The Elizabeth Line descended into chaos today after a ‘fire alert’ at Paddington station forced the service to be part suspended – just two hours after opening to eager train enthusiasts who had queued up from midnight to be the first to experience the new £18.9bn route.
Footage shared online showed ‘all passengers’ being ushered out of the central London station while an alarm could be heard ringing in the background. It is believed a ‘faulty fire alarm was to blame’, according to a BBC journalist at the scene.
A team of firefighters were called to the station while the line was temporarily suspended between Paddington and Tottenham Court Road, however the service soon resumed.
Transport for London (TfL) told MailOnline: ‘There was a fire alert at the station earlier but it has now reopened… the line is open and services are running normally.’
It came after train buffs had travelled from as far as Hong Kong and Canada to witness the launch of the ‘game-changing’ service – which finally launched today following almost four years of delays and coming in at more than £4bn over budget.
Fans bought special edition Elizabeth line cushions and Oyster cards as memorabilia to remember the ‘epic day’, with one simply declaring: ‘It’s history.’
Others branded it a ‘great achievement’ and said the chance to be among the first to ride the new line was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity.
However social media users in the north lauded the new line but said it was ‘depressing’ that they were not receiving the same ‘level of investment’. One said the north ‘needs a new deal and fast!’, particularly after key HS2 routes, including between Leeds and Manchester, were scrapped.
In response to such criticisms, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told BBC Radio 4 that the Elizbeth line was a ‘source of pride’ which would help the whole country by ‘contributing £42bn to our national economy’, adding that it had ‘already created 70,000 jobs’ across Britain.
It came after hundreds of Londoners and tourists had gathered behind a barrier in the rain at Paddington by 6am on Tuesday, as excitement mounted ahead of the first Elizabeth line service to Abbey Wood at 6.33am.
Transport for London (TfL) told MailOnline: ‘There was a fire alert at the station earlier but it has now reopened… the line is open and services are running normally.’ (Pictured: Passengers being evacuated from Paddington)
Firefighters arrive at Paddington station following a fire alert on the Elizabeth line at around 8.30am
Passengers on board an Elizabeth Line train approaching Tottenham Court Road station in London, as the new line opened to passengers for the first time
Passengers board the Elizabeth Line service at Abbey Wood in the early hours of Tuesday morning
A train heading to Paddington station pulls in on the first day of Elizabeth Line on Tuesday morning
A huge cheer went up from the crowd of more than 500 when the gates were opened at 6.20am, with a member of staff urging people ‘please don’t run’.
People had been queuing from as early as midnight, with many paying homage to the colour of the line with purple-dyed hear, purple hoodies and face masks in the style of the Elizabeth line seat moquette.
Those at the front who had been waiting for up to six hours rushed through into the station so they could get onto the first train at 6.33am.
Station staff only partially opened the gates to manage the crowd as they went through and into the station before going down the escalators into the cavernous terminal.
Once on the platform, people were urged to spread out by staff, with one employee acknowledging: ‘I know we all want to be at the front.’
And as the service to Abbey Wood pulled into the station, the announcer said: ‘The train is your first Elizabeth line service from Paddington to Abbey Wood.’
Passengers pile in to Paddington station early on Tuesday morning on the first official day of the Elizabeth Line
A man holds a special edition Elizabeth line cushion he has purchased on board an Elizabeth Line train in London, as the new line opens to passengers for the first time
Passengers take pictures and record videos on their phones as they descend the escalators at Paddington station on the Elizabeth Line on Tuesday morning
Passengers flock to Paddington station to be among the first to ever use the Elizabeth Line, which saw its first service depart at 6.33am on Tuesday
London mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured) arrived to greet the crowds shortly after 6am, and spoke to those at the front of the queue
Passengers form long queues to be among the first to ride the Elizabeth Line in Abbey Wood early on Tuesday morning
Transport for London recently released this new map showing how the initial Crossrail services that will operate from today
Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford had earlier greeted the crowds and also urged them to avoid running when the gates opened.
Meanwhile, huge queues had also been forming at Abbey Wood, where the first train left at bang on 6.30am.
There was a hubbub in the air at Paddington with lots of excited chatter as rail enthusiasts – including one who had flown in from Canada yesterday – spoke to the media and posed for pictures, ahead of the expected opening of the gates at 6.20am.
London mayor Sadiq Khan arrived to greet the crowds shortly after 6am, and spoke to those at the front of the queue. He also fist bumped a child who was among those ready to be first on board.
He then spoke to three Chelsea Pensioners who joked that he looked much shorter than they had thought in real life. Six police officers monitored the scene along with a throng of station staff.
