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London (CNN) — A massive new underground rail line took paying passengers deep under the streets of London for the first time on Tuesday as the British capital opened a new $25 billion tube line that will transform travel around the city.
Crowds of train enthusiasts, commuters and excited locals arrived from Paddington Station shortly after 6:30 am to catch the first of the new trains off the Elizabeth line. Many had been queuing for hours.
Crowds lined up outside Paddington Station to ride the first trains on London’s new Elizabeth Line.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
The construction – an engineering marvel fraught with the dangers of digging around London’s existing underground tangle of Victorian pipework, sewer pipes, building foundations and ancient cemeteries – has not been without controversy.
The railway, which was originally scheduled to open in 2018, is at times Europe’s largest infrastructure project and is struggling with delays and an escalating budget. There’s also a question mark about how useful it will be after Covid drastically reduces commuting.
But for those using the service on day one, there was little to worry about, as passengers were lavish in the spacious, air-conditioned train carriages with beautiful airy stations and smooth movements – a world away from the cramped and noisy experience of older metro lines.
One of the first was Elizabeth Harding, 37, a health service worker from the city of St Albans, north of London, who rode the shiny new rails in special “Elizabeth Line” sneakers after leaving home at 3:30 a.m. left.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan pretends to wipe his brow with relief as the first trains on the Elizabeth line leave on time.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
“I love trains and my name is Elizabeth, and I have the shoes, so I had to come,” she told CNN on the wide platform of Farringdon Station as a train quietly glided to its next destination.
“How often do you get the chance to be part of a brand new train line opening in London?”
‘Trials and Trials’
Elizabeth Harding: “It’s smooth, quiet and aesthetically pleasing.”
Harding said the line met expectations. “I think it’s smooth, quiet and aesthetically pleasing,” she said. “I especially like the seat cover – it’s beautiful.”
Will Folker, a 24-year-old London train enthusiast who works in sales, also got up early on Tuesday to be one of the first passengers. “It’s been one of the biggest railway openings in the UK for quite some time now so I’m really excited to see it open after all the trials and tribulations,” he said.
Harding’s line-themed Elizabeth shoes.
Folker also praised the experience of riding the new line. “It’s smooth, easy to use and punctual. It will make it easier for people coming to central London.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who toured the new line on Tuesday morning and happily posed for selfies with customers and staff, expressed his delight at the line’s highly anticipated launch.
The signature seat covers of the Elizabeth line.
Leon Neal/Getty Image
“The last time we had a transportation expansion on this scale was in 1969 when the Victoria Line opened.”
In normal running, Tuesday’s opening saw trains linking Paddington in west London to Abbey Wood in the south east, with stops at key stations including Tottenham Court Road shopping center and Canary Wharf’s financial district.
And when it opens fully later in 2022, the 100-mile network will also connect distant commuter towns, bringing an additional 1.5 million people within 45 minutes of central London and Heathrow, the UK’s main international airport. come.
Ben Jones contributed to this report.