Crossrail (to be known as the Elizabeth line)[4] is a 73-mile (117-kilometre) new railway line under development in England. Crossing London from west to east, at each end of its central core the line will divide into two branches: in the west to Reading or stations at Heathrow Airport, and in the east to Abbey Wood or Shenfield. In May 2015, a section of one of the eastern branches, between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, was 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.

Crossrail tunnel under construction
Other name(s)Elizabeth line (from 2021)
SystemNational Rail
StatusUnder construction
LocaleGreater London; Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex
TerminiWest: London Heathrow Airport / Reading
East: Abbey Wood / Shenfield
Operator(s)MTR Corporation (Crossrail) Ltd[2]
Rolling stockClass 345
9 carriages per trainset[3]
Line lengthApprox. 73 mi (117 km)
Number of tracks2
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification25 kV 50 Hz AC (overhead lines)
Operating speed90 mph (140 km/h)
Route map

All stations will have step-free access from street to train
Terminal 5
Terminal 4
Terminals 2 & 3
West Drayton
Hayes & Harlington
West Ealing
Ealing Broadway
Acton Main Line
Old Oak Common
Old Oak Common
Ladbroke Grove
Westbound turn-back
Royal Oak portal
Bond Street
Tottenham Court Road
Liverpool Street
(low level)
Liverpool Street (high level)
(peak only services)
Canary Wharf
Pudding Mill Lane portal
Victoria Dock portal
Custom House
Connaught tunnel
under Royal Docks
Forest Gate
Manor Park
Abbey Wood
Seven Kings
Safeguarded extension
to Gravesend
Chadwell Heath
Romford Control Centre
and depot
Gidea Park
Harold Wood

The project was approved in 2007, and construction work began in 2009 on the central section and connections to existing lines that will become part of the route.[5] A main feature is 13 miles (21 km) of twin tunnels below the city running from Paddington to Stratford and Canary Wharf.[6]

New nine-carriage Class 345 trains will run at frequencies in the central section of up to 24 trains per hour in each direction. This will provide some relief for London Underground lines such as the Central, the District, the Jubilee line extension and the Heathrow branch of the Piccadilly line. Crossrail 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 £800 million per year in 2021/22 and over £1 billion per year from 2022/23.[7]

With an initial budget of £14.8bn, the total cost has risen to £18.25bn. Originally planned to open in 2018, Crossrail continues to be delayed and, as of 8 November 2019, it is estimated to open some time in 2021.[8][9]


Crossrail timeline
1941–48First proposals for cross-London railway tunnels put forward by George Dow
1974London Rail Study Report recommends a PaddingtonLiverpool Street "Crossrail" tunnel
1989Central London Rail Study proposes three Crossrail schemes, including an east–west Paddington/Marylebone–Liverpool Street route
1991Private bill promoted by London Underground and British Rail submitted to Parliament proposing a Paddington–Liverpool Street tunnel; it is rejected in 1994
2001Crossrail scheme promoted through Cross London Rail Links (CLRL)
2004Senior railway managers promote an expanded regional Superlink scheme
2005Crossrail Bill put before Parliament
2008Crossrail Act 2008 receives royal assent
2009Construction work begins at Canary Wharf
2015Liverpool Street–Shenfield service transferred to TfL Rail
2017New Crossrail trains introduced on Liverpool Street–Shenfield route
2018Paddington–Heathrow services transferred to TfL Rail
2019TfL Rail begin operating Paddington-Reading services
2020-2021Central section to open under Elizabeth line name; full Elizabeth line route due to open
2026Possible opening of new station at Old Oak Common

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] 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] Construction began on 15 May 2009.[24] In September 2009 Tfl was loaned £1 billion towards the project by the European Investment Bank.[25] 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.[26]


On 15 May 2009, construction began at Canary Wharf station.[27]

At the end of August 2018, four months before the scheduled opening of the core section of the Elizabeth line, it was announced that completion was delayed and that the line would not open before Autumn 2019.[28]

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.[29][30] 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.[31] Crossrail said major challenges before completion included writing and testing the software that would integrate the train with three different track signaling systems, and installing equipment inside the tunnels.[29]

With an initial budget of £14.8bn, the total cost has risen to £18.25bn. Originally planned to open in 2018, Crossrail continues to be delayed and, as of 8 November 2019, it is estimated to open sometime in 2021.[8][9]


Crossrail's central section uses new east–west twin tunnels under central London, splitting into two branches at either end. The tunnelled sections are approximately 22 kilometres (14 mi) in length.

