OPINION - Crossrail opening date (finally!) revealed

·3-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

I rather like the High Line, New York’s elevated linear park that was created on a disused railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan. Impressive views, industrial chic vibes and plentiful food options. But I prefer actual train lines.

So to hell with purdah and the shackles of journalistic neutrality, I am excited about Crossrail. Or the Elizabeth line. You know, the one with the purple trains.

The new line is set to open on May 24 (but if you can’t wait, check out the pics here). Yes, the more jaded among you may carp that this is several years behind schedule and billions over budget.

That it is running at ‘only’ 12 trains an hour rather than the eventual 24. Also none on Sundays. And don’t even think about alighting at Bond Street. But these are mere details – London has a new train line.

Crossrail is a game-changer for the capital, transforming where people can live, work and go out on the town, by cutting journey times and boosting capacity by a full 10 per cent when fully up and running (details on when that’ll happen here).

It is also without doubt an engineering marvel and an architectural feast for the eyes. The 10 new stations, in particular, are worthy of a great city that still seeks to do big things.

It is also a personal triumph for Transport Commissioner Andy Byford, who asked for and was granted total control, staked his reputation and that of London on the project and has delivered.

The only person who seemingly isn’t happy is Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who has referred Mayor Sadiq Khan to the Electoral Commission on accusations of breaking pre-election communications rules in making the announcement today.

My personal feelings of melancholy surround questions of what comes next. Crossrail was conceived in another era. The Bill received Royal Assent in 2008 and ground was broken in 2009. It survived the austerity of the coalition years, kept going through the 2012 Olympics, 2016 referendum and Covid.

Infrastructure projects by their very nature involve long lead times. They therefore need patience, cross-party support and cash. But most fundamental of all, they require imagination. A new line under the centre of London, stretching from Shenfield in the east to Reading in the west had that in spades. Whether it be housing, digital or indeed another train line, let’s do it again.

In the comment pages, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition go head to head in the paper ahead of tomorrow’s local elections. Boris Johnson says that Conservative councils are good but that Labour councils are bad.

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer calls on Londoners to send a message to what he calls “the most anti-London Government in living memory“.

And finally, how do you know if someone is into brutalist architecture? They’ll tell you. Nevertheless, do take a peek inside the largest and most expensive home in the Barbican Estate, on sale now for a cool £4.5 million.

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