Crossrail tunnel under construction in 2013
Other name(s)Elizabeth line (from 2022)
TerminiWest: London Heathrow Airport and Reading
East: Abbey Wood and Shenfield
Stations41 Edit this at Wikidata
SystemNational Rail
Operator(s)MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd[2]
Rolling stockClass 345 (9 carriages per train)[3]
Paddington–Liverpool Street is under construction.
Line lengthApprox. 117 km (73 mi)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz AC (overhead lines)
Operating speed90 mph (145 km/h)
London Underground
Hammersmith & City
Waterloo & City
Other systems
London Overground
London Trams
TfL Rail

Crossrail is a railway construction project underway mainly in central London. Its aim is to provide a high-frequency suburban passenger service crossing the capital from west to east, by connecting two major railway lines terminating in London, the Great Western Main Line and the Great Eastern Main Line. The project was approved in 2007, and construction began in 2009 on the central section and connections to existing lines that will become part of the route, to be branded the Elizabeth line.[4]

The main feature of the project is the construction of a new railway line that will run underground from near Paddington Station via central London and Liverpool Street Station to Stratford.[5] Another almost entirely new line will branch off the main line at Whitechapel in east London. It will run to Canary Wharf, cross the Thames and connect with the North Kent Line at Abbey Wood in southeast London.

New nine-carriage Class 345 trains will run at frequencies in the central section of up to 24 trains per hour in each direction. At each end of its central core services it will divide into two branches: in the west to Reading and to Heathrow Central; in the east to Abbey Wood and to Shenfield. In May 2015, services on a section of one of the eastern branches, between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, were transferred to TfL Rail; this precursor service also took control of Heathrow Connect in May 2018 and the Paddington to Reading line in December 2019.

The Elizabeth line will be operated by MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd as a London Rail concession of Transport for London, in a similar manner to London Overground.[2] TfL's annual revenues from the line were forecast in 2018 to be nearly £500 million per year in 2022/23 and over £1 billion per year from 2024/25.[6]

The total estimated cost has risen from an initial budget of £14.8 billion to £18.7 billion, as of August 2020.[7] Originally planned to open in 2018, the project continues to be delayed. The central section is planned to open in the first half of 2022.[7] The COVID-19 pandemic paused works for several months[8] and in late 2020 was cutting the number of workers safely deployable.[9]


Crossrail timeline
Date Event
1941–48 Proposals for cross-London railway tunnel(s), of the national network, by George Dow
1974 London Rail Study Report recommends a PaddingtonLiverpool Street "Crossrail" tunnel
1989 Central London Rail Study proposes three Crossrail schemes, including an east–west Paddington/Marylebone–Liverpool Street route
1991 Private bill promoted by London Underground and British Rail submitted to Parliament proposing a Paddington–Liverpool Street tunnel; it is rejected in 1994
2001 Crossrail scheme promoted through Cross London Rail Links (CLRL)
2004 Senior railway managers promote an expanded regional Superlink scheme
2005 Crossrail Bill put before Parliament
2008 Crossrail Act 2008 receives royal assent
2009 Construction work begins at Canary Wharf
2015 Liverpool Street–Shenfield service transferred to TfL Rail
2017 New Crossrail trains introduced on Liverpool Street–Shenfield route
2018 Paddington–Heathrow services transferred to TfL Rail
2019 TfL Rail begin operating Paddington-Reading services
2022 Central section to open under Elizabeth line name
2023 Full Elizabeth line route due to open
2026 Possible opening of new station at Old Oak Common

Main article: History of the Crossrail line

Early proposals

The concept of large-diameter tunnels crossing central London to connect Paddington in the west and Liverpool Street in the east was first proposed by railwayman George Dow in The Star newspaper in June 1941.[10] The project that became Crossrail has origins in the 1943 County of London Plan and 1944 Greater London Plan by Patrick Abercrombie. These led to a specialist investigation by the Railway (London Plan) Committee, appointed in 1944 and reporting in 1946 and 1948.[11]

The term "Crossrail" emerged in the 1974 London Rail Study Report.[12] Although the idea was seen as imaginative, only a brief estimate of cost was given: £300 million. A feasibility study was recommended as a high priority so that the practicability and costs of the scheme could be determined. It was also suggested that the alignment of the tunnels should be safeguarded[13][non-primary source needed] while a final decision was taken.

Later proposals

The Central London Rail Study of 1989 proposed tunnels linking the existing rail network as the "East–West Crossrail", "City Crossrail", and "North–South Crossrail" schemes. The east–west scheme was for a line from Liverpool Street to Paddington/Marylebone with two connections at its western end linking the tunnel to the Great Western Main Line and the Metropolitan line on the Underground. The City route was shown as a new connection across the City of London linking the Great Northern Route with London Bridge.

