he £20 billion Elizabeth line has opened to Londoners with much fanfare after people queued throughout the night to take the first trains from Paddington and Abbey Wood.
There were extraordinary scenes and a party atmosphere as hundreds of passengers, the first of whom had been waiting since midnight, rushed down two flights of escalators to the platform to await the 06.33am, the first train to depart Paddington.
As the train set off bang-on time, Mayor Sadiq Khan exclaimed “phew!” and gave Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford a bear hug. Mr Khan, cupping his ear, told the Evening Standard: “Do you know what sound that is? Success.”
Mr Khan said: “It’s a landmark day.”
Josh, 11, from Ealing, arrived at 04.48am and was at the front of the queue. He said: “It’s really exciting. Is the Queen coming? I love this line – it’s amazing.” Mr Byford presented him with the first Elizabeth line commemorative mug.
The new line, also known as Crossrail, will transform the daily commute for Londoners, slashing journey times between key underground stations, like Paddington and Canary Wharf.
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Excitement builds just before opening at Paddington station
‘I’ve come all the way from Lincoln’
25-year-old Ryan, who was also at Paddington station, came all the way from Lincoln for the day.
“It’s good, I’m about to do it, but I haven’t yet,” he said. “I’ve come all the way from Lincoln this morning. I’m excited to go on it. I’m going to go to Abbey Wood.”
More happy customers get their first ride on new line
Peter, 19, had made the full journey from Abbey Wood to Paddington after convincing his mother to drive him to the station at five in the morning from their home near Bexley.
He said: “It’s a huge day. I got the first train from Abbey Wood. I got up at five, much to the annoyance of my family.
“I dragged my mum out of bed, saying, ‘It’s open, let’s go!’”
Crossrail workers say opening of Elizabeth line has gone ‘fantastically well’
Paul Parsons, customer experience director at MTD Crossrail, said the morning service from Abbey Wood had gone “fantastically well” as the train left on time at 6.30.am
“We had a large crowd of people waiting patiently in the rain but in the end it all went to plan,” he told reporter Daniel Keane.
“We loaded the first train with about 500-600 people. We had rehearsed this over the last few days.
“Every service since the first has gone out on time. Drivers are doing a fantastic job of welcoming people on.
He added: “Abbey Wood has come alive. This is going to change people’s travel.”
London landmarks turned purple on eve of ‘historic’ opening
Watch: Passengers embark on first train from Paddington to Abbey Wood
People travel from across the UK to be among first on Elizabeth line trains
Pete McGarley made the journey all the way from Sunderland the night before – but said it was worth the long trip as he had “been part of history”.
Speaking to the Standard just as the first train left Abbey Wood, he said: “I queued for about 45 minutes in the rain but it was worth it.
“Luckily I had a hotel booked just around the corner. I feel like I’ve been part of a history.”
‘I have never been on a happier train’, says Crossrail chief executive
Mark Wild, the Crossrail chief executive, who had travelled on the first train from Abbey Wood, told the Standard: “I have never been on a happier train.”
He added: “The real enthusiasts went from Abbey Wood.”
Andy Lord, Transport for London’s chief operating officer, who accompanied him, said: “There were 600 people standing in the rain outside Abbey Wood this morning.
“I was awestruck by the ride. I’m immensely proud of everybody. We have actually shrunk London.”
Young train enthusiasts tell of excitement ahead of opening
Josh, 11, from Ealing, arrived at 04.48am and was at the front of the queue.
He said: “It’s really exciting. Is the Queen coming? I love this line – it’s amazing.” Mr Byford presented him with the first Elizabeth line commemorative mug.
Meanwhile, 10-year-old Alexander, from Islington, said: “It’s the first train and I want to see it.
“I have been liking trains since I was seven. I have already seen the trains – they operate as TfL Rail – but I can’t wait to see them run as the Elizabeth line.”
‘It’s the best party in town this morning’
Vernon Kerswell was first in the queue at Paddington for the Elizabeth line opening.
Speaking to City Hall editor Ross Lydall, Vernon, a drone designer from South Wimbledon, said he arrived at midnight with a sleeping bag.
“It’s the best party in town this morning.”
“The technology on the trains is just unprecedented. I’m going to go to Abbey Wood and come back and go for a full English breakfast.”