11:12AM, Tuesday 18 January 2022
Photo from Transport for London
Crossrail passenger services are set to commence in the first half of this year - with plans estimating that Berkshire travellers can connect with the line's central section by the autumn.
Officials in charge of the multi-million pound project said that this will be a 'milestone year' for the long-awaited Crossrail service, known as the Elizabeth line.
Transport for London added it is coming to the end of the first phase of its 'Trial Operations' scheme - which has involved constant running of the trains on the line to ensure it is safe to open.
Since May 2021, trains have been running through the tunnels to build up mileage ahead of the railway opening to passengers.
The next phase will involve organisations including London Underground, Network Rail and emergency services to plan for emergencies and simulate what would happen in a major event on the railway.
As a result of this, there will be times where police, fire and ambulance service vehicles may be seen near stations.
Initial services between Abbey Wood and Paddington Elizabeth line stations will start in the first half of 2022, while the latest plans hope to ensure that services from Maidenhead and Slough can connect with the central tunnels from autumn 2022.
The final milestone will be no later than May 2023, when the final timetable will be in place.
When the Elizabeth line opens it will initially operate as three separate railways, with customers from the west initially needing to change as normal at Paddington for services into the central section of the route.
The scheme has been hit by constant delays since its inception, and was initially meant to be completed in 2018, but 2022 appears to be the year when East Berkshire and South Bucks travellers can access central London on one service.
Mark Wild, Crossrail chief executive, said: “The Elizabeth line is on track to open in the first half of 2022 as we continue to make progress on completing the works necessary to start passenger services in the central section of the railway, from Paddington to Abbey Wood.
"I’d like to thank everyone for their continued hard work and we look forward to beginning the next phase of Trial Operations exercises.”
When the Elizabeth line opens it will operate 12 trains per hour through the central section of the railway.
Andy Byford, Transport for London’s commissioner, added: “The launch of this much needed and transformational addition to the transport network will be central to the recovery for London and the UK.
"Customers will experience a new way of travelling – with brand new, spacious step-free stations and new connections across the capital and beyond."
Maidenhead and Slough travellers have long been waiting for the arrival of Crossrail to whisk them quickly into central London.