Mr Byford said a successful start would be a ‘normal day of service’ and that he hoped passengers would be ‘amazed’ by the journey.
Passenger Danny McLaren, 21, from Edinburgh, arrived at Paddington at 1.30am to make sure he was at the front of the queue.
He said: ‘We’ve known it will open for a while. It’s a brand new railway. New technology. New trains.
‘It’s an epic day to experience it when it’s brand new.’
Another passenger, Hakim Colclough, 24, from Chessington, Surrey, said: ‘This is a momentous occasion. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.’
Another passenger at Paddington, Colin Farmer, 84, from Croydon, south-east London, arrived at 4.30am.
Rail and underground enthusiasts pose beneath a sign while wearing paper masks depicting Kate Middleton, the Queen and Prince William, as the Elizabeth Line opens to the public at Paddington Station
Passengers take in their surroundings on board an Elizabeth Line train in London, as the new line opens to passengers for the first time today
Rail users arrive at Paddington station to use the Elizabeth line for the first time
Lots of rail users today can purchase limited edition Oyster cards (pictured) which are emblazoned with the pattern seen on the Elizabeth line’s seats
Passengers snake through the ticket barriers at Paddington station to access the Elizabeth line on Tuesday morning
A TfL worker wears a foam finger which reads: ‘Ask me about the Elizabeth line’ as the first ever haul of passengers arrive
Rail passenger tucks into a special edition cupcake emblazoned with the Elizabeth line logo
A train pulls into Abbey Wood station on the first day of Elizabeth Line on Tuesday morning
TfL worker poses in front of an arriving Elizabeth line train while donning a purple foam finger
Passengers board an Elizabeth line train at the Custom House station on Tuesday
Passengers board the Elizabeth line train to Paddington for the first time on Tuesday morning
He said: ‘It’s history. It’s about time there were trains right through London without changing to the Underground.
‘I’m very excited. We’ve been waiting long enough for it. It’s a great achievement.’
The crowd cheered and rushed forwards when the doors to Paddington Elizabeth line station opened at around 6.20am.
The first Elizabeth line train from Paddington through central London departed on time at 6.33am carrying hundreds of excited transport enthusiasts.
Another passenger, Mark Davis, 48, from Canary Wharf, south-east London, said: ‘We’ve been living with this for what feels like 10 years. We live in Canary Wharf, so it’s a game-changer.
‘It’s the air-conditioning that makes the difference.’
James Robert, 48, from Wigan, was on the train with his 11-year-old son Matthew.
Mr Robert said: ‘It’s lovely and bright and fast. I wish we had trains like this in Wigan.’
However some rail users did not have a glowing report, after claiming they were turned away for bringing their folding bike.
One Twitter user wrote: ‘Don’t try and get on the Elizabeth Line today with a folding bike. They’re not allowed for just one day.
‘Even the staff at the station weren’t aware of it, except the rude (probably stressed) guy at the entrance (not) letting people through. Spectacular waste of a morning!’
Another said: ‘So apparently folded bikes are not allowed on the Elizabeth Line? Was turned away at Abbey Wood as the trains were too busy! Why was there no information about this if this was the case!’
Passengers don face masks depicting Prince William, Kate Middleton and the Queen as they board the Elizabeth Line service at Abbey Wood
Crowds wait in line to board the first Elizabeth line train to carry passengers at Paddington Station, London, on May 24
The Elizabeth line from Paddington gets a thumbs up from one elderly passenger on Tuesday morning
Passengers put up umbrellas as they queue in the wet weather outside Abbey Wood station this morning
Huge queues seen at Abbey Wood this morning, where the first Elizabeth Line service departed at 6am
Police watch on as journalists and passengers are among the packed crowds at Paddington station on the first day of Elizabeth Line services
Crowds queue in wet weather to board the first Elizabeth line train to carry passengers at Paddington Station, London
The first set of passengers board the Elizabeth Line early morning service at Abbey Wood
Mayor Khan fist bumps young boy who had waited in the rain to be among the first to ride the Elizabeth Line on Tuesday
People had been queuing from as early as midnight, with many paying homage to the colour of the line with purple-dyed hear, purple hoodies and face masks in the style of the Elizabeth line seat moquette. (Pictured: Crowds gather behind barriers at Paddington station)
The full map shows how the Elizabeth line stretches from across London from East to West
STAGE 1: When the ‘Elizabeth line’ first opens on May 24, it will operate as three separate railways – from Reading or Heathrow to Paddington; Paddington to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street; and Liverpool Street to Shenfield
STAGE 2: The second stage, for which Crossrail says the ‘earliest expected date’ is ‘autumn 2022’, will ensure the services from Reading or Heathrow towards Paddington can run all the way through to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street. At this stage, there will also be trains running direct from Paddington to Shenfield, also via Liverpool Street
STAGE 3: The final milestone will be ‘no later than May 2023’, when the full timetable will allow passengers to travel without changing across the entire line from Reading to Shenfield or Abbey Wood
The Crossrail route is shown on a geographical map which displays how passengers will be able to travel through London
How Crossrail will open in three stages by May 2023
Stage 1: From May 24
The Elizabeth line will launch on May 24 with services on Monday to Saturday from Paddington to Abbey Wood.
