We start our journey 35 miles from Central London on the new furthest point on the London Underground map. The Berkshire commuter town wasn’t originally planned to be on the Elizabeth line, but the DfT and TfL agreed to extend the line here in 2014 for operational convenience and better connectivity with other National Rail services.
The first stop is Twyford, which is home to Stanlake Park, a beautiful, historic vineyard which dates back to 1166. General manager Natalia Pezzone told us: “When I came for my interview here four years ago, one of the first things I was told is that we were going to get the Elizabeth line very soon and now finally, we’ve actually got it!”
Just a fifteen minute walk from the Elizabeth line, the business hopes it will be able to attract both corporate clients and leisure travellers from London as it will now be the first vineyard within walking distance of a station on the London Underground map.
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This historic market town famous for having former Prime Minister Theresa May as its MP for the past quarter of a century is currently in the midst of a complete regeneration, in part thanks to the Elizabeth line. Developers have seized upon the area immediately to the north of the station, building 429 new flats, and new shopping area all boosted by the promise of extra footfall and commuters the line should bring.
As a typical Home Counties commuter town, it is represented by a rail user group which told us: “Our attitude for some time has been ‘we’ll believe it when it happens’, but now it looks as if it really is! Of course we won’t get through running from the East and West until much later in the year so in the mean time we’ll have to change at Paddington for the Crossrail core section, and it’ll be a long walk from GWR trains which usually arrive at platform 14.”
The group expressed doubts over the Elizabeth line fares which seem particularly complicated. MyLondon took a full look at how penalising they are for the Home Counties.
READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
The Elizabeth line has to ensure it is able to improve transport links for local residents in West London as well as to Heathrow Airport without detriment to either flow. At West Drayton, local Stop Heathrow Expansion campaigner Rob Barnstone explains to us: “It’s a major test for Heathrow to see if it can convince customers to use the new rail links.” Heathrow maintains that with a third runway that for every passenger which arrives by car, one will by public transport, up from a 65/35 per cent split. He hopes rail services (and bus changes) are monitored so local residents are not overlooked: “The Elizabeth line may offer an attractive alternative to premium Piccadilly line fares proposed by TfL, but that capacity on bus routes like the U3 and 350 linking Hayes or West Drayton to Heathrow must be very closely monitored to ensure capacity doesn’t get overstretched and therefore impact local residents”
He adds: “It will be an attractive journey for people that want to access the airport from the west in the absence of a Heathrow Western rail link. We often hear about the links between Central London and Heathrow but it’s also important for the local area and the west of Heathrow – for the local air quality, which records very high pollution levels, for our bus links, for a lot.”
Hayes & Harlington
Global Academy is a school like no other. Using the might of the Global media empire, it offers youngsters in Years 10 and above special vocational training in the creative media industry as well as traditional subjects. For that reason, it attracts pupils from as far away as South London, Reading and Hertfordshire. Lucy, 16, from Bishop’s Stortford had to previously spend up to 4 hours commuting on trains each day.
The Elizabeth line’s arrival won’t only make it easier for pupils to attend work experience placements in Zone 1 easier but open the school up to prospective pupils from right across the capital and the South East. Vice principal Sophia Martin told us: “The fact the Elizabeth line will now be open means no matter if you’re in North, South, East or West, you now have that central [Elizabeth line] link to be able go to such an excellent media school – it’s not out of reach and I really hope gonna open us up to everybody.”
READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
Along the route, we met passenger Jill Newton, who explained to us one of the rather less well known benefits of the Elizabeth line. She explains: “I live in Central London so I can head to Paddington, get this train all the way to Reading and then a bus to my daughter’s in Caversham all for nothing!”
As a TfL freedom pass holder, Jill can now enjoy free journeys all the way from Zone 1 to Outer London, Essex and most importantly Berkshire, where her daughter lives. Previously she had to pay to use the GWR National Rail service instead. “For me, it’s very successful and if I’m not pressured for time, it’s a very good journey. I can now come down more often, whenever I’m free or whenever they need me, as the cost isn’t an issue.”
Although the Elizabeth line fare structure has certainly proven controversial, many Londoners like Jill will ultimately benefit from cheaper fares.
You might not often think that a railway line is pivotal to an area’s cultural scene, but new venue Woolwich Works is set to prove this theory wrong. The venue is set in a spectacular building on the former military Arsenal site, and can welcome exhibitions, events, shows, live music and private ceremonies. It’s run as a local charity organisation which aims to advance art for the public benefit and provide facilities to improve the conditions of life of residents in the local area.