In the east, the line splits at Whitechapel, with one branch running over the existing Great Eastern Main Line via Stratford to Shenfield, 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 and Terminal 5,[32] while the other runs over the existing main line to Reading.[33][34]

Western branches

The main western section runs on the surface from Reading to Acton Main Line. Upgrades are being made to stations at Maidenhead, Taplow, Burnham, Slough, Langley, Iver, West Drayton, Hayes & Harlington, Southall, Hanwell, West Ealing, Ealing Broadway and Acton Main Line.

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.[35][36]

The Heathrow spur has three stations – Heathrow Central (for Terminals 2 and 3), Terminal 4 and Terminal 5[32] – and joins the main route at Airport Junction, between West Drayton and Hayes & Harlington. Construction of a flyover near Hayes & Harlington station began in 2014, and will allow Heathrow Express trains to pass over the track used by Crossrail, avoiding delays caused by crossings.[37]

Crossrail had been planned to terminate at Maidenhead, with an extension to Reading safeguarded.[38] On 27 March 2014, however, it was announced that the line would indeed extend to Reading.[33][34][39]

Central section

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

There will be new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel, with interchanges with the London Underground and other National Rail services. Due to the size and positioning of the new platforms, Farringdon station will also be connected to Barbican station, and Liverpool Street to Moorgate station.

Positioning a new station at Paddington presented structural design challenges due to its positioning just below Eastbourne Terrace and the station's taxi rank, and within 3 m (10 ft) of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 150-year-old mainline station.[40]

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.

The other eastern branch runs underground from Whitechapel to Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood. It takes over the Custom House to Woolwich (via Connaught Tunnel) 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. It will include a station at Woolwich.[41] Efforts to connect Crossrail with London City Airport were not fruitful.[42]

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.[43][44]

Design and infrastructure

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.[45][46]

Since May 2015, rail services on future Crossrail route that are now managed by TfL are being operated under the temporary brand name of TfL Rail. Trains on the Paddington–Heathrow and Liverpool Street–Shenfield routes are painted with Crossrail livery and bear the TfL Rail logo, a Transport for London Roundel in TfL Blue, emblazoned with the TfL Rail name in white.[47][48][49]


There are five tunnelled sections, each with an internal diameter of 6.2 m (20 ft 4 in)[50] (compared with 3.81 m (12 ft 6 in) for the deep-level Victoria line), totalling 21 km (13 mi) in length: a 6.4 km (4.0 mi) tunnel from near Royal Oak Underground station to Farringdon; an 8.3 km (5.2 mi) tunnel from Limmo Peninsula in Canning Town to Farringdon; a 2.7 km (1.7 mi) tunnel from Pudding Mill Lane near Stratford to Stepney Green; a 2.6 km (1.6 mi) tunnel from Plumstead to North Woolwich (Thames tunnel section); and a 0.9 km (0.6 mi) tunnel from Limmo Peninsula to the Victoria Dock portal which re-uses the Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney tunnelling machines.

Each section consists of two tunnels excavated at the same time, with two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) per section. The tunnel linings are constructed from concrete sections, some of which are produced in Chatham Dockyard then transported by barge to the Limmo Peninsula. At the time, it was estimated that tunnelling would progress at 100 m (330 ft) per week.[50] The main tunnelling contracts are valued at around £1.5 billion.[51] 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. When bicycles are allowed to be carried it is regarded as essential to allow evacuation to the sides of the train.[52]

Crossrail has often been compared to Paris' RER system due to the length of the central tunnel.[53][54]


As well as nine new stations, Crossrail requires significant work on existing station infrastructure. Although initially the trains will be 200 metres (660 feet) long, platforms at the new stations in the central core are being built to enable 240 m (790 ft)-long trains in case of possible future extensions. At existing stations, platforms are being lengthened accordingly.[55]