Services from Reading and Heathrow to Paddington, and from Shenfield to Liverpool Street, will be rebranded from ‘TfL Rail’ to the ‘Elizabeth line’ and will continue to run on Monday to Sundays.
Stage 2: Autumn 2022
The earliest expected date for the next phase is ‘autumn 2022’. When this phase launches, services from Reading and Heathrow will operate through to Abbey Wood. Services from Shenfield will go through to Paddington.
Stage 3: May 2023
Full timetable for travel from Reading or Heathrow to Shenfield or Abbey Wood without changing.
TfL told MailOnline today: ‘Folded bikes are allowed on the Elizabeth line at any time.’
Other transport users in the north lauded the new line, but said it was ‘depressing’ that they had not received a similar ‘level of investment.’
One wrote: ‘Really depressing listening to the details of the new Elizabeth line – it’s taken 30 years to get Crossrail so what chance have we got of ever getting significant investment in the north anytime soon?’
Another added: ‘As a huge transport and infrastructure nerd I can’t wait to go and see it… but this is what the north needs, when will we see this level of investment, the north needs a new deal and fast!’
The opening of the long-awaited Elizabeth line in London will have benefits beyond the capital, both Boris Johnson and the city’s mayor have said.
The Prime Minister said the whole country will ‘reap the rewards’ of a predicted multibillion pound boost to the economy, as the new railway line transports passengers from Tuesday.
The delayed and overbudget line will boost capacity and cut journey times for east-west travel across the capital.
Mr Johnson said: ‘As the Elizabeth line opens to the public, we know it’s not just Londoners that will reap the rewards, but the whole country – because better transport grows the economy, levels up opportunity and creates jobs.’
The Government said the Elizabeth line project is supporting 55,000 jobs, 1,000 apprenticeships and is forecast to boost the economy by £42 billion.
Clare Cenci, 43, from Maidenhead, Berkshire travelled on an early morning Elizabeth line service from Paddington on her commute to Liverpool Street.
She said there is ‘a lot more space’ compared with Tube trains, adding: ‘The air-conditioning makes it a lot better. The Central line in the summer isn’t good.’
TfL commissioner Mr Byford said the Elizabeth line service was ‘so far so good’ and ‘on time’.
He went on: ‘The customer reaction has been amazing, just as predicted. The universal reaction is ‘wow’.’
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 outside Farringdon station this morning, Mayor Khan said the Elizabeth Line should be a ‘source of pride’ and something that helps the whole country.
He said: ‘This line will help contribute £42bn to our national economy, it’s already created 70,000 jobs across the country.
‘The trains were built in Derby, the station doors in Cheshire, the signage in the Isle of Wight.
‘Some of the steel comes from Dorset. Almost two thirds of the contracts given for this fantastic new line were given around the country, which already created tens of thousands of jobs.’
The Labour politician said the line was first discussed in the 1940s before the idea was finally realised and construction began in 2009.
He added: ‘These things take a long time but this is an amazing line, spacious, silent, speedy trains, comfortable, air conditioned.
‘These stations in central London are cathedrals. .. it should be a source of pride for all of us.
‘I’ve met people this morning people from Hong Kong, the Netherlands, from Germany, from America who are looking at us with envy that as we embark on this recovery, a national recovery, we have this amazing new infrastructure in our capital city, a source of pride.’
Ali Hussein, a 66-year-old pensioner on his morning walk, had come to Abbey Wood get his limited edition Oyster card and said he will be travelling to see his daughter and grandkids in Islington later in the day.
He said: ‘I’ve never seen anything like this around here. There are so many people, they must be here for the experience.’