CEO and creative director James Heaton told us: “The ambition for this venue was that it became something that was part of the London scene and that’s always been a bit of a challenge because of the perception of the transport links and the Elizabeth line just unlocks that completely.”
“In terms of artists and hirers, the single biggest barrier is transport, so we’ve been lucky in starting to see, as thing recover from Covid, that interest from the creative community and from commercial hirers has started to build but since the announcement that’s just gone away. We’ve got a season in the summer called ‘Woolwich Words and Sounds’ which we can now look forward to, and as part of the campaign for that we’ve promoted how close we are away from each of the stations Crossrail unlocks.”
Woolwich Works is open Wednesdays-Sundays and is just a five minute walk from Woolwich Elizabeth line station.
Abbey Wood could be one of the areas which sees the most striking transformation as a result of the arrival of the Elizabeth line. A modest suburb sandwiched between the ‘transport desert’ of Thamesmead and the Bostall Woods, it had a modest train service which connected it with London Bridge in 30 minutes. The Elizabeth line now means its only 18 minutes from Zone 1, shorter than the time it takes for a bus to get down Oxford Street.
The closest place to get a pizza and a pint to the Elizabeth line is at the Abbey Arms, the station’s next door neighbour. There locals had mixed feelings about the arrival of the line with one pub-goer explaining: “It’s a good thing but when it’s 10 minutes from Canary Wharf, the house prices are gonna go up and that means there’s no way for my kids to afford to live here. Then they’ll have to move out and the character of the area will change. It’s that gentrification, it might end up like Shoreditch.”
Barman Patrick was more optimistic, explaining the link will make it easier for staff and prospective customers: “People have been talking about Crossrail around here for ages. Personally, my girlfriend and I spend a lot of time in London and I’m glad it will be much easier!”
House prices have more than doubled in Abbey Wood in the past 10 years due to Crossrail. It still remains one of the most affordable places on the line with the average property going for £366,505.
One of the most invested people MyLondon met throughout its Crossrail coverage is Bridget. Originally from Berkshire, she moved to Chadwell Heath in 2017, taking the chance to give her daughter her own bedroom and start afresh in a new home. She was hoping to rely on the Elizabeth line to travel back to Berkshire each weekend on one direct train from December the following year. After finding out that the line wouldn’t open in 2018, and then that it would only open in three separate sections from this year, Bridget has decided to leave London for good.
She told us: “I just wanted – and why I moved in the first place – one direct train door-to-door; it would have just made things easier. When I saw the opening date I just had to laugh because people will think that’s what they’ll get and they won’t[…] I am aware there is another Crossrail project and this cannot happen again. I think they still haven’t learnt. I think in the planning process something should have been done for young families, perhaps a panel or something. Now unfortunately with TfL, their time has run out for me and I’m now gonna be moving.”
Bridget is moving to the Cotswolds later this year. READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
The Elizabeth line is set to redefine where Londoners travel for leisure opportunities as well as work. One winner is set to be Romford’s dog racing stadium, which backs onto the line. The team there told MyLondon: “We’re looking forward to the opening of the Elizabeth line and the anticipated increase in footfall to the area. As an entertainment business, we hope that the improvement in transport links and publicity of Romford will encourage new customers to visit stadium and experience a night at the races! With the line making Central London more accessible, we hope this will offer more opportunities for business as well as making the journey more enjoyable for both our staff travelling to work and for our customers – new and old!”
On the other side of the tracks, Romford is also home to the control room for the Elizabeth line and we met the team as they were making final preparations for opening day.
READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
The location now furthest east on the Tube map is the Elizabeth line terminus at Shenfield. Although it’s an important railway interchange, Shenfield is actually a relatively quiet suburb of the Essex commuter town of Brentwood, one stop to the west on the Elizabeth line. The transport user group, BBARUA, which represents the many commuters who travel into the capital from the area welcomes the new service but says commuters feel ‘forgotten’ as there are still a lack of station upgrades pending.
David Kendall, the chair, told us: “Our big concerns at Brentwood and Shenfield are that we’re still waiting for substantial investment. We still don’t have step free access to one of the platforms at Brentwood and parking at Shenfield is still a problem. Where there has been investment in places like Maidenhead, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have touched our area yet. Our local roads get clogged through the congestion from people wanting to use the service and without station upgrades, better parking, cycling facilities and onward connections, that causes problems. We’re in the dark. Brentwood and Shenfield does feel forgotten.”