The north–south line proposed routing West Coast Main Line, Thameslink, and Great Northern trains through Euston and King's Cross/St Pancras, then under the West End via Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Circus and Victoria towards Crystal Palace and Hounslow. The report also recommended a number of other schemes including a "Thameslink Metro" route enhancement, and the Chelsea–Hackney line. The cost of the east–west scheme including rolling stock was estimated at £885 million.[14]

In 1991 a private bill was submitted to Parliament for a scheme including a new underground line from Paddington to Liverpool Street.[15] The bill was promoted by London Underground and British Rail, and supported by the government; it was rejected by the Private Bill Committee in 1994[16] on the grounds that a case had not been made, though the government issued "Safeguarding Directions", protecting the route from any development that would jeopardise future schemes.[17]

In 2001 Cross London Rail Links (CLRL), a joint-venture between TfL and the DfT, was formed to develop and promote the Crossrail scheme,[18] and also a Wimbledon–Hackney scheme.

While CLRL was promoting the Crossrail project, alternative schemes were being proposed. In 2002 GB Railways put forward a scheme called SuperCrossRail which would link regional stations such as Cambridge, Guildford, Oxford, Milton Keynes Central, Southend Victoria and Ipswich via a west–east rail tunnel through central London. The tunnel would follow an alignment along the River Thames, with stations at Charing Cross, Blackfriars and London Bridge. In 2004 another proposal named Superlink was promoted by a group of senior railway managers. Like SuperCrossRail, Superlink envisaged linking a number of regional stations via a tunnel through London, but advocated the route already safeguarded for Crossrail. CLRL evaluated both proposals and rejected them due to concerns about network capacity and cost issues.[19][20]


The Crossrail Act 2008 was given royal assent in July 2008,[21][22] giving CLRL the powers necessary to build the line.[23] In September 2009, Tfl was loaned £1 billion towards the project by the European Investment Bank.[24] Both Conservatives and Labour made commitments in their 2010 election manifestos to deliver Crossrail, and the coalition government following the election was committed to the project.[25]


Crossrail's central section uses new east–west twin tunnels under central London, splitting into two branches at the eastern end. The tunnelled sections are altogether approximately 42 kilometres (26 mi) in length.[5]

In the east, the line splits at Whitechapel, with one branch running over the existing Great Eastern Main Line via Stratford to Shenfield (already open and branded as TfL Rail since its inauguration into the TfL network in 2015, and running Class 345 trains), and the other branch running through Canary Wharf then emerging from the tunnel at Custom House on a disused part of the North London Line, and continuing under the River Thames to Abbey Wood.

In the west, the route connects with the Great Western Main Line at Paddington and runs to Hayes and Harlington, where it splits. One branch runs to Heathrow Central (for Terminals 2 and 3), Heathrow Terminal 4 (already open and branded as TfL Rail since its inauguration into the TfL network in 2018, and running Class 345 trains), and Terminal 5,[26] while the other runs over the existing main line to Reading.[27][28]

Western branches

A western branch of the Elizabeth line will serve three stations at Heathrow Airport
A western branch of the Elizabeth line will serve three stations at Heathrow Airport
Currently the eastern terminus of the western branches, Paddington will be a major interchange for Crossrail
Currently the eastern terminus of the western branches, Paddington will be a major interchange for Crossrail

The main western section runs on the Great Western Main Line from Reading to Paddington. Existing stations are being refurbished and upgraded, including the provision of step-free access at all stations and platform lengthening for the new, longer trains.[29]

A "dive-under" was constructed at Acton to allow passenger trains to pass slower freight trains leaving and entering a goods yard. It was completed in July 2016 and was brought into use in 2017.[30][31]

The Heathrow spur has three stations – Heathrow Central (for Terminals 2 and 3), Terminal 4 and Terminal 5[26] – and joins the main route at Airport Junction, between West Drayton and Hayes & Harlington. A flyover near Hayes & Harlington station will allow Heathrow Express trains to pass over the track used by Crossrail, avoiding delays caused by crossings.[32]

Crossrail had been planned to terminate at Maidenhead, with an extension to Reading safeguarded.[33] Various commentators advocated an extension further west as far as Reading because it was seen as complementary to the Great Western Electrification project which was announced in July 2009.[34] A Reading terminus was also recommended by Network Rail's 2011 Route Utilisation Strategy.[35] On 27 March 2014 it was announced that the line would indeed extend to Reading.[27][28][36]

Central section

Map showing the geographic route of Crossrail (purple) alongside London Underground lines.  The line runs alongside the Central line (orange) for much of the central section, and is expected to relieve pressure on it.
Map showing the geographic route of Crossrail (purple) alongside London Underground lines. The line runs alongside the Central line (orange) for much of the central section, and is expected to relieve pressure on it.

The central tunnels run from a portal just west of Paddington to Whitechapel, with further tunnelling to Stratford and to Canary Wharf.

