London’s delayed and over-budget Elizabeth line railway will finally open on Tuesday May 24, Transport for London (TfL) has announced.
Services will initially operate from Mondays to Saturdays, allowing further testing and software updates to take place on Sundays.
Crossrail – the project to build the new east-west railway – was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010.
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But it has been hit by numerous problems including construction delays and difficulties installing complex signalling systems.
The total cost of the project has been estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion from the Government.
It is hoped the Queen – after whom the line is named – will be involved in the opening.
TfL commissioner Andy Byford said: “I am delighted that we can now announce a date for the opening of the Elizabeth line in May.
“We are using these final few weeks to continue to build up reliability on the railway and get the Elizabeth line ready to welcome customers.
“The opening day is set to be a truly historic moment for the capital and the UK, and we look forward to showcasing a simply stunning addition to our network.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the Elizabeth line will make the capital “safer, fairer, greener and more prosperous”.
He went on: “This is the most significant addition to our transport network in decades, and will revolutionise travel across the capital and the South East – as well as delivering a £42 billion boost to the whole UK economy and hundreds of thousands of new homes and jobs.
“Green public transport is the future, and the opening of the Elizabeth line is a landmark moment for our capital and our whole country, particularly in this special Platinum Jubilee year.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused Mr Khan of breaking pre-election communications rules, as local elections take place across London on Thursday.
The Conservative Cabinet minister said the Labour mayor had displayed “breathtaking political cynicism”.
The Elizabeth line will stretch from Reading in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London.
It will initially operate in three sections.
Trains in the central area will run every five minutes through new tunnels between Paddington and Abbey Wood from 6.30am until 11pm.
The Sunday closures will be lifted on June 5 to help people travelling in the capital during the Platinum Jubilee weekend.
Services already run in the east and west sections, but they will be rebranded from TfL Rail to the Elizabeth line from May 24.
They will continue to run seven days a week. The three sections are expected to be integrated in the autumn. Bond Street Elizabeth line station will not be ready to open on May 24.
It is expected to be completed by the end of the year.