Thursday 26th May 2022
Four things struck me when riding the new Elizabeth Line alongside thousands of excited passengers on Tuesday’s grand opening day.
First the sheer scale of the cavernous station structures particularly underground.
I remember the exciting new Victoria line in the late 1960s bringing noteworthy improvements to the London Underground not seen for over three decades; the late 1990s saw the Jubilee line extension bring major developments with vast spaces, deep level escalators and modern lifts as well as safety features such as Platform Edge Doors (PED) and now after almost another three decades comes Crossrail-Elizabeth Line taking modernity to new depths (literally) and widths as well as innovations such as incline lifts and departure displays above every PED.
There are too many examples to include here and social media is awash with photographs and video clips of first day impressions so I’ve just confined myself to a few notables I spotted as I rode up and down the line.
Compare and contrast Farringdon platform pictured above for the Elizabeth Line, and below, for Thameslink – London’s other cross city National Rail line using infrastructure that’s over 150 years old.
The second thing that struck me was how quick the journey is. Paddington to Liverpool Street in 11 minutes; Farringdon to Canary Wharf in nine minutes. And that includes quite a bit of dwell time at each station too.
There’s no doubt this is already changing travel patterns as more passengers give the new options a try out. I took a ride on the Central line on Tuesday afternoon and it was still busy between Tottenham Court Road and Liverpool Street …
…. but of course it serves more stations (Holborn, Chancery Lane, St Paul’s and Bank) than the Elizabeth Line (Farringdon).
The third thing that struck me especially as this week I’m travelling around the country with an All Line Rover is for the first time rail passengers can access central London in the form of Tottenham Court Road (and later this year, Bond Street) with an exclusively National Rail only ticket.
Previously passengers have been restricted to Thameslink over in the east but now it’s possible to do many ‘through London’ journeys all on National Rail and the interchange between Thameslink and the Elizabeth Line at Farringdon adds to the flexibility.
I tried out using my All Line Rover at London Underground’s gate lines at Whitechapel, Liverpool Street and Tottenham Court Road (Geoff Marshall featured the latter in his first day YouTube video) and although it didn’t work the barriers (it doesn’t do so at any station anyway) the staff just waved me through without taking too much notice. Where it was queried “oh, I haven’t seen one of those before” a quick explanation of what it was and they were only too happy to let me through. A refreshing change of positivity.
It does make me think that with the blurring of gate lines between London Underground and National Rail (already including London Overground) at more stations, TfL might as well let All Line Rovers be valid on the whole network.
Or, at least, add the dagger symbol enabling cross London journeys between main line stations on the Underground as all other National Rail tickets requiring a journey crossing London allow.
I don’t want to be a party pooper but my final observation is a bit of a negative in that with all the hullabaloo of the Elizabeth Line opening and the £20 billion spent it’s so disappointing to see the so called “integrated” buses run by the same TfL organisation treated as though they just don’t matter.
Renowned blogger Diamond Geezer outlined a sorry yet unsurprising report on Sunday of the appalling lack of information available for passengers regarding Saturday’s extensive bus changes in Newham to improve interchange with the Elizabeth Line which I also recently blogged about.
You’d think these shortcomings would have been corrected for Tuesday’s grand opening but when I did a couple of spot checks during the morning these showed the Custom House terminus for new bus route 304 was still devoid of timetables or anything to let passengers know where the route goes ….
…. and over at Abbey Wood the sorry state of the out of date spider maps in the bus shelters by the shiny revamped station remained as appalling as they’ve been for years.
And I doubt the westbound bus stop alongside the Elizabeth Line tracks at Custom House station would pass any accessibility rules, yet alone guidelines.
It’s ironic the sparkly new Elizabeth Line is characterised by vast spaces for passengers to access the platforms and escalators under ground as shown in earlier photos but at ground level, just outside the stations, where thousands of passengers will interchange with buses, it’s another forgotten story.
As is the totem pole immediately opposite Abbey Wood station’s entrance.
I’m guessing as it mentions ‘Buses’ it wasn’t deemed worthy of updating with an Elizabeth Line logo.
It just reinforces my view since TfL merged their management structure into a combined ‘cross modal’ ‘matrix’ model, buses just don’t get a look in any more nor are they taken seriously as far as providing information and promotion to passengers.
There’s a no expense spared leaflet about the Elizabeth Line with details of how to interchange at Paddington and Liverpool Street with the outer sections of the Line ….
…. and a brand new ‘Tube’ map was out on Tuesday updated with the Elizabeth Line (which isn’t a ‘Tube’) and which is now such a mess it’s pretty much useless unless you have a magnifying glass with you. Yet buses aren’t worthy of any maps at all – not even online.
Although I did spot updated spider maps on display at Woolwich station …
…. and despite those shelters not being touched (presumably because they’re a few yards outside the station boundary), an updated map for Abbey Wood was on display right outside the station. So at least that’s something.
But this disappointment doesn’t take away from the sheer brilliance of London’s latest new railway.
Sadly I may not be around to see the next one launch in another three decades or so.
So I’ll make the most of this one. As the staff were definitely doing on Tuesday. Which was good to see.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu