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.
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.
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.
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.