There are new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel, with interchanges with London Underground and other National Rail services. The stations in the central section all have distinctive architecture at street level; at platform level stations have identical "kit-of-parts" architecture, including full height platform screen doors with integrated passenger information displays.[37]

Due to the size and positioning of the new platforms, Farringdon station will also be connected to Barbican station,[38] and Liverpool Street to Moorgate station.[39]

Eastern branches

Liverpool Street (shown here in 2017) is currently the terminus of the eastern branches
Liverpool Street (shown here in 2017) is currently the terminus of the eastern branches

One of the two eastern sections runs underground from Whitechapel to Stratford, then on the surface on the existing main line. The service will replace the "Shenfield metro", with key stops at Ilford, Romford (for interchange with London Overground services to Upminster), Gidea Park (where some peak hour trains will start or terminate), and Shenfield.[40]

The other eastern branch runs underground from Whitechapel to Abbey Wood via Canary Wharf, Custom House and Woolwich. This branch takes over a stretch of the former North London line built by the Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway, and connects it with the North Kent Line via a tunnel under the Thames at North Woolwich.[37]


Design and infrastructure

Elizabeth line roundel installed at Seven Kings in 2019
Elizabeth line roundel installed at Seven Kings in 2019

Name and identity

Crossrail is the name of the construction project and of the limited company, wholly owned by TfL, that was formed to carry out construction works.[41][42]

The Elizabeth line is the public-facing brand name of the new service that will be seen on signage throughout the stations. It is named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. [43] The Elizabeth line logo will feature a Transport for London roundel with a purple ring and blue bar with white text.

TfL Rail is an intermediate brand name which was introduced in May 2015. It is used by Transport for London (TfL) on services between Paddington and Heathrow and Reading, as well as trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield.[44]


21 km (13 mi) of twin-bore tunnels were constructed by tunnel boring machines (TBM), each with an internal diameter of 6.2 m (20 ft 4 in)[45] (compared with 3.81 m (12 ft 6 in) for the deep-level Victoria line). The wide-diameter tunnels allow for new Class 345 rolling stock, which is larger than the traditional deep-level tube trains. The tunnels allow for the emergency evacuation of passengers through the side doors rather than along the length of the train.

The tunnels are made up of three main sections: a 15.39 km (9.6 mi) tunnel from Royal Oak portal near Royal Oak station to Victoria Dock portal near Custom House station, a 2.72 km (1.7 mi) tunnel from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green junction, and a 2.64 km (1.6 mi) tunnel from Plumstead to North Woolwich underneath the Thames.[46]

Crossrail has often been compared to Paris's RER system due to the length of the central tunnel.[47][48]


Crossrail at Farringdon on a preview open day
Crossrail at Farringdon on a preview open day
All stations will have step-free access from street to train
Reading National Rail
Twyford National Rail
Maidenhead National Rail
North sign pointing rightward
Slough National Rail
Airport interchange National Rail London Underground
Terminal 5
Airport interchange National Rail London Underground
Terminal 4
Airport interchange National Rail London Underground
Terminals 2 & 3
West Drayton
Hayes & Harlington National Rail
West Ealing National Rail
Ealing Broadway National Rail London Underground
Acton Main Line
National Rail London Overground
Old Oak Common
Old Oak Common
Ladbroke Grove
Westbound turn-back
Royal Oak portal
Paddington enlarge… National Rail London Underground
Bond Street London Underground
Tottenham Court Road London Underground
Farringdon National Rail Thameslink London Underground
National Rail London Underground London Overground
Liverpool Street
(low level)
Liverpool Street (high level)
(peak only services)
London Underground London Overground Whitechapel
London Underground Docklands Light Railway Canary Wharf
Pudding Mill Lane portal
Victoria Dock portal
Stratford National Rail London Underground London Overground Docklands Light Railway
Docklands Light Railway Custom House
Connaught tunnel
under Royal Docks
Forest Gate
Manor Park
National Rail Docklands Light Railway Woolwich
National Rail Abbey Wood
Seven Kings
Safeguarded extension
to Gravesend
Chadwell Heath
Romford Control Centre
and depot
Romford National Rail London Overground
Gidea Park
Harold Wood
Shenfield National Rail

Ten new stations will be built in the central and south east sections of the line, and 31 existing stations will be upgraded and refurbished.[49] All stations will be fully equipped with CCTV[50] and, due to the length of the platforms, train indicators will be above the platform-edge doors in central stations.[51]

Although initially the trains will be 200 metres (660 feet) long, platforms at the new stations in the central core are built to enable 240 m (790 ft)-long trains in case of possible future need. In the eastern section, Maryland and Manor Park will not have platform extensions, so trains will use selective door opening instead.[52] At Maryland this is because of the prohibitive cost of extensions and the poor business case,[53] and at Manor Park it is due to the presence of a freight loop that would otherwise be cut off.[54]

A mock-up of the new stations was built in Bedfordshire in 2011 to ensure that their architectural integrity would last for a century.[55] It was planned to bring at least one mock-up to London for the public to view the design and give feedback before final construction commenced.[51]

It was announced in July 2017 that Crossrail services would be extended to Heathrow Terminal 5, meaning that all Heathrow terminals will have a Crossrail service when the full service commences.[56]

