LogoClive's UndergrounD Line Guides

"Unlike many railway projects, Crossrail has been delivered on time and on budget, costs being carefully controlled."

- Great Britain's Railways: A New History" (pub.2018)
Colin G. Maggs

"... Of course I wish we hadn't had the delay"

- Andy Byford, TfL Commissioner
in an interview with Modern Railways

LogoElizabeth Line

A Modern Tube

[Last modified: 2023-10-19]

Rolling stock


The Elizabeth Line started life as "Crossrail" in 1974. London planners looked at Paris, where in the 1970s the Metro system was augmented by the RER: fast routes in tunnel through the central area that connected at each end to existing main lines to reach suburban areas further out than normally served by a metro system. Such routes had four major advantages: they reduced the load on the Metro by adding new capacity, they improved journey times by making fewer stops in the central area, they eliminated the need for some commuters to change between train and Metro at the former's terminus, and they introduced more direct journey opportunities by combining suburban routes.

By the late 1980s travel in the north-south direction through central London was being addressed by the Victoria Line, the Jubilee Line, and Thameslink, but that in the east-west direction had had no significant improvements since the 1940s. The worst issues were with the Central Line and the northern side of the Circle Line, so a new cross-London line, named "Crossrail", was proposed to relieve them. The key feature of the Crossrail proposal was (and is) a tunnel from west of Paddington to east of Liverpool Street, connecting at the western end to the GWR main line and at the eastern end to the GER line towards Norwich. Local services on these two lines, as far as Reading and Shenfield respectively, then became part of the Crossrail service.

At the early stages a number of proposals were considered. There were three main alternatives on the western side that were eventually rejected.

The first two options would have required converting the relevant lines to overhead electrification, replacing the third and fourth rails where present. It is unlikely that more than one of these would have ever been accepted, because the first two run relatively near to each other and because more than two western termini would unbalance the service too much.

As well as this main axis, Crossrail takes over the existing NR branch to Heathrow airport. For a while it was also proposed that the line from Paddington to Airport Junction would be widened to 6 running tracks, but this idea was eventually abandoned.

The present choice of routes was finalized in 2004 and approved by Parliament in 2008, with construction starting the following year. The main axis originally ran from Maidenhead to Shenfield; Maidenhead, rather than the more obvious Reading, was chosen as the western terminus because this line would need to be electrified and the cost of the necessary works at Reading was seen as too great. As soon as NR committed to electrifying the line through Reading (to Newbury and Cardiff) for other reasons, Crossrail could be extended to Reading at effectively no cost.

However, the increasing importance of the Docklands area and the need for cross-river connections led to a second route being added on the eastern side, via Canary Wharf to Abbey Wood. This was chosen as the terminus because it serves an area of new housing development (incidentally, Abbey Wood is also the first station in alphabetical order on either the London Underground or National Rail). Initially it was proposed to extend the line further to Dartford, Swanscombe, and then over a new connection to Ebbsfleet, but this has since been abandoned, though future extension to Gravesend using dual-voltage trains is still under consideration.

Two alternative river crossings were considered, one to Charlton and the one adopted. Originally there would have been no stations between Custom House and Abbey Wood, but there was pressure for a station at Woolwich. An initial compromise meant a station box would be built during construction of the line but left bare, not be fitted out as a station, but additional funding was subsequently raised and the complete station was included in the final line.

The line runs under the closed Kingsway Tram Tunnel and during construction a shaft was built connecting the two to allow grout and concrete to be pumped down to the new tunnels. This has now been filled in and the tram tunnel restored to its previous condition.

Until the summer of 2018, with the opening scheduled for 9th December, it was believed the line would open on time and within budget. However, at this point it emerged that there were several problems and cost overruns that hadn't been revealed to the top management and in August it was announced that opening dates were being pushed back - in the end by almost four years - and that costs would increase, eventually by around 30%. In 2020 the existing Crossrail Board was dissolved and TfL took direct control of the work. Bond Street station was 18 months behind everything else; this was reduced to under 6 months by the time the rest of the line was opened, with the station in a good enough state to allow passenger trains to pass through and for it to be used in emergencies.

Although the majority of the line runs on NR infrastructure, trains are operated by TfL.

