"The speed is crazy" - watch Simon Harris' report on the launch day of the Elizabeth Line
Hundreds of people gathered in central London as the city's new £18.9 billion Elizabeth Line finally opened.
Transport enthusiasts hailed the “momentous occasion”, having travelled from across the country for the ceremony on Tuesday morning (24 May).
Around 300 people were waiting outside Paddington Station ahead of the service’s opening at 6.30am, and the crowd cheered and rushed forwards when the doors opened at around 6.20am.
The first train departed on time at 6.33am carrying hundreds of excited passengers. At 9am Paddington station was closed for around half an hour due to a fire alarm being activated.
Colin Kelso, 18, travelled down from Glasgow for the event and wore a hoody emblazoned with “Purple train” on the front, in a nod to the line’s colour scheme.
He said: “I want to get on the first train. I’ve always liked trains and have been keeping up to date with the project.”
Danny McLaren, 21, from Edinburgh, arrived at Paddington at 1.30am, and described the event as “an epic day”.
“We’ve known it will open for a while. It’s a brand new railway. New technology. New trains.
“It’s an epic day to experience it when it’s brand new.”
Around 130,000 people travelled on the new railway in the first few hours of operation.
The Elizabeth line stretches from Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow Airport in west London to Abbey Wood in south-east London and Shenfield in Essex.
It is operating in three separate sections, which are expected to be integrated in the autumn.
The new central section, built by the Crossrail project, runs through tunnels from Paddington in west London to Abbey Wood.
It will initially be closed on Sundays – apart from during the Platinum Jubilee weekend – to allow further testing and software updates to take place.
Crossrail suffered numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications installing signalling systems.
It was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010. The final total cost has been estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion from the Government.
The line is named in honour of the Queen, who visited Paddington station last week to celebrate the completion of Crossrail.
Another passenger, Hakim Colclough, 24, from Chessington, Surrey, said: “This is a momentous occasion. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Colin Farmer, 84, from Croydon, south-east London, arrived at 4.30am.
He said: “It’s history. It’s about time there were trains right through London without changing to the Underground.
“I’m very excited. We’ve been waiting long enough for it. It’s a great achievement.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who travelled on the first departure from Paddington, said it was “a fantastic day”.
“It’s been fantastic to see these amazing stations being used by members of the public. It’s one of those pinch-me moments.
“We’re experiencing an expansion of public transport in London we’ve not seen in more than 50 years.”
He added: “These trains are speedy, spacious, silent, comfortable.
“We know now they are fit for a Queen and, as importantly, fit for Londoners.”
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out...