10:29AM, Thursday 19 May 2022
Crossrail is due to launch in central London on Tuesday, but travellers in Maidenhead and Slough will have to wait a bit longer before they join up with the capital. Photo from Transport for London
Maidenhead and Slough travellers have long been waiting for the arrival of Crossrail to whisk them quickly into central London.
Promises of a more direct link to the capital have been the strapline as the town undergoes huge change, with thousands of flats, houses and infrastructure planned in the area in anticipation of the Elizabeth line.
But huge delays to the project – not helped by a two -year pandemic – have left commuters wondering when they will be able to make full use of the track.
The announcement that Crossrail would be completed in 2018 is now a distant memory, but next week will mark a key milestone for the project as it officially launches in central London on Tuesday.
But what does this mean for travellers in Maidenhead and Slough?
What is happening on Tuesday?
Transport for London (TfL) announced on Wednesday, May 4 that the central section of the Elizabeth line – from London Paddington to Abbey Wood in South East London – will open on Tuesday.
Trains will be 200 metres long and accommodate up to 1,500 passengers.
When will the western section of the line, including Maidenhead and Slough, link up with the central section?
The above announcement will not have a huge impact on travellers from the west, as they will still have to change at Paddington to access the completed central tunnels.
When the Elizabeth line opens it will initially operate as three separate railways. Services from the far west of the line in Reading, which will pass through Maidenhead and Slough, are not scheduled to connect until the autumn.
How frequent will trains be on the Elizabeth line?
From Tuesday, the line will operate 12 trains per hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood, Monday to Saturday from 6:30am-11pm. Services will not run on Sundays.
When the western section connects to the central, frequencies will be increased to 22 trains per hour in the peak between Paddington and Whitechapel.
When the full route opens, four Elizabeth line trains an hour (six an hour at peak times) will run from Maidenhead and Slough to central London.
How long will it take me to get into London stations from Paddington when the full line opens?
The new railway will connect Paddington to Canary Wharf in 17 minutes. This journey takes more than 30 minutes to complete using the existing Tube network.
When was the line meant to be completed and why has it taken so long?
The line was initially supposed to be completed in 2018, but Crossrail Ltd chief executive Mark Wild said it needed further time to complete software and safety works.
Further delays then ensued over the following years before COVID-19 hit, which forced the project to delay even further.
The latest setback was announced in August 2020 when it was confirmed the central section would not open until the first half of 2022, and the entire scheme in 2023.
Much of Maidenhead and Slough's regeneration has been built with Crossrail in mind so developers and the councils will be among those hoping there will be no more delays to the project.
How much has the project cost in total?
Transport for London has maintained that the forecast cost of completing the project ‘remains unchanged’ at £18.9billion. This has been aided by nearly £3billion in loans from the taxpayer.
In November the project was hitting the headlines again when a Parliament committee heard that the line was facing a £150million funding shortfall.
What other changes are being made?
A total of 10 new stations are being created in central London as part of the Elizabeth line. Meanwhile, all services between Reading to Paddington currently operating as TfL Rail will be rebranded to the Elizabeth line.
A series of upgrades have also been made to Maidenhead, Taplow and Burnham railway stations in conjunction ahead of Crossrail’s arrival.
When will the entire Elizabeth line open, from east to west?
Full services across the entire route will be introduced by May 2023, Transport for London says.
Closures are planned on the M4 between Langley and the M25 this weekend for smart motorway works.