The name change to the "Elizabeth Line" was decided in 2016 but was only brought into use when the central tunnel opened. In the meantime, services not running through the central tunnel were marketed as "TfL Rail".


key to symbols

1838-06-04 [1] Taplow to Paddington opened (GWR)
+ West Drayton
1838-12-01 + Hanwell, Ealing Broadway
1839-05-01 + Southall
1839-06-20 [2] Devonshire Street Mile End to Romford opened (ECR)
+ Stratford, Ilford
1839-07-01 [0] Twyford to Taplow opened (GWR)
1840-03-30 0 Reading to Twyford opened (GWR)
1840-06-01 + Slough
1840-07-01 [0] [Bishopsgate Junction] to Devonshire Street Mile End opened (ECR)
[0] Romford to Brentwood opened (ECR)
1840-12 - Devonshire Street Mile End
1840 + Forest Gate
1843-03-29 0 Brentwood to Shenfield opened (ECR)
1843-05-31 - Forest Gate
1845 + Langley
1846-05-31 + Forest Gate
1847-06-14 0 (Silvertown) to [North Woolwich portal] opened (North Woolwich Railway)
1849-07-30 1 [Plumstead portal] to [Alsike Road junction] (SER)
1854-05-29 + Paddington
1855-12-01 1 [Custom House portal] to (Silvertown) opened (Eastern Counties & Thames Junction Railway)[1]
1863-06-19 + Silvertown
1864-01-11 + Chadwell Heath
1864-05-01 + Hayes & Harlington
1865-02-01 + Coborn Road
1868-02-01 + Acton Main Line
1868-02-01 + Harold Wood
1871-03-01 + West Ealing
1871-10-30 + Royal Oak
1871-10-30 + Westbourne Park
1871-11-01 + Maidenhead
1872-05-24 + Bethnal Green
1872-09-01 + Taplow
1872-11-04 0 Bishopsgate to Bethnal Green opened (GER)
1873-01-06 + Maryland, Manor Park
1874-02-02 0 Liverpool Street (high level) to Bishopsgate opened (GER)
1883-12-01 - Coborn Road
1883-12-02 + Coborn Road for Old Ford
1884-07-01 + Globe Road and Devonshire Street
1884-08-09 + West Drayton
1884-09-08 + Slough
1899-03-01 + Seven Kings
1899-07-01 + Burnham
1901-02-08 + Goodmayes
1910-12-01 + Gidea Park
1916-05-21 - Bishopsgate, Globe Road and Devonshire Street, Coborn Road for Old Ford
1919-05-05 + Coborn Road for Old Ford
1924-12-01 + Iver
1946-12-07 - Coborn Road for Old Ford
1992-03-12 - Westbourne Park
1994-03-28 + Custom House (DLR)
1994-05-28 [Custom House portal] to [North Woolwich portal] closed[2]
1995-10-29 1 [Custom House portal] to [North Woolwich portal] reopened
1996-01-15 + Pudding Mill Lane
1998-06-23 1 Heathrow Terminal 4 to Hayes & Harlington opened (NR)
2006-12-09 [Custom House portal] to [North Woolwich portal] closed
2008-03-27 0 Heathrow Terminal 5 to Heathrow Terminals 2&3 opened (NR)
2015-05-31 Liverpool Street (high level) to Shenfield started (as "TfL Rail")
2018-05-20 Heathrow Terminal 4 to [Westbourne Park Jn] started (as "TfL Rail")
[Westbourne Park Jn] to Paddington (main line) started (as "TfL Rail")
2018-08-04 - Goodmayes (footbridge strengthening)
2018-08-13 + Goodmayes
2019-12-15 Reading to Hayes & Harlington started (as "TfL Rail")
2020-05-08 Heathrow Terminal 4 to Heathrow Terminals 2&3 closed (Covid-19)
2020-10-01 Crossrail officially handed over to TfL.
2021-03-28 Crossrail officially classified as an operational railway.
2022-05-24 [7] Paddington to Abbey Wood opened[3]
X Bond Street
2022-06-15 0 Heathrow Terminal 4 to Heathrow Terminals 2&3 reopened
2022-10-24 + Bond Street
2022-11-06 0 Whitechapel to Stratford opened
0 Acton Main Line to Paddington opened
Heathrow Terminal 5 to Heathrow Terminals 2 & 3 started

[1] The Eastern Counties & Thames Junction Railway was the owner of the North Woolwich Railway. The route that opened on this date was on the surface throughout. When the Albert Dock was opened the line crossed the channel connecting it to the Royal Victoria Dock and a swing-bridge had to be added. The EC&TJR therefore dug the Connaught Tunnel and diverted the line through it while also retaining the original route, which is almost but not exactly on the same alignment. The tunnel route opened in 1878 or 1880 (sources disagree). The western end of the divergence was at 410809, slightly west of Prince Regent station on the DLR (which is on the original route); the eastern end was at the west end of Silvertown station. Passenger trains on the line were operated by a mixture of the North London Railway and the GER, who eventually bought it.