Station Image Opened TfL Rail/Elizabeth line service began Interchanges
Reading 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a] National Rail
Twyford 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a] National Rail
Maidenhead 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a] National Rail
Taplow 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a]
Burnham 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a]
Slough 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a] National Rail
Langley 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a]
Iver 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a]
West Drayton 15 December 2019 (2019-12-15) [a] National Rail
Terminal 5 Heathrow Airport 9 May 2020 [a] Piccadilly Line
Terminal 4 Heathrow Airport 20 May 2018 [a] Piccadilly Line
Terminal 2&3 Heathrow Airport 20 May 2018 [a] Piccadilly Line
Hayes & Harlington 20 May 2018 [a] National Rail
Southall 20 May 2018 [a] National Rail
Hanwell 20 May 2018 [a]
West Ealing 20 May 2018 [a] National Rail
Ealing Broadway 20 May 2018 [a] National Rail Central line (London Underground) District Line
Acton Main Line 20 May 2018 [a]
Old Oak Common Expected 2026 National Rail
Paddington 20 May 2018 [a] National Rail Bakerloo Line Circle line (London Underground) District Line Hammersmith & City Line
Bond Street 2022 Central line (London Underground) Jubilee Line
Tottenham Court Road 2022 Central line (London Underground) Northern Line
Farringdon 2022 National Rail Circle line (London Underground) Hammersmith & City Line Metropolitan Line
Liverpool Street 2015 (Main Station)[a]
2022 (Low level)
National Rail London Overground Central line (London Underground) Circle line (London Underground) Hammersmith & City Line Metropolitan Line Northern Line
Whitechapel 2022 London Overground District Line Hammersmith & City Line
Canary Wharf 2022 Jubilee Line Docklands Light Railway
Custom House 2022 Docklands Light Railway
Woolwich 2022 National Rail Docklands Light Railway
Abbey Wood 31 May 2015 (TfL Rail managed)
2022 (served)
National Rail
Stratford 31 May 2015 [a] National Rail London Overground Central line (London Underground) Jubilee Line Docklands Light Railway
Maryland 31 May 2015 [a]
Forest Gate 31 May 2015 [a] London Overground
Manor Park 31 May 2015 [a]
Ilford 31 May 2015 [a]
Seven Kings 31 May 2015 [a]
Goodmayes 31 May 2015 [a]
Chadwell Heath 31 May 2015 [a]
Romford 31 May 2015 [a] National Rail London Overground
Gidea Park 31 May 2015 [a]
Harold Wood 31 May 2015 [a]
Brentwood 31 May 2015 [a]
Shenfield 31 May 2015 [a] National Rail
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Service operating as TfL Rail

Handicapped/disabled access All 41 stations will be step-free, with 13 of these stations (the Central and Heathrow stations) having level access from the train to platforms.[57]


Main article: Old Oak Common railway station

As part of the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail link from London to Birmingham, a new station would be built at Old Oak Common between Paddington and Acton Main Line station.[58] The new station would connect HS2 services with Crossrail and National Rail services on the Great Western Main Line, as well as London Overground services running through the area.[59] The station would open with High Speed 2 in 2026, with preliminary construction beginning in 2019.[60]

Rolling stock

Main article: British Rail Class 345

Crossrail will operate using the new Class 345 trains. These are currently being used on the two interim TfL rail branches that will later become part of the Elizabeth line when it first opens.[61] The requirement was for 65 trains, each 200 metres (660 feet) long and carrying up to 1,500 passengers.[61] The trains are accessible, including dedicated areas for wheelchairs, with audio and visual announcements, CCTV and speaker-phones connected to the driver in case of emergency.[62] They will run at up to 140 km/h (90 mph) on certain parts of the route.[63]

In March 2011, Crossrail announced that five bidders had been shortlisted for the contract to build the Class 345 and its associated depot.[64] One of the bidders, Alstom, withdrew from the process in July 2011. In February 2012, Crossrail issued an invitation to negotiate to CAF, Siemens, Hitachi and Bombardier, with tenders expected to be submitted by mid-2012.[65] In 2013, Siemens also withdrew from the bid, but will provide signalling and control systems for Crossrail.[66] In December 2013, the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed to provide loans to Transport for London for the rolling stock of up to £500M.[67] On 6 February 2014, it was announced that Canada's Bombardier had been awarded a £1bn contract to supply 66 trains,[3][68] with an option for 18 more.[3]

The first train entered service on 22 June 2017 on the current TfL Rail route between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield as a seven-carriage unit,[69] since, until the platforms can be lengthened at the former, the complete nine-car sets cannot be accommodated at Liverpool Street.[70]

In July 2017 an option for five more units was exercised taking the order to 70 units.[71][better source needed]

Electrification and signalling

Crossrail will use 25 kV, 50 Hz AC overhead lines, already in use on the Great Eastern and Great Western Main Lines.

