For those who live on the Liverpool Street to Shenfield line, there’s been a lot riding on Crossrail.
The major East London transport connection, currently labelled ‘TfL Rail’ has seen intermittent line closures and station works for years.
From the first half of next year, the line will become part of the long awaited Elizabeth line service linking Shenfield, Romford, Ilford and Stratford in the east with Reading, Heathrow and Southall in the west.
There’s one catch though. For the first year or so of operation, until May 2023, the line will actually run in three separate sections.
This means that trains from Liverpool Street to Shenfield will run exactly the same as they do now, with no real improvement for East London for even longer. The original Crossrail plans expected the line to be open in 2018.
Passengers are now at breaking point, with many feeling angry that Transport for London (TfL) and Crossrail have not been upfront with this information. The transport authorities say the three separate sections were always the plan.
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(Image: Callum Marius)
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“It’s draining” says Bridget from Chadwell Heath.
The news of Crossrail changed Bridget’s life in 2017 when she managed to negotiate a property swap via her housing association.
With a chance to offer her young daughter a bedroom of her own, she moved 40 miles away from her family and friends in Berkshire to Dagenham, a short walk from Chadwell Heath station.
With the Elizabeth line set to open in 2018 at the time, she expected a direct link from Chadwell Heath to Burnham(Berkshire), a journey she has to make regularly with her young daughter, whose father still lives there.
Bridget explains: “One train all the way, that’s what they promised.” The journey, which involves two or three changes and takes up to three hours, but the Crossrail website states that Elizabeth line’s arrival will slash that to 66 minutes on a direct train.
“Once I got here, that’s when everything changed,” she adds.
The Elizabeth line’s opening date has been pushed back several times since she moved four years ago due to construction delays and numerous logistical hiccups.
The most recent pushback moved the launch date from summer 2021 to first half 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Finding out that the line is to operate as three separate sections meaning her journey will still be longer than the promised 66 minutes until 2023 has left Bridget frustrated and disappointed.
“I feel cheated and conned and I imagine the rest of London will feel like that as we’ve invested into Crossrail,” Bridget said.
“I know Covid hasn’t helped but three separate sections is ridiculous. Paddington is not an easy station to change at, you have to go outside the station to go inside the station and changing at Liverpool Street is the exact same as now.
“They [TfL] recently posted on social media saying that the three new routes will be available from next year. What are they on about? You can basically already do it!
“I expect one direct train, that’s what they led everyone to believe years ago and that’s not what we’re getting on opening day.”
(Image: Callum Marius)
Bridget is not an isolated case. Milly, who just took on a new job in Paddington on the basis he would have a simple, direct commute to and from Brentwood is just as frustrated that he will still need to change trains until Autumn 2022.
“I’m so annoyed about this…” he says, “the amount of delays and cancellations I’ve lived through for this line is more than unacceptable.
“I’m so shocked at how quiet they’ve kept this. What’s the point of TfL Rail and raising everyone’s expectations now only for us to do the same long journey, changing at Liverpool Street, after the launch? We were sold a lie.”
In response to the frustrations, Howard Smith, Chief Operating Officer for the Elizabeth line, said “the opening of the Elizabeth line has always been planned to take place in stages”.
Howard said that this would “ensure the new central London stations, signalling and infrastructure can run safely and reliably before it fully links in with services out to the east and west.”
He added: “Original plans saw these services being integrated in two separate stages six months and then a year after the central section opens but latest plans have now brought those together and will mean journeys can be made into the central section from Autumn 2022.”
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The current TfL Rail service between Liverpool Street and Shenfield runs roughly every seven to eight minutes and leaves from the mainline station at Liverpool Street, several floors above the Elizabeth line platforms.
Trains will start back from Paddington in Autumn 2022 and then Heathrow/Reading in May 2023 if plans stay the same.
Tension over Crossrail have has also escalated as the project is expected to be well overbudget.
Although step-free access has now been delivered to all stations between Liverpool Street and Shenfield except Ilford, improvements have been costly.
Whitechapel’s station upgrade, which Liverpool Street to Shenfield passengers won’t get to experience until 2022 as trains continue to non-stop it, was completed seven times the original cost at around £831 million.
(Image: Callum Marius)
You can read all of MyLondon’s Crossrail coverage at our dedicated page here.
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