London’s long-delayed multibillion-pound Crossrail train line will partially open to customers on May 24, Transport for London (TfL) has announced.
Twelve trains an hour will run on the initial launch, from Paddington to Abbey Wood on Monday to Saturday, but eventually trains will run the 55 kilometres from Heathrow Airport and Reading in the west and Essex in the east.
The May 24 launch fulfils a promise for Crossrail, which has been renamed the Elizabeth line, to be partially open by mid-2022. Eventually, it will expand central London's rail capacity by 10 per cent.
As London's Mayor Sadiq Khan celebrated the announcement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused him of "breathtaking political cynicism" and breaking pre-election communications rules, as local elections take place across London on Thursday.
The $24 billion rail project was originally due to be opened by Queen Elizabeth II in December 2018, but had been repeatedly delayed by issues with safety testing and signalling systems.
TfL commissioner Andy Byford said: “I am delighted that we can now announce a date for the opening of the Elizabeth line in May.
“We are using these final few weeks to continue to build up reliability on the railway and get the Elizabeth line ready to welcome customers.
“The opening day is set to be a truly historic moment for the capital and the UK, and we look forward to showcasing a simply stunning addition to our network.”
The Elizabeth line will stretch from Reading in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London.
It will operate as three separate railways until the autumn, when the central section will be connected to the east and west branches and services will increase to 22 trains an hour in the central section, TfL said.
Purple signage for the line has already started to be uncovered on the network, and an update to London's famous Tube map featuring the new line will soon be released.
Crossrail — the project to build a new east-west railway — was initially set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the Elizabeth line will make London “safer, fairer, greener and more prosperous” .
“This is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades, and will revolutionise travel across the capital and the South East — as well as delivering a £42 billion boost to the whole UK economy and hundreds of thousands of new homes and jobs,” he said.
“Green public transport is the future, and the opening of the Elizabeth line is a landmark moment for our capital and our whole country, particularly in this special platinum jubilee year.”
The transport secretary said Mr Khan had broken election campaign rules in an effort to in votes.
"This announcement is an act of breathtaking political cynicism by the mayor, breaking election rules on such announcements in an effort to garner votes the day before the local elections in London," Mr Shapps said.
"I am therefore immediately referring this breach to the Electoral Commission for investigation.
"Londoners reading this unscrupulous headline grab might like to know that the Government has poured billions into Crossrail to solve delays clocked up on the mayor's watch, while propping up a transport system hobbled financially by his chronic incompetence."