Mayor Khan and Andy Byford, Commissioner at Transport for London (behind right), pose for selfies with tube passengers on the Elizabeth Line on Tuesday morning
The mayor of London said the line’s opening would ‘provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country’
Passengers are seen queueing underneath their umbrellas to be among the first to ride the Elizabeth Line
Abbey Wood station, left, saw its first train depart at 6.30am on Tuesday, while right, passenger shows off special Elizabeth Line pin badge
A passenger walks through the Canary Wharf station on the Elizabeth line
Inside the Paddington station as it opened in the early hours of Tuesday
The first ever Elizabeth Line service left Paddington station at 6.33am on Tuesday
Ian Palmer, 52, an estate agent in Abbey Wood said: ‘We’ve been waiting for years and were told ‘yeah, yeah it’s coming’ and now it’s finally here. It’s fantastic.
‘I work up the road and came down because this is a part of history, it’s going to be huge for the area, it’s going to be lovely. Everyone is excited, everyone is talking about it.
‘People have started getting interested in Abbey Wood. Prices have been going up ever since they announced it.
‘And this is all new development around here, it’s a couple of acres, all brand new. Hopefully we get some nice bars and restaurants in the area too. Hopefully the council invests.
‘I’m going up to Paddington later today as it’s my day off. I could even head to Whitechapel and Brick Lane to go to a few bars and then head into the West End.’
He added: ‘My mum who hasn’t got the train in years will start getting it again because of the platforms without the gaps. It’s things like that that make a difference.’
Retired John Malone, 75, who works as a school lollipop man said: ‘I’ve already been on the train, I went to Woolwich, and got the limited-edition card.’
John, who travelled with his wife added: ‘I’ve bought 12 of them for my family, they will be worth about £30, but I won’t sell mine. It’s history.
‘We’ve been waiting so long for it, it’s going to make such a difference, everyone is so excited. You wait until you get on it, you’ll be amazed.’
On the platform an announcement was made that the train to Paddington was about to leave, passengers started to clap and cheer.
The trains leave for every five minutes 06:30am – 11:00pm Monday through to Saturday.
The mayor had previously said the line’s opening would ‘provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country’.
Mr Khan, who travelled on the first train today, said: ‘Today is a historic day as the Elizabeth line opens to passengers. This is a huge moment, not just for London but the entire country, particularly in this special Jubilee year.
Dressed in sunshine yellow, the Queen arrived at Paddington on May 17 to officially open the line, stepping carefully from the transparent lift while holding a walking stick and smiling warmly. Also pictured Prince Edward, right, talks with Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford, left
The Queen was shown how to top up an Oyster card during a surprise visit to Paddington Station to officially open the Elizabeth line with Prince Edward – days after cancelling her appearance at the State Opening of Parliament due to ‘mobility issues’
Transport for London has previously revealed ‘Elizabeth line’ trains are initially set to run every five minutes from Monday to Saturday
An Elizabeth line train near West Drayton station. The trains are already running on existing track in East and West London
‘This brand new line is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades.
‘It will add billions to our economy and is set to serve up to 200 million passengers each year. I’m sure passengers will enjoy the modern trains, beautiful step-free stations and the reduced journey times across the capital and the South East.
‘The Elizabeth line is much more than just a new railway, it will provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country and help to turbo-charge our recovery from the pandemic.’
The line stretches from Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow Airport in west London to Abbey Wood in south-east London and Shenfield in Essex.
It will beginning operating in three separate sections, which are expected to be integrated in the autumn.
Transport for London (TfL) estimates that annual passenger numbers will reach 170 million by 2026.
The new central section, built by the Crossrail project, runs through tunnels from Paddington in west London to Abbey Wood.
It will initially be closed on Sundays, apart from during the Platinum Jubilee weekend, to allow further testing and software updates to take place.
Crossrail suffered numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications installing signalling systems.
It was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010.
The final total cost has been estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion from the Government.
The line is named in honour of the Queen, who visited Paddington station last week to celebrate the completion of Crossrail.
It comes after 30 iconic London landmarks were lit up in purple last night to celebrate the opening of the new Elizabeth Line today.
On Twitter, the Mayor wrote with pictures of the purple landmarks: ‘Tonight: London landmarks shine bright to celebrate the opening of the Elizabeth line’ (The London Eye lit up on Monday night)
Blackfriars Bridge, pictured, was beaming in purple lighting which shimmered over the River Thames last night
London’s Bridges are being lit up in purple to celebrate the opening of the Elizabeth Line, the latest train line to be added to the Transport for London network
Landmarks including the London Eye, Tower Bridge, The Gherkin and the London Stadium were lit up in a regal purple to mark the opening of the latest Tube line, which is set to ‘revolutionise travel’ in the capital.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: ‘The opening of the Elizabeth line tomorrow is a once in a generation moment for the capital and it is fantastic to see so many famous landmarks across our city lit up in purple in celebration of this historic day.
