Queen Elizabeth opens Elizabeth Line
Posted on May 19th, 2022

Janaka Alahapperuma from London

Her Majesty The Queen has made a surprise appearance with her youngest son, the Earl of Wessex at London’s Paddington Station to mark the completion of the new railway ‘The Elizabeth Line’, named in honour of the Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year, ahead of its opening to passengers on Tuesday 24 May. 

During the Royal visit to see the newly built east-west Crossrail, the 96-year-old monarch officially unveiled a very simple plaque to celebrate the completion of the rail line. The plaque will be moved later to be permanently mounted on the wall at Paddington station, celebrating The Queen’s connection with the railway for generations to come. Holding a walking stick, The Queen emerged from a transparent lift with a brightly smiley face, looking magnificent at her age in a coat in sunshine yellow and a matching hat with a Singapore brooch.

Her Majesty and Prince Edward were welcomed by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Transport for London (TfL) Commissioner Andy Byford, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and the Crossrail Chief Executive Mark Wild. 

The Queen and Prince Edward also met with staff who have been key to the Crossrail project, as well as Elizabeth line staff who will be running the railway. They were eagerly waited to see the Queen and witness the opening ceremony. The Queen also met with train drivers, station staff including apprentices

The visit was Her Majesty’s second to the Elizabeth line. She came to see the railway during its construction to mark the name change from Crossrail to the Elizabeth line in 2016. Today’s visit builds upon a long-held association between the Royal family and London’s Transport network. The Queen became the first reigning monarch to travel on the London Underground when she opened the Victoria line in 1969. That time she had to put a coin in a machine to get her ticket and travelled in the driver’s cab. In 1977, the Jubilee line was named after Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee, but did not open until two years later, when the Prince of Wales officially inaugurated it. The Elizabeth line is the third London transport line opened during her reign and named in honour of the Royal family.

After unveiling the plaque, the Queen was given Elizabeth line commemorative Oyster card topped up with £5 for the Queen, who famously rarely carries cash and showed how the ticket machine worked and how to top up an Oyster card by Kofi Duah, a customer experience assistant.

He later said: the Queen asked, ‘Where can it take you to?’ I said, ‘It can take you on all the lines, from Paddington to Abbey Wood’.”

The Queen passed up the opportunity to travel on one of the new trains, instead returning to Buckingham Palace while Prince Edward was given the privilege of becoming the first passenger, travelling through the tunnels to Tottenham Court Road and back. He took a ride on the train with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and MP Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary. The Prince was invited to stand in the driver’s cab during the second leg of the journey back to Paddington and chatted with driver Carinne Spinola as the train moved. Normally that trip from platform to platform would take about 10 minutes by tube train but it will be just under 5 minutes when the Elizabeth line opens. After stepping off the train at Paddington, the Earl of Wessex said: ‘That was brilliant. I did enjoy that. It was a great view and good fun.

Within hours of the opening, PM Johnson said he would now be pushing for Crossrail 2 – a proposed north-south rail link across London to be built.

He further said: “That is going to be transformative again. All the problems of commuters coming into Waterloo getting up to north London, you can fix that with another Crossrail.

Elizabeth line project was delayed more than 3 years and 5 months and almost £4 billion over budget due to numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications installing signalling systems. It was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010. Later the total cost has been estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion from the Government. London is paying for most of the Elizabeth line, with nearly 70 per cent of the total funding paid by London, made up of roughly 30 per cent is from London’s farepayers, around 40 per cent from London’s businesses, combined with 30 per cent from Government, and when open is expected to boost the UK economy by an estimated £42 billion.

The structure stretches more than 100 km (62 miles) from Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow Airport in west London through central London to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in southeast London. Trains will initially operate in three sections, which are expected to be integrated in the autumn. Services will be limited to six days a week and the new Bond Street station, which has been beset by engineering and construction difficulties, will remain closed for some time. Sunday services will be suspended to allow a series of testing and software updates in preparation for more intensive services from the autumn”, according to TfL. The Elizabeth line will boost capacity and cut journey times for travel across the capital.

The Queen who now rarely carries out public engagements outside of her royal residences and was always using a walking stick. Therefore, her attendance was not publicly announced in advance because she has been suffering ongoing mobility problems, but organisers were told there was a possibility she might be able to attend. In recent months ill health has forced her to pull out of a string of high-profile engagements including last week’s State Opening of Parliament. However, The Queen rallied to make a trip to the Windsor Horse Show on both Friday and on Sunday evening was the guest of honour at the equestrian extravaganza A Gallop Through History near Windsor, the first major event of the Jubilee festivities. This engagement is the Queen’s first one outside of the Windsor area since she attended the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey seven weeks ago.

The Queen’s public appearances are being closely watched and raising hopes that she will be well enough to attend at least some of the celebrations as Britain prepares to celebrate the monarch’s 70 years on the throne with Platinum Jubilee festivities during the four-day bank holiday weekend from 2nd to 5th June in the summer

Source: Buckingham Palace

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