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London’s long-delayed commuter rail link opens

LONDON (AFP) – The long-delayed and over-budget Elizabeth line rail link finally opened in London yesterday, with hopes it will speed up journeys across the British capital and provide an economic boost.

Hundreds of people queued outside Paddington station in west London to be on the first train when it left at 6.33am.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the opening “historic” and “the most significant addition to our transport network in decades”.

“The Elizabeth line is much more than just a new railway – it will provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country and help to turbo-charge our recovery from the pandemic,” he added.

Khan’s predecessor as mayor, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the project is forecast to boost the United Kingdom (UK) economy by GBP42 billion (USD52 billion, EUR49 billion).

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, (R), and Commissioner of Transport for London (Tfl) Andy Byford yesterday disembark the first Elizabeth line train carrying passengers, at Farringdon Station in London. PHOTO: AP

Only one of the line’s three branches has opened, from Paddington to Abbey Wood in southeast London. Sections from Shenfield, east of London to Liverpool Street and Heathrow Airport and Reading, west of the capital, to Paddington will open by May next year.

Trains are currently scheduled to run from 6.30am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, with a Sunday service expected to start later this year.

The line, named after Queen Elizabeth II, is projected to carry up to 200 million passengers a year, adding 10 per cent more capacity to London’s transport network.

Work started on the project back in 2009 and was initially called Crossrail. It was originally due to open in 2018.

But it was hit by problems with construction and complex signalling systems. Costs ballooned to GBP8.9 billion – some GBP3 billion over budget.