Trains being tested on Crossrail's Elizabeth line up to four an hour

Trains now running on Elizabeth line

Trains now running on Elizabeth line - Credit: Crossrail

Trains are now running on Crossrail’s long-delayed Elizabeth line through Whitechapel from the West End right up to Canary Wharf and beyond. 

But it’s no use trying to get on the £16 billion tube linking east London to Heathrow just yet. 

The line started being tested for safety and to see if it runs smoothly on May 10, the East London Advertiser has learned. 

Four trains an hour are testing the tracks and signalling for the rest of the year before it opens by the summer of 2022. 

New station connections at Whitechapel from Elizabeth line to the Underground and Overground.

New station connections at Whitechapel from Elizabeth line to the Underground and Overground. - Credit: Chris Bevan Lee

Whitechapel station, where the Elizabeth line links up to the London Underground and Overground, is not ready yet, it is understood. 

New Elizabeth line ticket barrier at Whitechapel

New Elizabeth line ticket barrier at Whitechapel - Credit: Chris Bevan Lee


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“We have now started trial running trains,” Crossrail’s chief Mark Wild revealed in a statement to the Advertiser. “There have been real challenges along the way but the start of trial running is an important milestone.”  

The trials also involve rehearsals like evacuating trains and stations in emergencies. These will be staged later this year at stops along the 30-mile twin-tunnel route, 150ft below the streets, to see how they cope.

Chris Grailing visiting Crossrail's Whitechapel station  construction site in 2017 when he was transport minister.

Chris Grailing visiting Crossrail's Whitechapel station construction site in 2017 when he was transport minister. - Credit: Mike Brooke

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The project has had its troubles. The original opening date - first revealed exclusively to the Advertiser by the transport minister at the time, Chris Grayling - was meant to be September 2018.

But signalling and powering problems saw the projected opening date deemed over-optimistic for the time needed to complete the line, building for which started in 2009.

Troubled Crossrail’s chairman Terry Morgan visiting Whitechapel construction works before quitting.

Troubled Crossrail’s chairman Terry Morgan visiting Whitechapel construction works before quitting. - Credit: Mike Brooke

A new signalling system had to be worked out before the project got back on track. It led to Crossrail’s chairman Terry Morgan resigning under pressure from City Hall. 

Rail services on the Great Eastern Main Line at Stratford and Great Western at the Paddington end have been integrated with the new middle section, forming an operational railway where the deep-level tracks come to the surface when the line finally opens. 

Track works at Whitechapel where the two branches split

Track works at Whitechapel where the two branches split - Credit: Mike Brooke

The eastwards line from Liverpool Street splits at Whitechapel, with one branch surfacing at Stratford and onto Shenfield, the other to Canary Wharf surfacing at Custom House then tunnelling under the Thames to Woolwich and Abbey Wood. 

The westward stretch surfaces after Paddington then goes directly to Heathrow Airport, taking just 34 minutes from Whitechapel or 39 minutes from Canary Wharf with up to 1,600 passengers in each train, twice the capacity of London's tube trains.

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