Elizabeth Line: autumn target for Bond Street and through running

An aerial view of Paddington station, with the Elizabeth Line station lower centre.

Following the opening of the Paddington to Abbey Wood section of the Elizabeth Line, the aim is to simultaneously open Bond Street station and introduce through running from routes east and west of the central section in the autumn.

The new railway’s central section opened on 24 May without Bond Street station. Crossrail CEO Mark Wild told Modern Railways installation work at the station has finished and attention is now focused on the final elements of systems integration. There will be no partial opening of the station with only one ticket hall, as had been mooted, and Mr Wild said that despite the challenges he thinks the station will be ‘one of the jewels in the crown’.

The next phase in the staged opening strategy for the railway will also come in the autumn, with through running from Shenfield in the east and Heathrow Airport and Reading in the west. At this point, now dubbed ‘Stage 5b-minus’, the current 12 trains per hour (tph) service will increase to 16tph off-peak and 22tph at peak times between Whitechapel and Paddington. The 12tph frequency will be maintained on the branch to Abbey Wood, with the balance of trains running onto the Shenfield line. Two overlapping services will be provided: Reading/Heathrow to Abbey Wood and Paddington to Shenfield; some Shenfield trains will continue to run into the terminal platforms at Liverpool Street.

The full timetable, comprising 24tph at peak times, will be introduced by May 2023 as part of ‘Stage 5c’. This will incorporate tweaks to running times on the surface sections to tighten the timetable. ‘Stage 5b-minus’ will be introduced without the use of the auto-reverse function at Paddington, by which trains will be automatically driven from the westbound platform into the reversing sidings at Westbourne Park and then into the eastbound platform to form the next service. TfL’s Elizabeth Line Director Howard Smith told Modern Railways good progress is being made with development of auto-reverse, with testing earlier in May during timetable demonstrations achieving a Public Performance Measure (PPM) figure of 97%.

The full 24tph service will not be introduced until auto-reverse is operational. This was planned to be at ‘Stage 5b’, which comprises the two overlapping services but at a higher frequency and is an interim stage before 5c, although Mr Smith said the timetable may go straight from ‘Stage 5b-minus’ to ‘Stage 5c’.

Almost all the Class 345 EMUs are now operating in full length nine-car formations, rather than as reduced length seven-car units (RLUs). RLUs have been retained on the west side due to the restricted length of one of the terminal platforms at Paddington; all ‘345s’ are due to be reformed as full length units by November. A handful of legacy Class 315s have also been retained for Liverpool Street to Shenfield services on the east side, although these are used as hot spares with the aim being to operate all services using ‘345s’ if possible.