A key step on the way to the full opening of the Elizabeth Line will be reached this weekend when Transport for London (TfL) takes over the Heathrow Connect services between Paddington and Heathrow terminals two, three and four.
On Monday 21 May, TfL will also take over the half hourly Great Western Railway (GWR) services from Paddington, which terminate at Hayes & Harlington.
The services will be operated as TfL Rail, and become Elizabeth Line services when the main launch occurs in central London in December.
It is not all smooth sailing however, as TfL has been grappling with the complexity of train signalling and software on the branch of the line to Heathrow. It had initially hoped to roll out Elizabeth Line trains on the route down to the airport this month too, but that is now expected to be months later than planned.
Elizabeth Line operations director Howard Smith told City A.M. earlier this month there was not a fresh date in mind, with testing still going on.
Under TfL Rail, the current service frequency of two trains an hour between Paddington and Heathrow will continue using the existing trains, along with two trains an hour between Paddington and Hayes & Harlington using new Elizabeth Line trains - replacing part of the Great Western inner suburban route.
The question mark still left however, is when the new trains will be rolled out on services to the airport.
Howard Smith, operations director for TfL Rail, said:
Taking over the services to Heathrow is another step towards opening London’s new railway. Customers will see staff at every station and will be able to use Oyster and contactless payments all the way to the airport.
The Elizabeth Line will redefine how Londoners and visitors move across the capital, with quicker, easier and more accessible journeys and customers will also benefit from the Mayor’s fares freeze, which is making travel more affordable.
TfL says the £14.8bn project is on track to be delivered on time and within budget, thoughLondon's transport commissioner has said it faces "increasing cost and schedule pressures" as it wraps up.
The new railway will serve 41 stations including 10 newly built ones, and run from Reading and Heathrow in the west through tunnels under London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
|Elizabeth Line timeline|