‘The new line will revolutionise travel in our city and across the south east and bring significant economic benefits to the whole country.’
On Twitter, the Mayor wrote with pictures of the purple landmarks: ‘Tonight: London landmarks shine bright to celebrate the opening of the Elizabeth line.
‘Tomorrow: Londoners wake up to a transformational new railway line and the biggest addition to our transport network in decades.’
Transport for London chief Andy Byford said: ‘Tomorrow will be a truly historic moment for London and beyond and I can’t wait to welcome customers onboard this magnificent addition to our public transport network.’
From Cross London Rail Links to Crossrail: Timeline of troubled project
- January 2002: Cross London Rail Links Ltd, a joint venture between the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London (TfL), is set up to develop plans for Crossrail.
- July 2004: The Government commits to introducing legislation to enable Crossrail to proceed.
- October 2007: Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives the green light for the project. It is expected to cost £15.9 billion and open in December 2017.
- May 2009: London Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Lord Adonis break ground on the project at Canary Wharf.
- May 2009: London Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Lord Adonis break ground on the project at Canary Wharf.
- October 2010: Crossrail’s budget is cut to £14.8 billion in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government’s comprehensive spending review. Its opening date is pushed back 12 months to December 2018.
- January 2014: The National Audit Office says the scheme is ‘just behind schedule’, adding that Crossrail Ltd ‘remains confident’ it will open on time.
- May 2015: Tunnel boring is completed as a tunnelling machine named Victoria arrives at Farringdon. Some 13 miles of new tunnels have been dug under London.
- February 2016: The Queen visits Bond Street station and announces the railway will be named the Elizabeth line in her honour.
- July 2018: Rail minister Jo Johnson announces that Crossrail’s budget has risen to £15.4 billion as ‘cost pressures have increased across the project’.
- August 2018: Crossrail Ltd announces it will miss its December 2018 opening date but the central section ‘will open in autumn 2019’. The project is suffering from construction delays and difficulties installing complex signalling systems.
- December 2018: TfL says Crossrail may be delayed further and could require a £2 billion funding boost, taking the cost up to £17.6 billion. The Government, TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan agree a financial package to cover this.
- December 2018: Sir Terry Morgan resigns as chairman of Crossrail Ltd and HS2, days after predicting he would be sacked. He is replaced at Crossrail by London Underground managing director Mark Wild.
- April 2019: A ‘delivery window’ between October 2020 and March 2021 is announced for the central section of Crossrail.
- November 2019: Crossrail Ltd announces that the railway will open ‘as soon as practically possible in 2021’. The cost has increased by up to £650 million to £18.25 billion.
- January 2020: The ‘latest assessment’ is that services will commence in summer 2021.
- July 2020: Crossrail Ltd says the railway will not open in summer 2021 because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It does not give an updated schedule.
- August 2020: It is announced that the line will open in the first half of 2022.
- July 2021: The National Audit Office says the estimated total cost of Crossrail is £18.9 billion.
- May 2022: TfL announces that the Elizabeth line will open in three separate sections on May 24.
- Autumn 2022: The lines from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield are due to connect with the central tunnels.
- May 2023: The full timetable of up to 24 trains per hour is scheduled to be introduced.
Four years late, £4bn over budget but FINALLY up and running: How Elizabeth Line was 15 years in the making after being bogged down by construction delays – as it opens 140 YEARS since Parliament first backed idea of east-west service in London
By Harry Howard, History Correspondent for MailOnline
When Parliament first gave the green light to plans for an east-west rail line across London, the British Empire was at its height and Queen Victoria was still on the throne.
But it is only today, around 140 years on, that the first phase of Crossrail – £4billion over budget and nearly four years late – has opened.
Running between Paddington and Abbey Wood, the service has opened ahead of the completion of the full Elizabeth Line – named after Her Majesty the Queen – next year.
The project that became Crossrail has been nearly 200 years in the making, with proposals for a railway running across the capital – which would have linked Paddington with the East End – first being conceived in the 1840s.
Whilst Parliament approved the plans in the 1880s, they fell by the wayside and work construction work never started.
The idea resurfaced during the Second World War in 1943, after London had been devastated by the Blitz, but again the project did not get underway.
It was not until 1974 that the name Crossrail first emerged, before the plan was again killed off in 1994, in part because the UK had just emerged from recession and public finances were tight.
After being revived once again by the New Labour government, ground was finally broken by Boris Johnson – then London Mayor – in 2009, with tunneling beginning in 2012 and finishing in 2015.
It has been decades of expense and wrangling, with the project’s final estimated cost being more than £18billion.