In the eastern section, Maryland and Manor Park will not have platform extensions, so trains will use selective door opening instead.[56] At Maryland this is because of the prohibitive cost of extensions and the poor business case,[57] and at Manor Park it is due to the presence of a freight loop that would otherwise be cut off.[58]

A mock-up of the new stations was built in Bedfordshire to ensure that the 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.[59]

Of the 40 stations, 32 will have step-free access to both platforms,[60] and train doors will be level with the platforms at central stations and at Heathrow. The stations will be fully equipped with CCTV[61] and, due to the length of the platforms, train indicators will be above the platform-edge doors in central stations.[59]

It was announced on 5 July 2017 that Crossrail services would be extended to Heathrow Terminal 5 in December 2019, meaning that all Heathrow terminals will have a Crossrail service when the full service commences between October 2020 - April 2021.[62]

Rolling stock

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.[63] The requirement is for 65 trains, each 200 metres (660 feet) long and carrying up to 1,500 passengers.[63] The trains will be accessible, including dedicated areas for wheelchairs, with audio and visual announcements, CCTV and speaker-phones connected to the driver in case of emergency.[61] Crossrail has stated that the new trains will be based on existing designs to minimise costs associated with development.[64] They will run at up to 140 km/h (90 mph) on certain parts of the route.[65]

In March 2011, Crossrail announced that five bidders had been shortlisted for the contract to build the Class 345 and its associated depot.[66] 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.[67] In 2013, Siemens also withdrew from the bid, but will provide signalling and control systems for Crossrail.[68]

In February 2014, Transport for London and the Department for Transport announced that the contract to build and maintain the new rolling stock had been awarded to Bombardier.[3] The contract covers the supply, delivery and maintenance of 65 new trains and a depot at Old Oak Common. The trains are being built at Bombardier's Derby Litchurch Lane Works. This contract will support around 760 UK manufacturing jobs plus 80 apprenticeships. An estimated 74 per cent of contract spend is expected to remain in the UK economy.[69] The design will be based on Bombardier's Aventra design. The first Class 345 train entered service on 22 June 2017 and they are notable in that they are the first mainline trains in Britain since 1962 to not have a yellow warning panel of any kind painted on the driving ends.[70]

Electrification and signalling

Crossrail will use 25 kV, 50 Hz AC overhead lines, as on the Great Eastern Main Line and the Great Western Main Line as far as Airport Junction. Overhead electrification has been installed between Airport Junction and Didcot Parkway as part of the 21st-century modernisation of the Great Western Main Line (GWML upgrade), but Crossrail will only use it as far as Reading.

The signalling will be a mixture of ETCS 2 on the western branches from 2019, communication-based train control with automatic train operation on the core and Abbey Wood branch (with a possible later upgrade to ETCS), and Automatic Warning System with Train Protection & Warning System on the Great Western Main Line and Great Eastern Main Line.[71][72][73]


Crossrail will have a depot in West London at Old Oak Common and another at a new signalling centre at Romford in East London.[74][75]



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.[76] At the peak of construction up to 14,000 people were expected to be needed in the project's supply chain.[77][78]

Work began on 15 May 2009 when piling works started at the future Canary Wharf station.[27]

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.[79] 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.[80]

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.[81] 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.[82][83] 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.[84]

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.[85]

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'.[86] In December 2010, contracts were awarded for most of the tunnelling work.[87] To assist with the skills required for the Crossrail project, Crossrail Ltd opened in 2011 the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in Ilford.[88] The Academy was handed over to Transport for London in 2017, who have sub contracted its management to PROCAT.[89]

In February 2010, Crossrail was accused of bullying residents whose property lay on the route into selling for less than the market value.[90] 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.[91] There were also complaints from music fans, as the London Astoria was forced to close.[92]

In December 2011, a contract to ship the excavated material from the tunnel to Wallasea Island[93] was awarded to a joint venture comprising BAM Nuttall Limited and Van Oord UK Limited.[94][95] Between 4.5 and 5 million tonnes of soil will be used to construct a new wetland nature reserve (Wallasea Wetlands).[93][96] The project eventually moved seven million tons of earth.[97]