[2] The BR line from Stratford to North Woolwich, including this section, was closed. The DLR route paralleling it from Canning Town to Beckton remained open.

[3] There were a number of special services for invited guests operated before this date. In addition, on 2021-11-29 a passenger managed to board a train at Abbey Wood and rode all the way to Paddington.


The central section is in tunnel from west of Paddington to west of Stratford on the main route and west of Custom House on the Abbey Wood branch. The latter branch follows the former alignment of the North London Line (including through the Connaught Tunnel) to North Woolwich (this was closed when the DLR was extended from Canning Town to Stratford), before diverging and crossing under the Thames then surfacing again to run beside the existing line to Abbey Wood. (Originally it was planned to place the new tracks between those of the existing line, but this was later changed to the present side-by-side arrangement.)

Outside the central section, both the Reading and Shenfield routes are entirely on the surface. Both have 4 tracks (6 in some places near London) arranged as a fast pair and a slow pair; the Elizabeth Line uses the slow pair. On the Reading route the slow pair are on the north side throughout. On the Shenfield route, the slow pair are on the south side (to give cross-platform interchange with the Central Line) until just west of Ilford, where they fly over the fast pair so as to put the slow pair on the north side and provide access to Ilford depot; they remain on the north side to Shenfield.

The Heathrow branch is also in tunnel. It is double track except for the Heathrow Terminal 4 branch, which is single.

Stations from Paddington to Whitechapel, plus Canary Wharf and Woolwich, have platform-edge doors. Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, and Liverpool Street stations have separate entrances at each end. In the first three cases, one end connects to the existing Underground lines; the new Liverpool Street station connects to both the existing Liverpool Street and Moorgate stations.

The new tunnels have a diameter of 6m (19'8"), large enough to accommodate full-size trains and an emergency walkway. The line is electrified throughout at 25 kV AC, using solid conductor bars rather than wires in the central tunnels.

The central section, from Westbourne Park Junction to Stratford and to Abbey Wood, is fitted with a CBTC signalling system from Siemens. On this section trains normally operate automatically, with the drivers' work being limited to starting the automatics at each station and operating the doors. The western section, from Reading and Heathrow to Westbourne Park Junction, is being fitted with ETCS Level 2 (the Heathrow branch is already fitted), providing protection against overspeed and exceeding the train's movement authority, but the trains are still driven manually. The eastern section, from Pudding Mill Lane portal to Shenfield, uses standard NR signals with AWS and TPWS protection. This is also being used on the western section until ETCS is operational. At the west end of the central section, trains change systems on the move at Westbourne Park Junction and Heathrow Tunnel Junction, but at the east end they currently do so while stopped at Stratford station.

Trains are capable of driving themselves automatically from Paddington to Westbourne Park sidings, reversing direction, and then returning to Paddington. This means that, instead of drivers having to close down one end after stopping, walk through the train, then open it up in the opposite direction before it can start moving, they can walk through the train while all this is going on. Auto-reverse will also be used at Plumstead sidings: the driver will remain at the west end of the train while it drives west into a head-shunt and then east to Abbey Wood, ready to depart westwards in service (it's not clear whether the converse move to return to the sidings will also be under auto-reverse).


After two intermediate timetables, the final "stage 5c" service was introduced on 2023-05-21. It consists of 24 tph in the peaks and 16 tph the rest of the time:

Paddington Abbey Wood4 tph
Paddington Gidea Park 4 tph
Paddington Shenfield 10 tph6 tph2 tph
Heathrow Terminal 4Abbey Wood4 tph4 tph4 tph
Heathrow Terminal 5Shenfield 2 tph2 tph2 tph
Maidenhead Abbey Wood 2 tph2 tph
Reading Abbey Wood4 tph2 tph2 tph

6 tidal services (2 tph) operate between Gidea Park and Liverpool Street mainline in the peak direction only. A few early and late trains use the Liverpool Street and Paddington mainline platforms.

All trains call at all stations except that Reading and Maidenhead services omit Hanwell, West Ealing, and Acton Main Line, and a few Reading peak services also omit Taplow, Langley, Iver, Hayes & Harlington, and Southall.

