Just over a year after opening, the Elizabeth Line has been an unrivalled success, reducing congestion in Central London by increasing rail capacity by 10%, and hitting 100 million passengers long before experts predicted. It now officially carries 60,000 passengers every weekday and more than 3 million each week, again defying expectations and making it the busiest railway line in the UK. To quote Mayor Sadiq Khan, ‘Londoners are absolutely loving the Elizabeth Line.’
Launched by her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and, of course, named in her honour, the ‘Lizzie Line’ has become the jewel in the crown of Britain’s rail network. The income for fares over the last financial year is £50 million higher than anticipated and Transport for London has announced that the line is well on the way to paying for itself. TFL commissioner Andy Lord previously said, ‘For the Elizabeth Line to break even within 18 months to 2 years of opening would be an incredible achievement.’ He went on, ‘If every major infrastructure project could do that then we’d be doing a lot more of them.’
13 years in the making and at a cost of £19 billion, the line (once known as Crossrail) spans a city once known for offering no lateral travel. Running on an axis east-to-west across the entire London region (100km in total), it features a remarkable 41 stations, ensuring, amongst many others, travel to Heathrow airport has never been quicker or easier. It then runs as far as Reading in Berkshire and Shenfield in Essex and boasts 10 brand-new, state-of-the-art stations along the way.
However, the continued success of London’s newest railway is still somewhat dependent on the completion of the £60 high-speed HS2 line. Experts raised concerns when the government refused to deny press reports that the planned interim station at Old Oak Common is to become a permanent fixture in order to cut costs. The line is intended to continue to Euston in the early 2030s, after just an initial period of running from Old Oak Common. If it doesn’t, it’s thought the Elizabeth Line wouldn’t be able to cope with the extra passenger numbers expected by then. A government spokesman, however, told reporters Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remains 100% committed to the project.
In the meantime, the Elizabeth Line continues to significantly cut commuter times. Whilst many commuters have switched from the Bakerloo and Central lines, TFL estimates up to 30% of passengers are new, which can only mean good things for the city and its economy. TFL has also commissioned a report into the wider socio-economic effects of the new service, but that isn’t due until 2025 at the earliest. Based on how things are progressing so far, though, most are expecting more good news.
Sources: City A.M., Inews, Time Out