The Heathrow branch started using the European Train Control System (ETCS) in 2020. The Automatic Warning (AWS) and Train Protection & Warning (TPWS) Systems are used on the Great Western and Great Eastern Main Lines, with possible later upgrades to ETCS. Communications-based train control (CBTC) is installed in the central section and the Abbey Wood branch.[72][73][74]


Crossrail will have depots in west London at Old Oak Common TMD, in south-east London at Plumstead Depot, and in east London at Ilford EMU Depot and at a new signalling centre at Romford in Havering, East London.[75][76]


Construction of the Crossrail portal at Royal Oak, from a footbridge to the west of Royal Oak Underground station, July 2011
Construction of the Crossrail portal at Royal Oak, from a footbridge to the west of Royal Oak Underground station, July 2011


Construction of Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road in September 2011
Construction of Crossrail at Tottenham Court Road in September 2011

In April 2009, Crossrail announced that 17 firms had secured 'Enabling Works Framework Agreements' and would now be able to compete for packages of works.[77] At the peak of construction up to 14,000 people were expected to be needed in the project's supply chain.[78][79]

Work began on 15 May 2009 when piling works started at the future Canary Wharf station.[80]

The threat of diseases being released by work on the project was raised by Lord James of Blackheath at the passing of the Crossrail Bill. He told the House of Lords select committee that 682 victims of anthrax had been brought into Smithfield in Farringdon with some contaminated meat in 1520 and then buried in the area.[81] On 24 June 2009 it was reported that no traces of anthrax or bubonic plague had been found on human bone fragments discovered during tunnelling.[82]

Invitations to tender for the two principal tunnelling contracts were published in the Official Journal of the European Union in August 2009. 'Tunnels West' (C300) was for twin 6.2 kilometres (3.9 mi)-long tunnels from Royal Oak through to the new Crossrail Farringdon Station, with a portal west of Paddington. The 'Tunnels East' (C305) request was for three tunnel sections and 'launch chambers' in east London.[83][non-primary source needed] Contracts were awarded in late 2010: the 'Tunnels West' contract was awarded to BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Kier Construction (BFK); the 'Tunnels East' contract was awarded to Dragados and John Sisk & Son.[84][85] The remaining tunnelling contract (C310, Plumstead to North Woolwich), which included a tunnel under the Thames, was awarded to Hochtief and J. Murphy & Sons in 2011.[86]

By September 2009, preparatory work for the £1 billion developments at Tottenham Court Road station had begun, with buildings (including the Astoria Theatre) being compulsorily purchased and demolished.[87]

In March 2010, contracts were awarded to civil engineering companies for the second round of 'enabling work' including 'Royal Oak Portal Taxi Facility Demolition', 'Demolition works for Crossrail Bond Street Station', 'Demolition works for Crossrail Tottenham Court Road Station' and 'Pudding Mill Lane Portal'.[88] In December 2010, contracts were awarded for most of the tunnelling work.[89] To assist with the skills required for the Crossrail project, Crossrail Ltd opened in 2011 the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in Ilford.[90] The Academy was handed over to Transport for London in 2017, who have sub-contracted its management to PROCAT.[91]

In February 2010, Crossrail was accused of bullying residents whose property lay on the route into selling for less than the market value.[92] A subsequent London Assembly report was highly critical of the insensitive way in which Crossrail had dealt with compulsory purchases and the lack of assistance given to the people and businesses affected.[93] There were also complaints from music fans, as the London Astoria was forced to close.[94]

In December 2011, a contract to ship the excavated material from the tunnel to Wallasea Island[95] was awarded to a joint venture comprising BAM Nuttall Limited and Van Oord UK Limited.[96][97][non-primary source needed] Between 4.5 and 5 million tonnes of soil would be used to construct a new wetland nature reserve (Wallasea Wetlands).[95][98] The project eventually moved seven million tons of earth.[99]

Restoration of Connaught Tunnel by filling with concrete foam and reboring, as originally intended, was deemed too great a risk to the structural integrity of the tunnel, and so the docks above were drained to give access to the tunnel roof in order to enlarge its profile. This work took place during 2013.[100][101]

Boring of the railway tunnels was officially completed at Farringdon on 4 June 2015 in the presence of the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London.[102]

Installation of the track was completed in September 2017.[103] The ETCS signalling was scheduled to be tested in the Heathrow tunnels over the winter of 2017/18.[104] The south east section of the infrastructure was energised in February 2018, with the first test train run between Plumstead and Abbey Wood that month.[105] In May 2018 the overhead lines were powered up between Westbourne Park and Stepney, the installation of platform doors was completed,[106] and video was released of the first trains travelling through the tunnels.[107]

TfL Rail took over Heathrow Connect services from Paddington to Heathrow in May 2018.[108][104]

Construction of the link with Liverpool Street at Moorgate, November 2018
Construction of the link with Liverpool Street at Moorgate, November 2018

At the end of August 2018, four months before the scheduled opening of the core section of the line, it was announced that completion was delayed and that the line would not open before autumn 2019.[109]

In April 2019, it was announced that Crossrail would be completed between October 2020 and March 2021, two years behind schedule, and that it would not include the opening of the Bond Street station, one of ten new stations on the line.[110][111] The London Assembly's transport committee concluded that Transport for London (TfL) played down the prospect of delays to the project in updates to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and called for TfL commissioner Mike Brown to consider his position.[112] Crossrail said major challenges before completion included writing and testing the software that would integrate the train with three different track signalling systems, and installing equipment inside the tunnels.[110]

In July 2019, it was announced that the line would not open in 2021, with TfL not expecting the full line from Heathrow to Shenfield to open until the early part of the 2023/24 financial year.[113]

In August 2020, Crossrail announced that the central section would be ready to open "in the first half of 2022".[114]

