On Tuesday 24 May 2022, the first phase of the Elizabeth line (originally known as Crossrail) finally opened to the public. Crowds of Londoners gathered bright and early to be among the first to experience it (some even waiting from 4am). It’s been a long time in the making, with several setbacks and delays, but the railway’s origins date back more than a century. The idea for an underground railway connecting east to west was first proposed in 1919 by the Underground’s commercial manager, Frank Pick. The idea surfaced numerous times over the years, but it wasn’t until a 2005 proposal was signed off in 2008 that the Elizabeth line was finally given the green light.
The new line stretches over 60 miles from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. In total, 10 new stations have been introduced and 31 improved, including Custom House, which is located near London City Island. The new station at Custom House (where you can also catch the DLR) will see trains arrive every five minutes at peak time, allowing passengers to travel all the way to Paddington, Heathrow or Reading to the west, or head in the opposite direction to Abbey Wood. According to TfL, the Elizabeth line (when fully open in 2023) will add around 10 per cent more capacity to central London’s rail network, bringing an extra 1.5 million people within 45 minutes of central London, plus an estimated £42bn to the economy.
But what else is there to know about London’s latest network railway?
Despite its tranquil, almost isolated location, surrounded by the River Lea, London City Island is renowned for its excellent connectivity. Not only via regular buses, fantastic cycle routes and even nearby river taxi services and the Emirates Air Line, but also through Canning Town station, which connects the Island to the rest of the capital. The Island is situated between Canary Wharf and the aforementioned Custom House station. If you’re travelling to central London, Liverpool Street is only 7 minutes away on the Elizabeth line from Canary Wharf, while Paddington takes just 18 minutes.
The royal purple colour scheme of the Elizabeth line is inspired by the British monarch, who celebrates her Platinum Jubilee this year. The Queen, looking radiant in sunshine yellow, officially opened the project on 17 May at Paddington station ahead of its public launch a week later. A new moquette fabric pattern for the train seats was created to complement the purple roundel, designed by British studio Wallace Sewell. Diehard Crossrail fans can pick up face masks, tote bags, laptop portfolios and even a three-seater sofa featuring the new moquette.
Queen Elizabeth II officially opens the Elizabeth Line on 17 May 2022. Photo courtesy of TfL
In total, 10 new stations have been introduced and 31 improved for the launch of the Elizabeth Line, including Custom House, located near London City Island
House prices on the Elizabeth line have risen around 30 per cent faster than the London average, particularly in central and east London areas. This is known as the “Crossrail effect” – which has seen micro property price booms in key locations. Jenny Steen, Sales Director at Ballymore Group, commented, ‘With demand for homes surging along the Elizabeth line, and journey times across the capital simultaneously slashed, it has never been a better time to invest in property in East London. We are seeing new neighbourhoods such as Leamouth Peninsula and the Royal Docks far outperforming the rest of the market. Developments like London City Island offer a prime long-term, affordable investment opportunity, whilst also benefitting from this outstanding new connectivity that sees journeys from Canary Wharf to Paddington cut to just 18 minutes, and journeys to Heathrow ultimately drop to under 40 minutes. It really is an opportune time to be buying a home in a new community, before the potential of the Elizabeth Line is fully realised.’
Design for life
As one of the most complex digital railways in the world, efficient design has been crucial in getting the Elizabeth line up and running. The trains are wider than average and lighter, and are accessible for wheelchair users and roomy enough for those with pushchairs and bicycles. Unlike getting the Central line in the height of summer, the new trains are fully air-conditioned and even have free wifi for those longer journeys. The Class 345 trains also use “regenerative braking” – a process that takes the wasted energy from braking and uses it to recharge the batteries – making them up to 30 per cent more energy efficient than the average Underground train.
Photo courtesy of TfL
Can you dig it?
Not only is Crossrail one of London’s most complex transport projects in modern times, it has also been one of the most significant architectural digs of the past decade. Hundreds of archaeologists have been excavating across the capital – from Reading to Woolwich – since work began in 2009, setting up 40 digging sites and covering some 55 million years of history. The excavation site in Liverpool Street, in particular, has been a source of fascinating discoveries. These include over 3,000 skeletons, from Roman times and even the Great Plague of 1665. Archaeologists were also delighted to unearth a pair of Roman wooden gates that would have been used along the banks of the River Walbrook – one of London’s ancient “lost rivers”. An exhibition on Crossrail’s archaeological discoveries was held at the Museum of London Docklands (located near London City Island) in 2017, and you can still access the virtual exhibition here.
Tunnel, The Archaeology of Crossrail at the Museum of London, Docklands, 2017. Photo courtesy of TfL