Confidence in Elizabeth Line reliability as thousands use new railway

Thousands of passengers used the new central section stations before 10.00 on Crossrail's opening day

After lengthy periods for trial running, trial operations and then reliability growth, senior TfL figures have expressed confidence that the Elizabeth Line will operate reliably as the Paddington to Abbey Wood section opens to passengers.

Transport for London says around 130,000 journeys were made over the full route from Reading to Shenfield by 10.00 on the opening day of the central section, May 24. Paddington Elizabeth Line station recorded 14,000 entries and exits by 10.00, Canary Wharf 9,000 and Woolwich 6,000.

Elizabeth Line Director Howard Smith told Modern Railways that performance over recent weeks before the opening had met targets. He attributed this to a combination of the latest ELR200 signalling software upgrade from Siemens, improving train reliability, and improved reliability of platform screen doors, the tunnel ventilation system and the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system.

Initially the Elizabeth Line is only open on Mondays to Saturdays (apart from the Platinum Jubilee weekend, when a special Sunday service will operate). Mr Smith said this will allow for upgrades to key systems, with two whole weekend closures before the end of July allowing for more extensive system testing. The aim is to introduce seven-day operation in the autumn, coinciding with through running from the east and west sections into the central tunnels.

Crossrail CEO Mark Wild agreed that reliability had been improving, with the last two months used exclusively to build reliability. He emphasised that this doesn’t mean there won’t be glitches, in particular as passengers get used to the stations and less familiar elements such as platform screen doors.

Nigel Holness, Managing Director at concession operator MTR Elizabeth line, said an incident in which the fire alarm at Paddington was activated on the opening morning had been dealt with well; trains continued to run through the station without passengers, who disembarked from trains at Tottenham Court Road during the short period while Paddington was closed.

Mr Holness added that the successful operation of the new line is a tribute to the many people working hard behind the scenes and described the opening as a ‘triumph in collaboration’. ‘We will have issues, but that’s when the training comes in and all the practice proves invaluable’ he said of potential incidents.