The Elizabeth line is one of the most interesting things to happen to London in ages, here is a photo essay, just me and my iPhone on the opening day of the new Elizabeth line, 24 May 2022 and of course, I took plenty of photos!
The idea is to perhaps make this an ongoing members-only series, The Gallery, while this opening one is available to everyone. This is a good activity when you have taken plenty of photos for an occasion and then have to whittle them down to a few. I went through around 200 photos, searching for the day the photos were taken, adding the ones I was interested in, to an album, and then reviewed the album removing those that didn’t add enough to the overall theme. From the album, I took the photos you see here. Editing was limited and only done in the Photos app.
First, what is the Elizabeth line, or as I like to call it the Purple line, it’s a new brand that represents a train service that spans from the west, Reading or Heathrow Airport, to the east, via central London to Abbey Wood or Shenfield. This is opening in phases, currently with three separate railways, which will be joined up in the subsequent phases, with completion by May 2023 at the end of phase three.
The most interesting part of this for me, is the new central section, from Paddington to Abbey Wood, the other two parts of the railway, existed already and were renamed from TfL Rail to the Elizabeth line. The central section adds ten new stations to the network, with sleek roomy designs that could be from the future, or indeed from the past, I am thinking of the Barbican or other brutalist architecture. The trains, comprising of seventy Class 345 trains, built by Bombardier Transportation are functional, with open nine walk-through carriages, it takes a while to walk from one end to the other, being 200 metres long.
There is space for 1500 passengers and with plenty of different configurations of seats, so you can find what works for you if you have luggage, buggies or are a wheelchair user for example. The seats, this is a personal preference, aren’t particularly comfortable but that’s okay, for the shorter journeys of the central section at least. There are 12 trains an hour (every 5 minutes), which will jump to 22 an hour in the autumn. The trains include air conditioning and free Wi-Fi on platforms, with on-train Wi-Fi available within the tunnels in the future. Signage is good, there are electronic displays while waiting for a train and onboard trains with updates and letting you how close you are to a destination station.
Without wanting to get particularly political, I feel the need to add some commentary, it’s interesting to compare with the aspirations of the Elizabeth line somewhat, but it’s hard to ignore if you live in London, or further afield in England (I am not qualified to talk of elsewhere), how bad things are here, we don’t have a government to speak of, we are having the biggest crisis since COVID-19, with a government missing in action for what will amount to around two months. I don’t care who you vote for but that’s not good enough by a long shot, there is no consensus in politics anymore, its us vs them and we have to grow up collectively, many of these issues are too big and will take decades of effort to make progress, we have to work together more, we always have more in common than sets us apart but ‘they’ want you to forget and only care about ‘your side’, that’s how we all fail and nobody really wins. The history of the Elizabeth line goes back at least twenty years, actually as far back as 1974, as Crossrail started to take shape, with government approval finally coming in 1990, that I take some encouragement that we can think ahead, longer-term and build something together, it’s never going to perfect, it may go overbudget or be delayed but we have to do more projects, even when we won’t see the benefits within typical political cycles and not only in London of course, I am thinking of Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham and more besides.
I enjoyed the opening day of the Elizabeth line back in May, it was fun, I didn’t try to get on the first train which was something like 7 am, I left that to the really enthusiastic crowd, and I must have rocked up around 10.30 am. Many people my age, or older, were enjoying a first peek at this modern marvel, along with everyone else. I explored the cavern that is the Paddington station, it’s long escalators down to the ticket office, then more escalators to the platforms. My first impressions must have been, wow, this really was worth it, the delays, the confusion over the years where the project seemed to get stuck for a while.
I have to say, I am not crazy about the name of the line though, as London needs to embrace what the future has to offer, for everybody, and the name seems antiquated and in the past. We already have the Jubilee and Victoria lines, wasn’t that enough? While the original name Crossrail may have been too generic and may be used for other projects in the future, I’m sure Londoners could have come up with something else, which would have been more universal, rant over!
I got on my first train and I got off at each station, not Bond Street station as that is expected to open in Autumn. Starting with Tottenham Court Road, then Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel and then finishing with Canary Wharf. I then came back to Whitechapel, left the station, walked around Brick Lane, through Shoreditch and got back on at Liverpool Street, not bad for an opening day jaunt. I have since travelled the entire length of Paddington to Abbey Wood line and I have walked much of this on foot as a walking project as well. I have a particular affinity for Abbey Wood, it’s a fascinating place, this is a major upgrade in transport for the area, including Thamesmead, not before time.
Overall. I have been pleased with the Elizabeth line. However, it will be judged on its efficiency, reliability and performance over many years to come, as well as its overall completion next year, which must be on schedule, including a Sunday service, as the central section is currently closed then. With 41 new and upgraded stations across the whole Elizabeth line route, 26 miles of new rail tunnels bored under London, and the project adding around 10% more capacity to central London's rail network, it's hard not to think of the Elizabeth line as a success already.
Thanks for reading, hope you found this interesting, it's a way to show more of my photos, based around a theme, I hardly touched the photos, I'd take most of them into Darkroom and edit them more but that wasn't the point of this particular post. This will be an occasional series (I may do a companion post sooner), look out for regular posts about iPhone Photography and sign up to the site, to get posts sent straight to your inbox, it's free!
If you'd like to walk some of the Elizabeth line, a great new London walk, get in touch, as I am interested in starting some guided walks, email - w a l k s @ m y p h o t o y e a r dot com (sorry about the formatting trying to avoid spam!).