The normal running times from Paddington are: Reading: 59 minutes, Heathrow Terminal 4: 38 minutes, Heathrow Terminal 5: 38 minutes, Heathrow Terminals 2&3: 31 minutes, Whitechapel: 14 minutes, Stratford: 19 minutes, Abbey Wood: 29 minutes, Romford: 39 minutes, Shenfield: 53 minutes.


key to notation

Locations are listed down the page in the eastbound direction.

The Elizabeth Line does not use distances from Ongar. The zero point for the Crossrail section of the line (i.e. the new construction as opposed to existing NR lines) is just east of the boundary between NR and TfL at Royal Oak, just over 1 mile from Paddington main line station, with numbers increasing eastwards; the short section west of that is given negative numbers. Where a chainage for NR locations is needed, a metricated version of the NR chainage is used with a zero of Paddington, Liverpool Street, or a point within Westcombe Park station as appropriate.

This page uses a zero point exactly 100 km west of the Crossrail zero point. Distances from Crossrail data use a decimal point; those from Network Rail data use an equals sign.

Crossrail uses separate chainages in each direction and so two values are given for each location, westbound and eastbound in that order. The notation 123:124 indicates the same location with the difference being caused by the tracks following different alignments of different lengths. The notation 123/124 indicates different measuring points on each track (e.g. because platform centre points aren't exactly aligned). Where a measurement only applies to one track, a dash is used for the other.

Numbers on the NR sections are projected from the westbound TfL chainages.

SU715738 43=75 [=7dd=du=uW=WE=E[4]] %![ZX] Reading
SU790758 52=00 [=we=WE=v] ![ZX] Twyford
SU887807 62=64 [=we=WE=v] ![ZX] Maidenhead
SU911812 65=05 [-] ((Taplow))
SU915813 65=45 [we =3WE4=] ![ZX] Taplow
SU940813 67=91 [weW=E] ![ZX] Burnham
SU978802 71=95 [v=we=WE=^] ![ZX] Slough
SU980801 72=15 [-] ((Slough))
TQ013797 75=53 [=we=WE=] ![ZX] Langley
037799 78=51 [=we=WE=] ![ZX] Iver
[-] ((West Drayton))
061801 80=38 [=we=WE= b] ![Z6] West Drayton
086795 82=92 [-] [Down Airport Relief Junction]
093794 83=66 [-] [Up Airport Relief Junction]
097794 84=12 [=we=WE=^] ![Z5] Hayes & Harlington
127798 87=04 [=we=WE=] ![Z4] Southall
153805 89=82 [we =2WE3=] ![Z4] Hanwell
166807 91=06 [we W3=4E] ![Z3] West Ealing
179809 92=47 [=we=WE= ^=^^=^^=] ![Z3] Ealing Broadway
203812 94=79 [we=WE= we+1] ![Z3] Acton Main Line
247818 -:99.5855 [-] [Westbourne Park Junction and NR boundary (eastbound)]
250817 99.762:- [-] [Westbourne Park Junction and NR boundary (westbound)]
257815 100.32200:100.32200 [-] [Royal Oak portal]
259815 100.51000:100.51000 [-] [Royal Oak tunnel eye]
265813 101.43091/101.44561 [W'B'='A'E] %![Z1] Paddington
285810 Bond Street west entrance
285810 103.83628/103.83248 [W'B'= ='A'E] %![Z1] Bond Street entrances at 285810 and 288810
288810 Bond Street east entrance
295813 Tottenham Court Road west entrance
297813 104.89161/104.89622 [W'B'= ='A'E] %![Z1] Tottenham Court Road
298813 Tottenham Court Road east entrance
316818 Farringdon west entrance
317818 107.17585/107.10979 [W'B'= ='A'E] %![Z1] Farringdon
319818 Farringdon east entrance
327816 Liverpool Street west entrance
328817 108.35035/108.28967 [W'B'= ='A'E] %![Z1] Liverpool Street
331816 Liverpool Street east entrance
346819 110.38541/110.29088 [W'B'= ='A'E] %![Z2] Whitechapel
358816 111.42488/111.33298 [-] [Stepney Green Junction]
376833 114.32900:114.15400 [-] [Pudding Mill Lane tunnel eye]
379836 114.76710:114.59480 [-] [Pudding Mill Lane portal]
379836 114.842394:114.665806 [-] [NR boundary]
380837 114.97840:- [-] [Pudding Mill Lane Junction (westbound)]
380838 -:114.88660 [-] [Pudding Mill Lane Junction (eastbound)]
385844 115.71841/115.57047 [v'4a'='4b'v ='3a'w3=5We6=8Eu=db'10a'=11ud= v2=1v] %![Z2/3] Stratford
391849 116=63 [=WE=we=] ![Z3] Maryland
404852 117=88 [=WE=we=] ![Z3] Forest Gate
419856 119=45 [=WE=we=] ![Z3/4] Manor Park
429862 120=63 [-] [Aldersbrook flyover]
435865 121=24 [=we=WE=v] ![Z4] Ilford
442867 121=94 [-] [Ilford Depot entrance]
450870 122=89 [-] [Ilford Depot entrance]
453871 123=19 [=we=WE=] ![Z4] Seven Kings
464873 124=36 [=we=WE=] ![Z4] Goodmayes
476876 125=48 [=we=WE=] ![Z5] Chadwell Heath
514884 129=32 [=^ =we=WE=] ![Z6] Romford
529893 131=15 [w=eW=E] ![Z6] Gidea Park
548906 133=47 [=we=WE=] ![Z6] Harold Wood
593930 138=70 [=we=WE=] ![Z9] Brentwood
613950 141=92 [uu=ud=WE=V] ![ZX] Shenfield