In May 2021 trial running commenced.[115]

Tunnel boring machines

The second Tunnel Boring Machine "Ada" en route to the Royal Oak Portal, June 2012
The second Tunnel Boring Machine "Ada" en route to the Royal Oak Portal, June 2012

The project used eight 7.1-metre (23-foot) diameter tunnel-boring machines (TBM) from Herrenknecht AG (Germany). Two types are used; 'slurry' type for the Thames tunnel, which involves tunnelling through chalk; and 'Earth Pressure Balance Machines' (EPBM) for tunnelling through clay, sand and gravel (at lower levels through Lambeth Group and Thanet Sands ground formation). The TBMs weigh nearly 1,000 tonnes and are over 100 metres (330 feet) long.[45][116] The main tunnelling contracts are valued at around £1.5 billion.[117]

The TBMs were named (per tradition). Crossrail ran a competition in January 2012 in which over 2500 entries were received and 10 pairs of names short-listed. After a public vote in February 2012, the first three pairs of names were announced on 13 March and the last pair on 16 August 2013:[118][119]

Health, safety, and industrial relations

The collapsed gantry (29 September 2012)
The collapsed gantry (29 September 2012)
The Tottenham Court Road construction site (2009). This included the former site of the London Astoria music venue.
The Tottenham Court Road construction site (2009). This included the former site of the London Astoria music venue.

In 2012, Crossrail faced accusations of blacklisting. It was revealed that an industrial relations manager, Ron Barron, employed by Bechtel, had routinely cross-checked job applicants against the Consulting Association database.[120] An employment tribunal in 2010 heard that Barron introduced the use of the blacklist at his former employer, the construction firm Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I), and referred to it more than 900 times in 2007 alone. He was found to have unlawfully refused employment to a Philip Willis. Aggravated damages were awarded because Barron had added information about Willis to the blacklist.[120]

In May 2012, a BFK manager challenged their subcontractor, Electrical Installations Services Ltd. (EIS), saying that one of their electricians was a trade union activist. Some days later, Pat Swift, the HR manager for BFK and a regular user of the Consulting Association, again challenged EIS. EIS refused to dismiss their worker and lost the contract. Flash pickets were held at the Crossrail site and also at the sites of the BFK partners.[citation needed] The Scottish Affairs Select Committee called on the UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to set up a government investigation into blacklisting at Crossrail.[121][122] The electrician was reinstated.[123] Further allegations of blacklisting against Crossrail were made in Parliament in September 2017.[124]

In September 2012, a gantry supporting a spoil hopper, used to load rail wagons with excavated waste at a construction site near Westbourne Park Underground station, collapsed. It tipped sideways, causing the adjacent Network Rail line to be closed.[125][126]

On 7 March 2014, Rene Tkacik, a Slovakian construction worker, was killed by a piece of falling concrete while working in a tunnel.[127] In April 2014, The Observer reported details of a leaked internal report, compiled for the Crossrail contractors by an independent safety consultancy. The report was alleged to have pointed to poor industrial relations arising from safety concerns, and that workers were "too scared to report injuries for fear of being sacked".[128]

Three construction workers died from suspected heart attacks over six months in 2019, but Crossrail announced that, following extensive testing, the air quality at Bond Street station was within acceptable limits.[129]


Much like the Thames Tideway Scheme and the High Speed 2 projects that were under development in London at the same time as Crossrail, the excavation works that took place during the project gave archaeologists a valuable opportunity to explore the earth underneath London's streets that was previously seen as inaccessible. Crossrail undertook what was described as one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever seen in the UK. Over 100 archaeologists have found tens of thousands of items from 40 sites, spanning 55 million years of London's history and prehistory.[130] Many of the items were placed on show at the Museum of London Docklands from February to September 2017. Some of the most notable finds include:[131][132]

Operational testing

In the first half of 2021, Crossrail entered trial running stage of construction.[135] This means that Crossrail in partnership with Transport for London are running trains to a timetable through the core section, to check the reliability of the railway. In November 2021, Crossrail entered trial operation which is the final stage before opening.[136]

Expected completion

With an initial budget of £14.8bn, the total cost has risen to £18.25bn.[137][138] As of August 2021, seven of the nine new stations have been handed over to TfL.[139]

TfL expects that the full line will not be completely operational until 2023,[113] and Crossrail have indicated that the central section (the tunnels under Central London) would open "in the first half of 2022".[114]


Further information: TfL Rail

Map of Transport for London services including TfL Rail and Elizabeth line
Map of Transport for London services including TfL Rail and Elizabeth line

Once fully opened, the Elizabeth line will run a familiar London Underground-style all-stops service in the central core section and eastern branches, but initial timetable plans suggest that several trains on the western branches will run semi-fast. Initial proposals suggest Acton Main Line, West Ealing and Hanwell will be served only by Heathrow T4-bound trains.

Like the outer sections of Thameslink, the Elizabeth line will share platforms and tracks with other services outside the tunnelled sections. Some run by other train companies will continue to call at various stations on the Great Western Main Line branch, and Heathrow Express will continue to run between Paddington and Heathrow stations.

