London's Elizabeth line opens as hundreds gather to catch first train

New railway is aimed at improving east-west travel across the UK capital

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The first Elizabeth line train from Paddington through central London departed at 6.33am on Tuesday, carrying hundreds of excited transport enthusiasts.

Hundreds of people gathered in an attempt to be among the first passengers on the new Elizabeth Tube line, which has changed the London Underground map.

Transport enthusiasts hailed the “momentous occasion”, having travelled from across the country for the ceremony and queued from the early hours of the morning.

About 300 people queued outside Paddington Station before the service’s opening at 6.30am, and the crowd cheered and rushed forwards when the doors opened at about 6.20am.

The first train departed on time at 6.33am.

However, the smooth start was marred just a few hours later when passengers were evacuated at Paddington Station and parts of the line suspended.

Travellers posted updates on social media.

Only two weeks away from her platinum jubilee celebration, she now rarely carries out public engagements because she walks with difficulty.

Transport for London (TfL) estimates that annual passenger numbers will reach 170 million by 2026.

Last week, the line was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II, who made a surprise appearance at Paddington station to inspect the new multibillion pound line, named in her honour.

Crowds wait in line to board the first Elizabeth line train to carry passengers at Paddington Station, London. PA

Crossrail, the project to build the new east-west railway, was delayed and ran over budget because of numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications while installing signalling systems.

It was due to be completed in December 2018, with a budget of £14.8 billion set in 2010.

The total cost has been estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion from the government.

The Elizabeth line will boost capacity and cut journey times for travel across the capital.

It will stretch from Reading, in Berkshire, and Heathrow Airport, in west London, to Shenfield, in Essex, and Abbey Wood, in south-east London.

Trains will initially operate in three sections, which are expected to be integrated in the autumn.

Some lifts at some stations on London's new Elizabeth line will go sideways, not straight up, due to their diagonal design that is cheaper to build and will save on energy.

The opening of the long-awaited Elizabeth line will have benefits beyond the capital, both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the city’s mayor have said.

The prime minister said the whole country will “reap the rewards” of a predicted multibillion pound boost to the economy.

Colin Kelso, 18, travelled down from Glasgow for the event and wore a hoody emblazoned with “Purple train” on the front, in a nod to the line’s colour scheme.

He told the PA news agency: “I want to get on the first train.

“I’ve always liked trains and have been keeping up to date with the project.”

Danny McLaren, 21, from Edinburgh, arrived at Paddington at 1.30am, and described the event as “an epic day”.

“We’ve known it will open for a while,” he told PA.

“It’s a brand new railway. New technology. New trains.

“It’s an epic day to experience it when it’s brand new.”

Another passenger, Hakim Colclough, 24, from Chessington, Surrey, said: “This is a momentous occasion.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Colin Farmer, 84, from Croydon, south-east London, arrived at 4.30am.

He said: “It’s history. It’s about time there were trains right through London without changing to the Underground.

“I’m very excited. We’ve been waiting long enough for it.

“It’s a great achievement.”

Mr Johnson said: “As the Elizabeth line opens to the public, we know it’s not just Londoners that will reap the rewards, but the whole country — because better transport grows the economy, levels up opportunity and creates jobs.”

The government said the Elizabeth line project is supporting 55,000 jobs and 1,000 apprenticeships and is forecast to boost the economy by £42 billion.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, who also travelled on the first train, said: “It’s a landmark day.

“I’m excited. I’m like the little boy before Christmas.”

Mr Khan, echoed the PM’s sentiments, saying the line’s opening would “provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country”.

He said: “Today is a historic day as the Elizabeth line opens to passengers. This is a huge moment, not just for London but the entire country, particularly in this special Jubilee year.

“This brand new line is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades.

“It will add billions to our economy and is set to serve up to 200 million passengers each year. I’m sure passengers will enjoy the modern trains, beautiful step-free stations and the reduced journey times across the capital and the south-east.

“The Elizabeth line is much more than just a new railway, it will provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country and help to turbo-charge our recovery from the pandemic.”

Updated: May 24, 2022, 10:24 AM