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.[98]

Installation of the track was completed in September 2017.[99] The ETCS signalling was scheduled to be tested in the Heathrow tunnels over the winter of 2017/18.[100] 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.[101] In May 2018 the overhead lines were powered up between Westborne Park and Stepney and the installation of platform doors was completed,[102] and video was released of the first trains traveling through the tunnels.[103]

TfL Rail took over Heathrow Connect services from Paddington to Heathrow in May 2018.[104] The infrastructure will be handed over to TfL in summer 2018, so that they can start trial operations to ensure the reliability of the service.[100]

Tunnel boring machines

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.[50][105]

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:[106][107]

Health, safety, and industrial relations

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.[108] 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.[108]

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. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee called on the UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to set up a government investigation into blacklisting at Crossrail.[109][110] The electrician was reinstated.[111] Further allegations of blacklisting against Crossrail were made in Parliament in September 2017.[112]

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.[113][114]

On 7 March 2014, Rene Tkacik, a Slovakian construction worker, was killed by a piece of falling concrete while working in a tunnel.[115] 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".[116]

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.[117]


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 archeological 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.[118] 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:[119][120]


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 and Hanwell will be served only by Heathrow-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:[123][124][125]


Before the main tunnels under central London are opened, it is planned to transfer passenger operations on the outer branches of the Crossrail system to TfL for inclusion in the Crossrail concession. This transfer 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.[45]

TfL Rail/Elizabeth line services
Stage Map Date Notes Status
0 May 2015 Existing "metro" service between Liverpool Street (main line station) and Shenfield transferred from Abellio Greater Anglia to TfL Rail Y
1 June 2017 - New Class 345 trains phased into service Y
2 20 May 2018[126] 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

5a[127] 15 December 2019[128] 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.[129]
2b Early 2020[127] Class 345 trains start running between Paddington and Heathrow
3 October 2020 - March 2021[127] 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
4 Approx March 2021 to September 2021[127] Elizabeth line services between Paddington and Shenfield via Liverpool Street (Elizabeth line station) begin, up to 24tph in core
5 Approx September to December 2021[127] Full route opens, linking Abbey Wood and Shenfield to Heathrow Airport via Paddington

Existing services between Reading and Paddington transferred to Elizabeth line and extended to Abbey Wood and Shenfield

Journey times

Minutes between stations[130]
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 past West Drayton (the limit of TfL's Zone 6), 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.[131] Crossrail will be integrated with the Underground and National Rail networks, and it is planned to include it on the standard London Underground Map.

Passenger numbers

Crossrail has predicted annual passenger numbers of over 200 million from its opening in late 2020;[7] this is expected to relieve pressure on London Underground's lines, especially the Central line.[132] Farringdon is expected to become one of the busiest stations in the UK, due to it being the key interchange station with the North–South Thameslink route.[133] Once Crossrail is fully open, TfL expects total annual revenues from the line of nearly £800 million per year in 2021/22 (its first full year of operation) and over £1 billion per year from 2022/23.[7]


New stations


The opening of the new Crossrail station will reduce the journey times from Woolwich, taking 8 minutes to Canary Wharf, 21 m to Bond Street and 47 m to Heathrow.[134] The construction of a station at Woolwich was not proposed as part of the original Crossrail route. The House of Commons Select Committee recognised its inclusion in March 2007.[134] When Crossrail becomes operational, the new station located on the southeast section of the route will see up to 12 trains an hour. It will run during peak hours, connecting south-east London and the Royal Docks with Canary Wharf, central London and beyond.[134]

The Woolwich station is being built on the southeast portion of the Crossrail line that ends at Abbey Wood. The Woolwich redevelopment site at Royal Arsenal is a waterside housing and retail development area adjacent to the Woolwich station. It is spread across approximately 30 ha (74 acres) of land and is being developed by Berkeley Homes.[134] The site is being developed with the construction of approximately 2,517 new homes, in addition to the 1,248 homes already built.[135] The area also includes a new heritage quarter along with the Greenwich Heritage Centre, as well as infrastructural developments such as retail stores, restaurants and cafés, offices, hotels and cinemas.[135]