The eastern section via Stratford is expected to see an additional four trains per hour (tph) during peak times between Gidea Park and the existing main line Liverpool Street station's high level terminating platforms. Since these trains run over existing above-ground lines from Liverpool Street to Stratford, they will not call at Whitechapel.

The proposed timetable consists of the following services on the Elizabeth line during peak hours:[140][141][142]


Though the main tunnels under central London have not yet been opened, passenger operations on the outer branches of the Crossrail system have been transferred to TfL for inclusion in the Crossrail concession - this took place over several stages beginning May 2015. During this initial phase of operation, services are being operated by MTR under the TfL Rail brand. Following the practice adopted during the transfer of former Silverlink services to London Overground in 2007, TfL will carry out a deep clean of stations and trains on the future Elizabeth line route, install new ticket machines and barriers, introduce Oyster card and contactless payment, and ensure all stations are staffed. Existing rolling stock has been rebranded with the TfL Rail identity.[41]

TfL Rail/Elizabeth line services
Stage Map Completion dates Notes Completed?
Original Current Actual
May 2015[143] 31 May 2015[144] Existing "metro" service between Liverpool Street (main line station) and Shenfield transferred from Abellio Greater Anglia to TfL Rail Green check.svg Yes
May 2017[143] 22 June 2017[145] Class 345 trains start running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield in reduced length format[146] Green check.svg Yes
May 2018[143] 20 May 2018[148] Existing service between Paddington (main line station) and Heathrow Terminal 4 transferred from Heathrow Connect

Existing shuttle service between Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 and Heathrow Terminal 4 transferred from Heathrow Express, both to TfL Rail

Green check.svg Yes
N/A 15 December 2019[150] Most stopping services between Paddington and Reading transferred from Great Western Railway to TfL Rail, operating up to 4tph
The first TfL trains in public service to Reading ran on 25 November 2019 as a soft launch of the service.[151]
Green check.svg Yes
May 2018[143] 30 July 2020[152] Class 345 trains start running between Paddington and Heathrow Green check.svg Yes
4a [153]
N/A 26 May 2021[154] Class 345 trains in full length format start running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield[154] Green check.svg Yes
Dec 2018[143] April 2022 Services between Paddington (Elizabeth line station) and Abbey Wood begin; this section and existing TfL Rail routes rebranded as the Elizabeth line, up to 12tph Dark Red x.svg No
May 2019[143] Approx 2022[155] Elizabeth line services between Paddington and Shenfield via Whitechapel and Liverpool Street (Elizabeth line station) begin, up to 24tph in core Dark Red x.svg No
Dec 2019[143] May


Full route opens, linking Abbey Wood and Shenfield to Heathrow Airport via Paddington

Existing services between Reading and Paddington extended to Abbey Wood and Shenfield

Dark Red x.svg No

Journey times

Minutes between stations[156]
Route Current time Crossrail time
Paddington to Tottenham Court Road 20 4
Paddington to Canary Wharf 34 17
Bond Street to Paddington 15 3
Bond Street to Whitechapel 24 10
Canary Wharf to Liverpool Street 21 6
Canary Wharf to Heathrow 55 39
Whitechapel to Canary Wharf 13 3
Abbey Wood to Heathrow 93 52


Ticketing is intended to be integrated with the other London transport systems, but Oyster pay as you go will not be accepted on the western section between West Drayton (the limit of TfL's Zone 6) and Reading, with only contactless cards valid there. Travelcards and concessionary passes will be valid within Greater London. Like TfL Rail's Heathrow service (formerly Heathrow Connect), trips to or from Heathrow Airport will be priced at a premium owing to the additional cost of using the rail tunnel between the airport and Hayes & Harlington, but Heathrow will be included within travelcards and daily/weekly fare capping as a Zone 6 station.[157] Crossrail will be integrated with the Underground and National Rail networks, and it is planned to include it on the standard London Underground Map.[citation needed]

Passenger numbers

Crossrail has predicted annual passenger numbers of over 200 million from its opening;[6] this is expected to relieve pressure on London Underground's lines, especially the Central line.[158] Farringdon is expected to become one of the busiest stations in the UK, due to it being the key interchange stations with Thameslink services.[159] Once Crossrail is fully open, TfL expects total annual revenues from the line of nearly £500 million per year in 2022/23 (its first full year of operation) and over £1 billion per year from 2024/25.[6]

Further proposals

Additional stations

The Elizabeth line will pass close to London City Airport but no station is currently planned
The Elizabeth line will pass close to London City Airport but no station is currently planned

Silvertown (London City Airport)

Although the Crossrail route passes very close to London City Airport, there will not be a station serving the airport directly. London City Airport has proposed the re-opening of Silvertown railway station, in order to create an interchange between the rail line and the airport.[160] The self-funded £50m station plan is supported 'in principle' by the London Borough of Newham.[161] Provisions for re-opening of the station were made in 2012 by Crossrail.[162] However, it is alleged by the airport that Transport for London is hostile to the idea of a station on the site, a claim disputed by TfL.[163]

