By Phil Marsh

London’s Crossrail to become Elizabeth Line in December 2018 when full train service commences

Published: 29th February 2016

Heathrow Express to face fight for survival from 2019?

Europe’s largest construction project, Crossrail has received a special visitor - Her Majesty the Queen who was presented with the line’s new identity at Bond Street station. She was accompanied by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson who announced that the new railway will be known, when operational, as the Elizabeth line in her honour.

The visitors also included Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, London’s Transport Commissioner, Mike Brown MVO, the Crossrail infrastructure company’s Chairman, Terry Morgan, and Chief Executive, Andrew Wolstenholme. The group showed Her Majesty the Crossrail Bond Street station site which will be served by 24 trains per hour in each direction from 2018.

The Elizabeth line bring significant changes to the way rail passengers travel and ease congestion on the Underground and main line services in to Paddington and Liverpool Street. When the railway is fully operational it will significantly increase London’s rail capacity carrying over half a million passengers per day offering 1.5 million people better access to London’s main employment centres.

New identity and branding

The Queen was presented with a commemorative Elizabeth roundel, the official new identity and branding for Crossrail once the full service commences from December 2019. The event was also attended by apprentices working on building the railway, engineers fitting out the station and drivers of the trains that will serve the line. Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.

They said:

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said: I think it’s truly wonderful that such a significant line for our capital will carry such a significant name from our country. As well as radically improving travel right across our city, the Elizabeth line will provide a lasting tribute to our longest serving monarch.”

The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin said: “Given Her Majesty the Queen’s long association with UK transport, it is very fitting that this vital link across our capital will be named the Elizabeth Line in her honour. This is an example of British engineering at its best and will transform the way people travel across London and beyond from 2018, bringing better and faster journeys.”

Mike Brown MVO, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “This new railway is absolutely vital to meeting the needs of the Capital’s rapidly growing population.

Terry Morgan, Chairman, Crossrail Limited said: “Construction for the new railway is now over 70 per cent complete and is being delivered on time and within budget.

Why will Heathrow Express face a fight for survival?

The Elizabeth line will see direct train services running between Heathrow through the West End, the City and Canary Wharf and further east to Shenfield and Abbey Wood and will radically alter travel patterns for all passengers and not just commuters.

Heathrow Express is a non-stop Paddington to Heathrow premium service which sells itself on a walk up and go operation with trains every 15 minutes. Many passengers travel by tube or taxi to Paddington for this service but once direct trains from across London start to serve Heathrow, many will switch to Elizabeth Line services.

This will relieve London Underground services which offer limited competition but takes far longer but is much cheaper. The Heathrow Connect service is also cheaper but runs less frequently and stops at several stations between Paddington and Heathrow and is used by staff at Heathrow as well as airline passengers.

At the moment, Heathrow Express has been rated by passengers as scoring the best satisfaction rate in London and the South East from the UK rail passenger poll scoring 95% (12% more than the UK average) for overall satisfaction in the latest National Rail Passenger Survey conducted in autumn 2015.

Heathrow Express performed at an outstanding level in all of the categories examined and out of the 26 train operating companies surveyed nationally, came top in the UK in five categories. This is despite being pound per mile, the UK’s most expensive train journey.

The high score was due to the exceptional service the trains offer but despite this, will passengers want to change trains at Paddington rather than taking a direct service through London?

First shots fired? ORR Consults and wants your opinion

Heathrow Express owns and operates the track, signalling and platforms at Heathrow and can therefore chare track access charges as Network Rail does to all operators on the national network. The company has angered the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) by suggesting that each Crossrail train should be charged £597 as a contribution to the line’s construction costs in addition to an operational charge of £138 to cover electricity and track wear and tear and staff costs at platforms.

This raises the prospect of every Crossrail train generating a charge of £735 each time it reaches Heathrow using just over five miles of track between Heathrow Airport and the junction with Network Rail in the Great Western Main Line. ORR has started a Consultation on the matter as it does not think it correct for historic construction costs to be recouped 20 years later by charging another operator. The Consultation hinges on interpretation of EU law which was not present in 1998 when Heathrow train services commenced.

They said:

Fraser Brown, Director of Heathrow Express said: “I am delighted that Heathrow Express customers continue to receive excellent service. All my colleagues strive to take that extra step each day to ensure that passengers receive a world class service from Heathrow Express in supporting Heathrow’s goal to provide international passengers with the best airport service in the world.”

This reputation took a knock when the complete fleet of Heathrow Express trains was withdrawn due to a technical fault. This meant that Business First, Wi-fi and at seat power sockets are not available as services were being operated by Heathrow Connect trains.

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