The front of a Class 345 Elizabeth line train as it pulls into Custom House in the core section.
An Elizabeth line Class 345 on the core section pulls into Custom House en route to Abbey Wood. To The Trains

The Elizabeth Line, London and Crossrail in 2023


The Elizabeth line - over a decade in the making and a sizable addition to Transport for London's portfolio of railway and metro services. The core section of the line opened for revenue earning service on 24 May 2022, however Crossrail (as the project is officially called) has sort of been in operation for much longer than that. Let's delve into the journey of the Elizabeth line, shall we?

Over the last year the line has been opening in sections, starting with the core section, followed by the opening of Bond Street, and then the introduction of through-running services. However, the Elizabeth line has been in service for much longer than that, albeit operating under the "TfL Rail" brand. This was the case from May 2015, when MTR took control of the metro service between London Liverpool and Shenfield - now the eastern branch of the line.

The eastern branch was populated by Class 345s from June 2017, before the units then rolled out on the western branch by July 2020. With the launch of the core section, these branches took on the Elizabeth line name and branding, including station signage and on the units themselves. Numerous stations were upgraded to ensure step-free access from the platform to the street. This means there are plenty of lifts across the network, including some that even travel diagonally.

A Class 345 at London Liverpool Street donning the Elizabeth line branding.
A Class 345 at London Liverpool Street donning the Elizabeth line branding.

Between Paddington and Abbey Wood is a plethora of exceptional architecture, with each station's design subtly inspired by its local area. The Elizabeth Line's futuristic character is prominent in the extensive tunnels and spacious walkways and platforms. IU recommend taking a look at some of the "Design & Architecture" videos published by the Crossrail Project for more insight. There's no doubt that the top priority for the Elizabeth line was capacity; we can see this reflected in the rolling stock, too.

The Class 345s have nine cars per unit and stretch over 200 metres in length. The platforms are exceptionally long to accommodate this - if you've got somewhere you need to get to quickly, it really does matter what end of the train you board. These trains are effectively built for the National Rail network and yet are being operated as a metro service. When I visited in 2020, there was a dense timetable in operation with trains arriving every five minutes. These are now even more frequent.

A wide angle view of the interior of the Class 345s.
A wide angle view of the interior of the Class 345s.

On board is what we've come to except from new commuter trains in the UK: air conditioning; digital passenger information screens; transverse and longitudinal seating; four designated wheelchair and accessible areas. At each station and above the platform edge doors are more digital displays with information about the train service. I do appreciate having the screen doors on a busy railway network.

There's a lot to like about the Elizabeth line, but what stood out to me when I rode the line for the first time last year was its speed. It's quick, and the Class 345's acceleration is impressive. It feels even more noticeable when you're underground and in the tunnels of the Elizabeth line.

  • 30 minutes from Abbey Wood to Paddington.
  • 35 minutes from Heathrow to Paddington.
  • Considerably cheaper than the Heathrow Express (£12.70, as of writing).
Screen doors line the edge of the platform, which connects to a wide and spacious walkway.
The wide and spacious walkways and platforms maximise capacity beneath the surface.

The full timetable, which marks Crossrail's final major milestone, has been in operation since May of this year, therefore concluding the Elizabeth line journey. And it's been a long journey, not the smoothest process, and one that saw no shortage of setbacks and delays. That's typical for the railways, mind you. But, by the end of it all, London has a fantastic east-to-west railway fit for the commuters of the capital.

Sources can be found in the description of the YouTube video.


Seb J.

Seb J.

Seb is documenting Britain's railways, one train trip at a time. Since starting the To The Trains channel in 2020, he's been producing content on the railways - articles, videos, and podcasts.