Crossrail suffered numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications installing signalling systems. It was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010.
Construction work on the Crossrail project finally started in 2009. The then London Mayor Boris Johnson broke ground at the Tottenham Court Road site with Transport Secretary Lord Adonis. Pictured: Workers at the site in 2009
Mr Johnson stands on a balcony overlooking the Crossrail construction site at Tottenham Court Road tube station on October 27, 2009
Tunneling on the Crossrail project began in 2012. Above: A tunneling machine is seen being prepared to start work in 2012
One of the Crossrail tunnels is seen under construction 115 feet below the streets of Whitechapel, east London in December 2013
Running between Paddington and Abbey Wood, the service has opened ahead of the completion of the full Elizabeth Line – named after Her Majesty the Queen – next year. Above: London Mayor Sadiq Khan gets off a train at Paddington Station this morning as he marked the opening of the Elizabeth Line
Hundreds of people queued outside Paddington Station this morning so they could be the first to use the brand new line
The opening of Elizabeth line at Paddington station today. Hundreds of people queued in an effort to be among the first to use the new line
The first east-west London rail project was touted by the Regents Canal Company in the 1840s.
With trains then burgeoning in popularity, it was envisaged that the system could replace the Regents Canal, which was then a major route for trade and travel through London.
Whilst Parliament granted permission for the scheme in the 1880s and work continued to develop the route, the plan ultimately did not come to anything.
Fifty years later, when Britain was in the midst of conflict with Nazi Germany, the idea resurfaced as politicians and planners began to look to what would happen when peace arrived.
As part of what became known as the Abercrombie Plan, it was argued that better links were needed between east and west in London. Two new tube lines were proposed to do the job.
However, as with their 19th century equivalents, the proposals did not become reality.
Now, the Abercrombie Plan is better known for concepts such as the Green Belt, which did become reality and remain part of Britain’s national fabric.
The east-west rail plans emerged once again in the 1974 London Rail Study, which was published by the then Greater London Council and the Department for the Environment.
It was in this that Crossrail got the name which remains today. It was hoped that new tunnels would ink lines west of Paddington to those east of Bethnal Green.
There would also have been new stations at Paddington, Marble Arch, Bond Street, Leicester Square, Holborn and Liverpool Street.
A handout photograph made available on 07 November 2013 by Crossrail showing workers as 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machine Elizabeth broke into one of Europeís largest mined caverns, 40m below Stepney Green in the East End of London
The then Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Mr Johnson are seen visiting the Crossrail site underneath Tottenham Court Road Station in 2014
Crossrail workers strengthen, deepen and widen the Connaught tunnel to accommodate new trains on April 24, 2013. The tunnel was built in 1878 and had not been in passenger use since December 2006
During excavations for Crossrail, the bodies of victims of the Great Plague of 1665 were found during the excavation of the Bedlam burial ground at Liverpool Street. Above: One of the bodies in 2015
An adult and a baby skeleton lay uncovered at the Bedlam burial ground where over 20,000 Londoners are believed to have been buried between 1569 and 1738. Above: One of the bodies in 2015
Another tunnel would also connect to the likes of Victoria, Leicester Square, Blackfriars and London Bridge.
As with their predecessor proposals, the plans outlined in the 1974 study did not come to fruition, with the cost of the scheme estimated at £300million.
From human remains to Roman medallions and antique jars: The history unearthed by Crossrail
Since work began on the new Crossrail line in 2009, a plethora of historical sites and artefacts have been discovered beneath some of London’s busiest streets.
An army of archaeologists discovered more than 10,000 objects the majority of which, along with thousands of records, images and plans, are now part of the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive.
These range from those representing the tedium of every day life such as worker’s boots and irons chains.
In 2015, more than 3,000 human remains were excavated at the Liverpool Street Crossrail site from what had been the burial ground at the infamous Bedlam hospital.
One grave contained 42 individuals, some of whom almost certainly died of the plague.
Expert analysis found many of the bodies belonged to people who had moved to the capital from the countryside.
Disease and dirt lead to their untimely demises while in their late teens or early adulthood.
Also found at Liverpool Street was a Roman copper medallion, whilst a moated Tudor manor was found at Stepney Green.
A moated Tudor manor was discovered at Stepney Green, whilst a Roman copper medallion was found at Liverpool Street. It was issued to mark the New Year celebrations in AD245.
There were also 13,000 Crosse and Blackwell jars found near Tottenham Court Road. They were dumped in a cistern when the factory was built.
A Victorian Chamber pot was found near Stepney green, etched with the words ‘Oh what I see, I will not tell’ and an eccentric looking figure.
