The Elizabeth LIne has been given the seal of Royal approval after the Queen paid what was described as a ‘surprise’ visit to Paddington, where she unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion, just a week before the central section and the Abbey Wood branch start carrying passengers.
The central section should have opened in December 2018, but it has been delayed by problems with signalling and some aspects of construction, while the cost has risen from £14 billion to more than £18 billion. Although the central section will open on Tuesday Bond Street station still needs more work and will not be used by passengers, apart from emergency evacuations, until later in the year.
The Queen was accompanied by Prince Edward, and the royal guests were welcomed by transport commissioner Andy Byford as well as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, prime minister Boris Johnson, transport secretary Grant Shapps and Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild.
During her visit Her Majesty was presented with an Oyster card and shown how to use a ticket machine. She has known the Underground since she was a child in the 1930s, when as Princess Elizabeth she was taken for an informal ride on the Circle Line with her sister Princess Margaret. In 1969 she travelled in the cab of a Victoria Line train to mark the completion of the original route between Walthamstow Central and Victoria. That occasion was remembered partly because when she was invited to buy a ticket, the Royal sixpence was rejected by the automatic machine.
Most of the capital cost of building the main line gauge tube tunnels of the Elizabeth Line under central London was met by 30 per cent from TfL farepayers and 40 per cent from businesses in the capital. The last 30 per cent was contributed by the government. It has been estimated that the new railway will boost the economy by £42 billion and increase London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent.
For the time being the routes from Reading and Heathrow to Paddington and from Shenfield to Liverpool Street, which had been temporarily branded TfL Rail, will continue to be run separately, with their services still terminating in the main line platforms at Paddington and Liverpool Street. Later this year it is hoped to bring the tunnel portals into use and provide through services across London.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was ‘delighted’ with the Royal visit, and described it as a ’landmark moment’.
Transport Commissioner Andy Byford added: ‘Her Majesty The Queen has a long association with London’s transport network, and I am delighted that Her Majesty was able to visit our magnificent Paddington Elizabeth line station today. In a landmark year for Her Majesty, during the Platinum Jubilee, everyone at TfL is committed to ensuring this new railway will serve as a fitting tribute and will – by creating faster journeys, new jobs, and economic growth – become a vital part of London’s recovery.
‘What better symbol could there be of London’s renaissance from the pandemic.’