Crowds and delays ‘turning Elizabeth line into nightmare’
Passengers on the Elizabeth line have spoken of “nightmare” delays and overcrowding due to infrastructure problems and soaring demand.
They shared video footage showing packed rush-hour trains on the £20bn line’s western branch, which has left commuters from stations around Ealing battling for space with luggage-laden travellers returning from Heathrow airport.
Latest figures reveal the Elizabeth line, which only opened last May, had attracted 32m more passengers than expected by December. About 3.5m journeys a week are being made – only 2m a week were anticipated.
Sophie Meyrick, who travels from West Ealing to Hammersmith, told BBC London: “I was expecting it to be a reliable efficient service, where I’d get on the trains no problems. That’s not what it is in reality. In reality it is a very stressful experience most of the time. It wasn’t what we were promised.”
Another passenger, Christal Douglas, said: “When it works it’s perfect when it doesn’t it’s a nightmare. My partner gets it and he’s always complaining about it. And I know that neighbours are, complaining about the crowds and not getting on.”
Justine Sullivan, a yoga teacher, said she had to turn down work because of the line’s unreliability. “If you get on it it’s great but I would say more than half the time it’s not predictable, it’s not reliable, it’s too full, too busy and too stressful,” she said.
Transport for London said the issues were caused primarily by outdated Network Rail signals and overhead power lines. The £1bn fleet of new trains have also developed issues with their doors due to the high frequency of opening and closing at the 41 stations along the line.
The line has also been impacted by 15 days of strikes, primarily involving staff at Network Rail or other train companies, since the start of November. Earlier this month a strike by the line’s managers resulted in the 24-hour closure of the central section, between Abbey Wood and Paddington.
TfL on Wednesday revealed the final stage of the line’s opening is due to happen on Sunday May 21, when train frequencies will increase from 22 to 24 trains an hour and full “through running” – offering direct links between Shenfield, Heathrow and Reading – will start.
Punctuality figures show that 93 per cent of Elizabeth line trains arrive at the station within five minutes of the timetable – the third best performance nationally, behind Merseyrail and London Overground.
Heathrow passengers are attracted to the line because a ticket to central London costs almost half as much as the Heathrow Express and the journey is quicker than the Piccadilly line.
The popularity of the line has boosted TfL’s fares income by an additional £49m in the first nine months of the current financial year. The line is now expected to “break even” on a day-to-day basis in 2023/24.
Elizabeth line director Howard Smith said: “The service is getting more reliable week by week. Since Christmas we have had some of our best performance ever on the line so after a difficult period after launch we are confident we have got a good reliable service going forward.”