Britain was then in the midst of an inflation crisis and economic turmoil caused by the huge hike in the price of oil.
In 1980, another plan – outlined in a British Rail discussion paper – that looked very different to today’s version of Crossrail almost became a success.
Instead of focusing on links between east and west, it suggested linking existing infrastructure north and south of London.
However, the overall concept – to create a mainline route linking various services together – was similar.
Also in the 1974 study were plans for a Channel Tunnel link that could have arrived into London at Victoria, therefore linking in with the north-south plans.
British Rail also suggested that the proposals may help to ease congestion on the Underground – a plus point that has been raised repeatedly with today’s Crossrail.
Whilst the 1980 paper did not come to anything, it continue developing the conversation about the approaching limits of the Underground, and the fact that a solution needed to be found.
The next iteration of the plans came with the 1989 Central London Rail Study. In 1990, the Government gave the go-ahead for British Rail and London Transport – the forerunner to Transport for London – to develop an east-west scheme.
The plans were presented to Parliament in November 1991 – a year after Margaret Thatcher had left office – in the form of a private member’s bill.
There were high hopes that the scheme would succeed and the then Transport Secretary Paul Channon, along with Prime Minister John Major, welcomed it.
Journeys between Paddington and Liverpool Street would have been cut from 20 to 11 minutes, whilst trains from Wendover in Buckinghamshire to Paddington would have taken 45 minutes instead of an hour.
However, the Bill was rejected by a committee of only four MPs in Parliament in May 1994 amid concerns about the public finances.
Despite its failure, further studies were commissioned into the Crossrail project and the London Underground worked with developers to make sure it could proceed if resurrected by politicians.
In July 2000, the new Labour Government said as part of its ten-year transport plan that the east-west project should go ahead.
In 2002, Cross London Rail Links Ltd, a joint venture between the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London (TfL), was set up to develop plans for Crossrail.
Two years later, Labour committed to introducing legislation to allow Crossrail to proceed. The project was finally given the legal green light in October 2007, when new Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave it the green light.
The Crossrail Act of 2008 also finally gave Crossrail a confirmed route. It would run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
In May 2009, the Crossrail project finally broke ground at Canary Wharf, with Mr Johnson and the then Transport Secretary Lord Adonis launching the first pile at the site of the new Canary Wharf station.
1855: The Regents Canal Company tried to capitalise on the 1840s Railway Mania and had looked at converting the canal between Paddington and City Road basin into a railway, but the finance could not be raised and the project was scrapped
1943: The Abercrombie Plan resulted in ideas such as the green belt and new towns, while it was also proposed that improved east-west railway links were needed for getting people across the capital much faster – but these never materialised
1974: The London Rail Study marked the first time the proposed line was dubbed ‘Crossrail’, and it featured a northern tunnel which would join British Rail’s western region lines west of Paddington to the eastern region lines east of Bethnal Green
1980: Another idea was put forward in a British Rail discussion paper for a £330million Inter City north-south link for London which could meet a Channel Tunnel line at Victoria, rather than east-west proposals which had dominated earlier talks
Tunneling then began on the project in 2012, when Phyllis – the first of eight tunnel boring machines used on Crossrail – set out from Royal Oak Portal towards Farringdon.
In 2015, a tunneling machine named Victoria finished off the route after arriving at Farringdon. It meant that some 13 miles of new tunnels had been dug under London.
However, there have been repeated delays to the project and its final cost is also well above the original calculations.
Its original opening was set for 2017 and it was expected to cost £15.9billion.
In October 2010, this date was pushed back 12 months to December 2018 as the Coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats cut the project’s budget to £14.8billion.
By August 2018, Crossail officials said the opening date would be missed, amid construction delays and difficulties installing complex signalling systems.
The failure to hit the December opening date was also blamed on a decision to delay the procurement of new trains. However, TfL denied this at the time.
Crossrail construction workers and media guests stand near to one of the 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machines during a photocall to mark the breakthrough into the Canary Wharf station box in London’s docklands area on May 31, 2013
Builders continue the construction of the Foster-designed timber lattice roof on Canary Wharf Crossrail station and retail development in the North Dock of the Isle of Dogs on November 26, 2013
A worker walks through the partially completed Crossrail Bond Street station tunnel on December 8, 2014 in London
Queen Elizabeth II stands with Mike Brown, the London transport commissioner at the tunnel entrance to one of the new platforms of the new Crossrail Bond street station which is still under construction on Tuesday, February 23, 2016
There were also said to be tunneling delays at Bond Street that further hampered the project.
The coronavirus pandemic also pushed back the opening even further, because the need to maintain social distancing meant only a small number of workers could be on sites at any one time.
