London Life

Crossrail: some initial thoughts

Yes, I’m still calling it ‘Crossrail‘, even though all the signage and maps have been updated to call this new rail line the ‘Elizabeth Line’. Not an ounce of anti-monarchy sentiment, ‘Crossrail’ is just easier.

So the day finally arrived – a little Christmas morning when you’re a child, and if Christmas arrived years later and billions of pounds over budget – London got its first new TFL line in decades. Crossing London from east to west and, importantly, linking up with Heathrow airport, it’s a definite boon to all users of public transport.

I hopped aboard a train on the first morning it was open, taking the swanky new trains a single stop from Canary Wharf to Custom House, from where I enjoyed a pleasant walk to my office.

I have to admit getting caught up in all the excitement. The mood was so positive and enthusiastic, with a mix of railway enthusiasts and members of the general public sharing their excitement at the opening. It reminded me a little of the public mood during the 2012 Olympics here in London. A sense of positivity and friendliness I really miss these days.

You can get a taste of it in this excellent video from Geoff Marshall, illustrating what a big day it was for everyone.

Design flair

Canary Wharf station is beautiful. But here’s the thing: the design carries through to all of the new, central stations, as well as the trains themselves. Wide, long, air-conditioned and walk-through format, they’re a commuter’s dream.

The stations are airy, larger than you’d imagine and have some lovely, well thought-through features. The train indicators are located over the doors, making them much easier to read. Legibility is important! Lifts abound. Lighting is excellent.

Speaking of, the whole line is infinitely more accessible than most of the rest of London’s transport. And accessibility benefits everyone, from those with significant physical disabilities through to people struggling with luggage and/or small children. Considering human factors makes everyone’s lives easier and you can see how much thought went into this project.

And while Canary Wharf station is nice, so far, the station that has taken my breath away is Tottenham Court Road. Previously a reason to absolutely avoid the West End, the new station is bright and beautiful. And now, just 12 minutes (I timed it!) on the train from Canary Wharf. As someone who has actively avoided the hassle of getting into the West End of London for the longest time, I’m looking at it in a whole different light.

Crossrail seems to have shrunk London, in the best possible way.

Baby steps

Right now, the line exists in three distinct parts, meaning that you need to change at either Paddington or Liverpool Street to go to the line’s east or west termini. It’ll all be joined up in due course, but honestly I’m not bothered.

Elizabeth line map

Even with the change at Paddington, a Crossrail journey to Heathrow will be significantly easier and more comfortable than two tube trips, followed by the ghastly and over-priced Heathrow Express.

Critics have rightly pointed out at the cost and time overruns, which have been significant. I can’t defend them. It’s been a complex project, complex beyond original plans, that’s for sure.

At the same time, this kind of investment in helping people move about the place without using their cars can only be a good thing. It’s linking parts of London that might as well have been on different planets before now – either because of geography, accessibility or the seemingly impenetrable border of the River Thames.

4 comments on “Crossrail: some initial thoughts

  1. ethnicolor

    Lucky you… I love trains and the Tube, and I’m sorely tempted to head over to London for a few days and take a whirl on the new line. Cost over-runs? Back here, almost a quarter of a billion Euro has already been spent on Dublin’s metro, and not one sod of earth has been turned. People arriving in Dublin still have to take a bus or taxi into town; shameful. And this afternoon the queues for security at Dublin Airport T1 stretched outside the building and down towards T2. The National Children’s Hospital has been under construction since 2021, has cost more than €1.7 billion and is still a building site. It’s close to becoming one of the most expensive buildings in the world, yet won’t be anywhere near the size of a regular hospital in any major city. Why are we in Ireland so crap at infrastructure? Didn’t mean this to be a rant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rant away! I hear you. I watched the coverage of Dublin Airport’s meltdown with grim fascination – looks like a total dereliction of responsibility by DAA.

      As far as I can see, there’s a toxic combination of NIMBYism, vested interests and the revolting stench of local government politicians either trying to make the big time or simply remain popular with the NIMBYs. No sense of the longer term and any advantage for future generations – it’s all about now and how I can’t park my car on this street anymore.

      It needs change at the structural level and some kind of multi-decade planning that’s independent of the here today, gone tomorrow politicians. I don’t have all the answers by any means, but the great examples you’ve shared are how government pisses away money with nothing to show for it.

      On a more positive note, if you do come to London, we can take a trip on the train together!

      Liked by 1 person

      • ethnicolor

        Cool! I love the EL branding and “moquette” and I was trying to get a few goodies from the TfL store page, but all the Elizabeth Line stuff is out of stock. Therefor I must purchase on-site and therefore a trip to London is a necessity! I believe that justifies the trip nicely!😅

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree and fully support this sound logic.


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