358816 111.42488/111.33298 [-] [Stepney Green Junction]
377804 113.82999/113.75832 [W'B'='A'E] %[Z2] Canary Wharf (3)
404808 116.63900:116.56100 [-] [Victoria Dock portal]
407809 117.14719/117.07020 [w=eW=E X] %![Z3] Custom House
414808 117.85500:117.77500 [-] [Connaught Tunnel north portal]
417803 118.42500:118.35000 [-] [Connaught Tunnel south portal]
420801 118.87422:118.79788 [WE=] [Z3] (Silvertown)
428799 119.53800:119.46100 [-] [North Woolwich portal]
440789 121.19706/121.11634 [W'B'='A'E] %![Z4] Woolwich
452788 122.64300:122.54400 [-] [Plumstead tunnel eye]
451788 123.08400:123.00000 [-] [Plumstead portal]
460789 -:123.19141 [-] [Plumstead sidings access]
473790 124.50040:124.37240 [T=Bd=u X] %![Z4] Abbey Wood
481791 125.2998817:- [-] [NR boundary]
483791 125.44290:- [-] [Alsike Road Junction]

050758 75=360 [= W3==4Ew1=2e] %![Z6] Heathrow Terminal 5
070756 77=556 [-] [junction]
074758 78=095 [CP] %![Z6] Heathrow Terminals 2&3
077793 81=737 [-] [Heathrow Tunnel Junction]
086795 82=92 [-] [Down Airport Relief Junction]
093794 83=66 [-] [Up Airport Relief Junction]

080745 75=125 [CP] %![Z6] Heathrow Terminal 4
070756 77=556 [-] [junction]
074758 78=095 [CP] %![Z6] Heathrow Terminals 2&3

247818 -:99.586 [-] [Westbourne Park Junction (eastbound)]
249817 99=69 [=du= WEweb] [Z2] {Westbourne Park}
250817 99.762:- [-] [Westbourne Park Junction (westbound)]
258815 100=70 [bbbbWEw=e] [Z2] {Royal Oak}
266812 101=54 [=vv=vv=vv=vv=vv=VV=14vw=e] [Z1] Paddington (main line)

332817 109=41 [T=T^=^^=^^= =^^=^^=^^=^^=^^=X] %![Z1] Liverpool Street (main line)
335822 110=09 [-] (Bishopsgate)
338822 110=39 [-] [Bishopsgate Junction]
347823 111=22 [WEwe =we=] [Z2] {Bethnal Green}
355826 112=00 [-] (Globe Road and Devonshire Street)
355826 112=08 [-] (Devonshire Street Mile End)
364829 113=13 [-] (Coborn Road for Old Ford)
367830 113=33 [-] (Coborn Road)
378835 114=66 [=we= W Eudud] [Z2/3] {Pudding Mill Lane}
380837 114.97840:- [-] [Pudding Mill Lane Junction westbound]
380838 -:114.88660 [-] [Pudding Mill Lane Junction eastbound]

[4] There are also three west-facing bays numbered 1 to 3 and three east-facing bays numbered 4 to 6 that can't be shown in this notation.


The main depot will be at Old Oak Common. There are storage sidings and the depot for the maintenance trains at Plumstead.


There are no connections in the central tunnel. The existing lines have various branches that are not part of the Elizabeth Line as well as extending beyond its limits.

Rolling Stock

The line is operated by class 345 9-car EMUs, though the stations are long enough to hold 12 cars. Some trains were temporarily reduced to 7 cars until the relevant platforms at Liverpool Street were extended.

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