In December 2018, the Government TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan had to agree a financial package to cover extra costs, as officials warned the project could be delayed further.
In November 2019, Crossrail Ltd said the railway would open ‘as soon as practically possible in 2021’, after costs had increased again by up to £650million to £18.25billion.
In January 2020 – just before the coronavirus pandemic began – it was hoped that services would begin in the summer of 2021.
2002: The Strategic Rail Authority was asked by the Labour Government to look into extra passenger capacity, with one of the options it came up with similar to the present day Crossrail – apart from the extensions to Amersham and Tilbury
2002: A further proposal from the Strategic Rail Authority also looked at an option of Crossrail running from High Wycombe and Reading in the west to Colchester and Southend in the east, with the central section looking as it does today
2002: A further option suggested a line connecting Essex to South West London, running from Shenfield and Tilbury in the east down to Wimbledon and Epsom, with a further spur at Clapham Junction connecting to Hounslow on a loop
2002: The study nearly two decades ago also looked at a Crossrail option linking Colchester and South in Essex with Southampton and Portsmouth in Hampshire, going through central London via Tottenham Court Road and Victoria
2002: A further plan within the 2002 proposals was to have a Crossrail network running from High Barnet and Epping down through Central London via King’s Cross and Victoria and out the other side at Clapham Junction, before heading to Epsom
2002: Another proposal with the 2002 suggestions was to have a direct line running between Peterborough and Cambridge and Southampton and Portsmouth, running via King’s Cross, Tottenham Court Road and Victoria through Central London
2002: The core route map of Crossrail 1 shows roughly the current route today, although it extends much further in the west to Reading, and the east to Shenfield. The map also includes provisions for a north-south line, to be known as Crossrail 2
2008: A bill for Crossrail was presented in February 2005 which was scrutinised over three years before it finally received Royal Assent in July 2008, putting into law the route from Maidenhead and Heathrow to Shenfield and Abbey Wood
But by July of 2020, Crossrail Ltd said the project would not open in 2021 because of the delays imposed by the pandemic.
The following year, the National Audit Office said the estimated cost of Crossrail had increased again to £18.9billion.
Whilst the project was given a boost earlier this month by the unexpected visit by the Queen to Paddington Station to celebrate its completion, the three sections of the Elizabeth Line are not due to be integrated until Autumn of this year.
Then, in May 2023, the full timetable of 24 trains per hour is scheduled to be introduced.
From today, Crossrail will operate as three separate railways – from Reading or Heathrow to Paddington; Paddington to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street; and Liverpool Street to Shenfield.
The second stage, for which Crossrail says the ‘earliest expected date’ is ‘autumn 2022’, will ensure the services from Reading or Heathrow towards Paddington can run all the way through to Abbey Wood via Liverpool Street. At this second stage, there will also be trains running direct from Paddington to Shenfield, also via Liverpool Street.
2018: The final route for Crossrail of Reading or Heathrow to Shenfield or Abbey Wood was confirmed in 2014, with the line at first expected to open in December 2018 – before this was pushed back three times. The start date now stands at 2021
2018: This geographical map shows how Crossrail will cut through London to bring faster journey times for passengers, connecting Berkshire with Essex with an underground section between Acton Main Line and Maryland/Custom House
2018: This Transport for London map shows how Crossrail will fit in with the current Tube network, connecting with the Central line at five different stations – Ealing Broadway, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Liverpool Street and Stratford
The Crossrail map is shown on top of the existing Transport for London map, showing how it interconnects with Tube lines
The Crossrail route map is displayed, with the complete line set to be operational in its full form by May 2023 at the latest
The Crossrail route is shown on a geographical map which displays how passengers will be able to travel through London
STAGE 3: The final milestone will be ‘no later than May 2023’, when the full timetable will allow passengers to travel without changing across the entire line from Reading to Shenfield or Abbey Wood
The final milestone will be ‘no later than May 2023’, when the full timetable will allow passengers to travel without changing across the entire line from Reading or Heathrow to Shenfield or Abbey Wood, via central London.
By this point, TfL hopes there will be one train every 150 seconds through central London – and it is hoped that the project will expand central London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent.
For now, the line will operate 12 trains per hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood from Monday to Saturday, 6.30am to 11pm – but Bond Street station has not yet been completed and will not open until ‘later this year’.
Work will continue in engineering hours and on Sundays to allow a series of testing and software updates in preparation for more intensive services from autumn.
But the Sunday closures will be lifted on June 5 to help people travelling in the capital during the Platinum Jubilee weekend celebrating the Queen’s milestone.