Old Oak Common

As part of the former Labour government's plans for the High Speed 2 rail link from London to Birmingham, a Crossrail-High Speed 2 interchange would be built at Old Oak Common (between Paddington and Acton Main Line stations). This would be built as part of High Speed 2 (which would start construction, under Labour's plans, in 2017), so would not be built in the first phase of Crossrail. It would provide interchange to other mainline and TfL lines. The succeeding Conservative-Liberal Democrat government adopted that proposal in the plans it put forward for public consultation. This means it is likely to go forward as part of High Speed 2, potentially giving Crossrail an interchange with High Speed 2, the Great Western Main Line (GWML), Central line and London Overground services running through the area.[136]

Further proposals

Additional stations

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.[137] The self-funded £50m station plan is supported 'in principle' by the London Borough of Newham.[138] Provisions for re-opening of the station were made in 2012 by Crossrail.[139] 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.[140]

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.[141] The CEO stated in an interview that a station is not essential to the airport's success.[142]

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.[143]


To Reading

According to the original plans, Maidenhead was planned to be the western terminus of Crossrail. 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.[145] A Reading terminus was also recommended by Network Rail's 2011 Route Utilisation Strategy.[146]

The UK Government and Transport for London evaluated the option of extending to Reading[147] and in March 2014 it was announced that the extension from Maidenhead to Reading would form part of the core Crossrail network from the outset.[33][34][39] The Labour council in Reading supported an extension to Reading[148]

The Conservative MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson, expressed concerns that Crossrail trains (which will call at every station) will actually be slower than the present Reading-Paddington service. According to Wilson, "We need the right Crossrail, not any Crossrail". Most existing fast services between Reading and Paddington would remain after the introduction of Crossrail because there are only paths for the additional two services per hour which the latter will provide.[149]

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.[150] 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).[151]

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, with potential Crossrail stops at Wembley Central, Harrow & Wealdstone, Bushey, Watford Junction, Kings Langley, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted. 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.[152][153] This proposal was shelved in August 2016 due to "poor overall value for money to the taxpayer".[154]

To Gravesend and Hoo Junction

The route to Gravesend has been safeguarded by the Department for Transport, although it was made clear that as at February 2008 there was no plan to extend Crossrail beyond the then-current scheme.[155] The following stations are on the protected route extension to Gravesend: Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green, Dartford, Stone Crossing, Greenhithe for Bluewater, Swanscombe, Northfleet, and Gravesend.[156] In January 2018 it was revealed that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had included an extension of Crossrail to Ebbsfleet as part of a transport plan between 2021 and 2041. TfL stated that they were considering an extension to Ebbsfleet.[157][158]

Heathrow Express

The RUS also proposes integrating Heathrow Express services from Heathrow Terminal 5 into Crossrail to relieve the GWML and reduce the need for passengers to change at Paddington.[159]

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.[160]

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.[161] The extension proposal has been supported by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.[162]

Management and franchise

Funding for the project came from:

  • Transport for London
  • Mayoral Community Infrastructure Levy (a local tax charged on property developments across Greater London, with different charging rates for each London borough)[163]
  • Crossrail Business Rate Supplement (additional business rates)
  • Section 106 Agreement payments
  • Over-site development opportunities
  • UK Government
  • City of London Corporation
  • Major landowners Canary Wharf Group, Heathrow Airport Holdings, and Berkeley Homes.

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. Crossrail has a £15.9 billion funding package in place[164] 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.[165]

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.[166] 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.[167]

In anticipation of an May 2015 transfer of Shenfield to Liverpool Street services from the Greater 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. This unit was to allow transfer of services to the new Crossrail Train Operating Concession (CTOC) operator during the next franchise.[165][168]

See also

United Kingdom

Elsewhere in Europe

North America



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Preceded by
Abellio Greater Anglia
Shenfield Metro services
Operator of MTR Crossrail
Preceded by
Great Western Railway
Maidenhead and Reading services
Preceded by
Heathrow Connect
Heathrow Terminal 4 services
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