Crossrail may be billions of pounds over budget and three and a half years late, but it’s finally ready to roll.
This extraordinary engineering company is to be taken into use on Tuesday, where it will adopt its correct title Elizabeth Line.
The Queen paid a surprise visit to Paddington station this week and officially opened the line.
On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct connection to central London thanks to its new Crossrail station
By connecting Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east with Heathrow and Reading west of the capital, it will connect existing commuter railways together, accelerate cross-city travel and alleviate congestion on the London Underground – especially the often hellish Central Line.
Commuters’ travel times will be cut; Reading to London Liverpool Street, for example, will take less than an hour.
When fully operational, it will increase London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent, making it the largest single expansion of the city’s transport network in more than 70 years.
There are still a few bugs that need to be fixed. Initially, passengers traveling from Reading in the west to Abbey Wood and beyond will have to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street main stations.
Bond Street is also three months late. The trains do not arrive until later in the year. Yet these delays fade to insignificant when one considers how Elizabeth Line will transform train travel in the capital.
Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex
The new station in Paddington, for example, is the size of three natural light Wembley football pitches as far as the entrance to the platform from a nearly 400-foot-long glass canopy.
More than £ 1 billion has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks. Spacious tunnels will lead to airy 600-foot platforms with glass screens at the edge of the tracks, making it impossible to fall under a train.
Stepless access from street to train will make the service wheelchair accessible.
The nine-car, air-conditioned trains will have colorful bench seats and open interiors with full-width walk-through connections between the cars. It will be a world away from today’s cramped, cluttered carriages.
Few engineering projects change the way we live, but The Elizabeth Line promises to do just that. People are already flocking to the new stations.
Research from Savills last year showed that over the past five years, homes within 0.6 miles of about half of the stations on the line have risen in price by 25 percent or more.
It follows that when the sleek and airy new trains come into operation and deliver people to their jobs in twice as fast time, we can expect a migration to the west of London.
Here are the hotspots:
Outlays: More than £ 1bn has been used to upgrade 31 existing stations and tracks
Not so long ago, Reading was best known for its brewery and biscuit factory – no longer.
International companies including Amazon UK, Virgin Media and KPMG have moved there, and with affordable housing, compared to London, the city is already popular with commuters.
“I recently traded with a young woman who sold her 750 m2 apartment in London for £ 600,000 and bought a 1,750 foot duplex in Reading for £ 650,000,” says James Hathaway of Winkworth Real Estate.
The city has plenty of green space, walks along the river, the Grade II-listed Thames Lido and great shopping, especially in Broad Street and the Oracle Center. The average price of a house sold in Reading was £ 384,000 last year.
Compare that to the average price of £ 512,000 in e.g. East London and you will see why an emigration from the capital is expected when Elizabeth Line makes commuting a difficult task.
Maidenhead marches on
This town in Berkshire is keen to attract the town’s bankers, who had previously been deterred from living there by having to wander across the capital’s underground system to get to work.
“Elizabeth Line is changing all that, and buyer inquiries are already starting to flourish,” says Dawn Carritt at Jackson-Stop Real Estate.
“The prospect of living near the river in Maidenhead or in nearby villages like Sonning and Bray is appealing.”
Maidenhead (with Theresa May as a Member of Parliament) is on the verge of a revival. Its 1960s shopping center is to be transformed into The Nicholson Quarter, a beautiful mixed-use center.
The area by the river is developing, and trendy cocktail bars and restaurants such as the Coppa Club are flourishing – a sure sign of a city on the rise.
Ricky Gervais did Slough no favors when he put The Office there. Still, the city has a lot to do. It is well located for travel, located between the M4 and M40 and within easy reach of the M25 and Heathrow Airport.
First-time buyer portal Share to Buy claims Slough has been one of the UK’s top ten property hotspots over the past decade, with a 73 per cent rise in house prices.
The Berkeley Group is remodeling the former Horlicks factory and site to create 1,300 homes.
A small apartment sells for £ 150,000 and a three-bed townhouse for £ 350,000. The center is getting better, and with the advent of the Elizabeth line, things can only get better.