In 2018, the airport's chief development officer described the lack of a Crossrail station as a "missed opportunity", but did not rule out a future station for the airport.[164] The CEO stated in an interview that a station is not essential to the airport's success.[165] In May 2019, the chief development officer confirmed discussions are ongoing about a station for the airport as part of the proposed extension to Ebbsfleet.[166]


Possible Crossrail extensions as recommended in the 2011 RUS[167]
Possible Crossrail extensions as recommended in the 2011 RUS[167]

To Ebbsfleet and Gravesend

In the 2003 and 2004 consultations into Crossrail, the South East branch was proposed to go beyond Abbey Wood, running along the North Kent Line to Ebbsfleet, linking up with the (then under construction) Channel Tunnel Rail Link.[168][169] However, prior to the submission of the Crossrail Hybrid Bill to Parliament in 2005, the branch was truncated at Abbey Wood to cut overall project costs.[170] Although dropped from the main scheme, the route was safeguarded by the Department for Transport as far as Gravesend and Hoo Junction, protecting the route from development.[171]

With the Crossrail project nearing completion in 2018, local MPs, council leaders and local businesses began lobbying[172] the government to fund the development of a business case for the extension to Ebbsfleet,[173][174] with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan including the project into his Mayor's Transport Strategy.[175] The Mayor's Transport Strategy estimated that an extension could assist in delivering 55,000 new homes and 50,000 new jobs planned along the route in Bexley and north Kent.[176] In March 2019, the Government committed £4.8m on exploratory work into the extension as part of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission.[177][170]

The following stations are on the protected route extension to Gravesend: Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green, Dartford, Stone Crossing, Greenhithe for Bluewater, Swanscombe, Ebbsfleet, Northfleet, and Gravesend.[178]

To the West Coast Main Line

Network Rail's July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended that a short railway line could be built to connect the West Coast Main Line (WCML) with the Crossrail route. This would enable train services that currently run between Milton Keynes Central and London Euston to be re-routed via Old Oak Common to serve central London, Shenfield and Abbey Wood. The report argued that this would free up capacity at Euston for the planned High Speed 2, reduce London Underground congestion at Euston, make better use of Crossrail's capacity west of Paddington, and improve access to Heathrow Airport from the north.[179] Under this scheme, all Crossrail trains would continue west of Paddington, instead of some of them terminating there. They would serve Heathrow Airport (10 tph), stations to Maidenhead and Reading (6 tph), and stations to Milton Keynes Central (8 tph).[180]

In August 2014, a statement by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin indicated that the government was actively evaluating the extension of Crossrail as far as Tring and Milton Keynes Central, with potential Crossrail stops at Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring, Cheddington, Leighton Buzzard and Bletchley. The extension would relieve some pressure from London Underground and London Euston station while also increasing connectivity. Conditions to the extension were that any extra services should not affect the planned service pattern for confirmed routes, as well as affordability.[181][182] This proposal was shelved in August 2016 due to "poor overall value for money to the taxpayer".[183]

To Staines

As part of the Heathrow Southern Railway scheme proposed in 2017, the western extent of the Crossrail route could be extended beyond Heathrow Airport to terminate at Staines. This extension would form part of a wider scheme to create new rail links in west London and Surrey serving Heathrow, and would require the construction of an extra platform at Staines station. This proposal has not been approved or funded.[184]

To Southend Airport

Stobart Aviation, the company that operates Southend Airport in Essex, has proposed that Crossrail should be extended beyond Shenfield along the Shenfield–Southend line to serve Southend Airport and Southend Victoria. The company has suggested that a direct Heathrow-Southend link could alleviate capacity problems at Heathrow.[185] The extension proposal has been supported by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.[186]

Management and franchise

Funding for the project came from:

Crossrail is being built by Crossrail Ltd, jointly owned by Transport for London and the Department for Transport until December 2008, when full ownership was transferred to TfL. In 2007, Crossrail had a £15.9 billion funding package in place[188] for the construction of the line. Although the branch lines to the west and to Shenfield will still be owned by Network Rail, the tunnel will be owned and operated by TfL.[189]

On 18 July 2014, TfL London Rail said that MTR Corp had won the concession to operate the services for eight years, with an option for two more years.[2] The concession will be similar to London Overground.[190][non-primary source needed] It is planned for the franchise to run for eight years from May 2015,[2] taking over control of Shenfield metro services from Abellio Greater Anglia in May 2015,[2] and Reading / Heathrow services from Great Western Railway in 2018.[191]

In anticipation of a May 2015 transfer of Shenfield to Liverpool Street services from the East Anglia franchise to Crossrail, the invitation to tender for the 2012–2013 franchise required the new rail operator to set up a separate "Crossrail business unit" for those services before the end of 2012, to allow transfer of services to the new Crossrail Train Operating Concession (CTOC) operator during the next franchise.[189][192]

See also

United Kingdom

Elsewhere in Europe


North America



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Preceded byAbellio Greater AngliaShenfield Metro services Operator of MTR Crossrail 2015–2023 Incumbent Preceded byGreat Western RailwayMaidenhead and Reading services Preceded byHeathrow ConnectHeathrow Terminal 4 services