The day that changed Woolwich forever: Thousands mark Elizabeth Line’s first day

Woolwich Elizabeth Line roundel
Woolwich now has a fast, frequent link to Canary Wharf, the City and West End

Thousands of people used Woolwich’s new Elizabeth Line station in its first few hours as the Crossrail project finally opened its doors to the public this morning.

About 65,000 people used the new route between Paddington and Abbey Wood between 6.30am and 10am, with 6,000 entries and exits recorded at Woolwich alone. Canary Wharf station had 9,000 entries and exits by 10am, with 14,000 recorded at Paddington, where the biggest crowds were.

A long line of passengers was seen at Abbey Wood station, at the start of the line, ahead of the first train, with the first securing his place in the queue at 4.30am. The event drew enthusiasts and curious travellers from across the country who came to see the new railway for themselves.

Camera and camera operator outside station gates
The media also turned up at Woolwich station

At Woolwich, outgoing Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe was joined by his predecessors Denise Hyland and Chris Roberts, along with former Greenwich & Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford, for the first morning of services.

Sleek, quiet trains now take passengers from Woolwich to Canary Wharf in just eight minutes, Farringdon in 18 minutes, Tottenham Court Road in 21 minutes and Paddington in 28 minutes – transforming the area’s connectivity with trains every five minutes. Fares on the new section will be the same as the Tube and the DLR, making it cheaper than using Southeastern or Thameslink.

Services will eventually run through to Heathrow Airport and Reading, and for now trains are only running from 6.30am to 11pm Mondays to Saturdays so finishing touches can be made.

Denise Hyland, Danny Thorpe, Chris Roberts and Nick Raynsford
Denise Hyland, Danny Thorpe, Chris Roberts and Nick Raynsford were at Woolwich station this morning (photo:

Roberts and Raynsford led a campaign to get Woolwich put on the Elizabeth Line map after the initial plans in 2008 left the area off the system. Roberts eventually struck a deal where the council and Berkeley Homes, which is developing the Royal Arsenal, would help fund the new station – taking a gamble on how much money the council would raise from developers across the borough.

Incoming council leader Anthony Okereke and deputy Averil Lekau were also at the station, along with London mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL commissioner Andy Byford.

Okereke said: The Elizabeth line is a crucial step in the transformation of Woolwich and it is amazing to see this ambitious project become a reality. I’ve lived in Woolwich my whole life, this is a genuinely exciting time to become leader and see the next chapter in Woolwich’s history beginning.

“Woolwich Works, our cultural hub, is already attracting new audiences to the town and we’re working on the development of a new leisure centre. There is a real sense of momentum growing and the Elizabeth Line is going to help promote Woolwich even more.”

Andy Byford talking with a woman in a TfL tabard while a band plays
Andy Byford stayed to chat with Woolwich station staff

After the politicians had left, Byford stayed to chat with staff. He said: “It was fantastic to see thousands of excited customers waiting for the Elizabeth line to open this morning and board the first trains from Paddington and Abbey Wood.

“Tens of thousands of journeys have already been made on the new central section of the Elizabeth line since it opened this morning. This stunning addition to the transport network will transform life and travel in London and the South East by dramatically improving transport links, cutting journey times, adding capacity, transforming accessibility and supporting the economic recovery and growth throughout the country for years to come.”

The line had been due to open in December 2018, but was hit by a series of delays that pushed its construction cost up to £19 billion – 70 per cent of which has been paid for by London taxpayers and businesses.

When complete, the full line will run from Reading and Heathrow to Shenfield, Essex and Abbey Wood. In total, some 130,000 journeys were recorded on the Elizabeth Line by 10am, including on the western and eastern sections, which are currently running to and from Paddington and Liverpool Street main line stations.

Updated at 8.45pm to include quote from Anthony Okereke.

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