & Reading and Liverpool St-Paddington) routes are completely opened and are fully operational in mid-late 2019. Plus platform 6 at Shenfield station is to open in late May with the reopening of platform 5 also to be used for the Elizabeth Line. London Overground's Class 710's are also ordered and are to be delivered next year for the Lea Valley metro (Liverpool St-Cheshunt & Enfield Town via Seven Sisters/Edmonton Green and Liverpool St-Chingford via Clapton/Hackney Downs) routes (to replace the Class 315's and Class 317's), Romford-Upminster line (also replacing the Class 315's and Class 317's). Gospel Oak-Barking line (once the electrification is completed and to replace the Class 172's) and Watford-Euston DC line (to replace some of the Class 378's for East London Line and South London Line services).

Shenfield Commuter   28/04/2017 at 11:13

I cannot wait for the new Elizabeth Line Class 345's to enter service to get rid of the current "TfL Rail" Class 315's used on the Shenfield metro service. I've seen lots of good progress at Shenfield, with the construction of the new platform 6 that will soon open in mid/late May and will be the terminus of the Elizabeth Line with platform 5 also to be used for the Elizabeth Line and Greater Anglia's Southend Victoria trains will be using platform 4 instead once platform 6 is completed and platform 5 has reopened. Freeing up platform 3 for passing fast trains (Norwich Intercity) and trains heading to Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Colchester Town, Harwich Town, Braintree, Witham and Clacton-on-Sea that will still use platform 3.

Leicestershire Man   28/04/2017 at 13:49

London, London, London stop being so selfish and spend some money in the real world

P KRISHAN   29/04/2017 at 06:42

Do we know the date these new trains will start running? I know its May 2017 but nothing has been said about the date. There is also hardly any news about these trains which is surprising given the magnitude of this project.

Andrew Gwilt   29/04/2017 at 10:46

Mid/Late May I think. @P KRISHAN.

Harold Wood Commuter   29/04/2017 at 12:10

The new trains may look smart but they have 40% less seats than the existing Class 315 units. They also predominantly have longitudinal seating so passengers who actually get a seat will find themselves looking at someone's backside rather than out of the window! I personally will be very sorry to see the Class 315s go!!

Scottie   29/04/2017 at 14:05

Let me see if I have understood this article completely. 35 year old 8 Carriage trains are being replaced with state of the art brand new 7 Carriage Trains. Albeit with more doors per carriage but greatly reduced seating capacity. Maybe RTM should conduct a survey of the Line's existing users about their travelling experience before any major PR Guru heralds this rolling stock change as a major improvement for existing passengers ! Also are passengers expected to travel from Shenfield to Reading with no toilet facilities on-board ! Hope the seating designers have allowed for some suffering passengers to accommodate them sitting with legs crossed !

David   29/04/2017 at 16:59

Scottie, the whole point of Crossrail is not to be a direct link between Shenfield and Reading. It would be far quicker to take fast trains between the respective termini and change onto Crossrail through London. The whole point of building this line is to provide highly needed rail capacity in Central London, and to free up terminal capacity at Liverpool Street and Paddington.

David   29/04/2017 at 17:01

As an aside, it's strange that Andrew denies that he is the same person as the "Shenfield Commuter", when the second comment is only minutes after the one under his name.

Andrew Gwilt   29/04/2017 at 17:41

You must be psychic David. Oh please do shut up.

Ryan   29/04/2017 at 21:22

Why do you have so much anger bottled up inside you?

Andrew Gwilt   30/04/2017 at 06:53

Me being angry all the time. I will keep on getting angry unless you stop taking the mickey out of me just because you think I comment with a different name which isn't me ok. You are a troll David.

Ryan   30/04/2017 at 16:50

I'm not called David... and it doesn't bother me whether or not you are angry. But it does get in the way of people who want to make genuine comments.

Andrew Gwilt   30/04/2017 at 19:24

Oh god. What a embarrassment. Well just have to get used to it.

Andrew JG   30/04/2017 at 19:30

Apparently I did see 2 Class 345's. I saw one Class 345 at Shenfield about 2 weeks ago I think. And it has got me thinking that most of the Class 345's are to be 9 carriages but a 10th carriage could be added to all of the Class 345's once they are fully in service and the Elizabeth Line does open as a full service in 2019. I will go experience the inside of the Class 345's as I heard rumours that it looks like the S-Stocks (S8 & S7 Stocks) as they are currently are operated on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines.

Manchester Mike   12/05/2017 at 14:44

It's 'Crossrail 1', not some German woman's name...

Sam Green   15/05/2017 at 19:34

About 17 years late ! Wasn`t it originally callled Thameslink 2000 ! but it is no good for people travelling to south London or Kent from the Reading area or Heathrow .Could a link not have been made to Victoria or Waterloo or even better Clapham Junction ?

Nonsuchmike   20/05/2017 at 12:20

It is perhaps surprising that nobody has abbreviated the new name for Crossrail 1 to "The Liz line". Re seats across from each other and facing - this is just like Underground seating from the 50s; we are delighted that companies think that this retro look is considered an improvement and will add to satisfaction and journey experience. The car/motorway lobby must be laughing all the way to the M25!!

Keith Barber   22/05/2017 at 12:47

The Elizabeth line will probably have very few end to end passengers, Shenfield to reading or abbey wood to slough for example, and most passengers will probably not travel much further than the west end/city, although we can expect a few to do it in its early days - I'm glad that the line is being built and whilst the 315 fleet has done a commendable job, they have had their day, but they have outlasted the previous 306 fleet by about 5 years, and in almost 70 years of operation of electric services, the 315 fleet has operated it for over half of that period - preserve a 315 unit, but my next Wilkinson sword may have taken me to London in a previous life

Ilovecrossrail   28/07/2017 at 11:31

I must confess to not having read all of the comments following complaints about "reduced" seating capacity so apologies if this repeats what someone else has said. The complaints about the percentage reduction in seating capacity versus the 315s make no sense. The 315s only seat 318 people, whereas the 345s will seat 450. That is around a 33% increase in seats compared to the current 315s. The difference is that, in addition to the 132 additional seats, the 345s will allow hundreds more people to stand. The seating 'reduction' is proportionare to the number of standing passengers, not to the current number of seats on the 315s. Basic maths.

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