Years Late, London’s ‘Game-Changer’ Subway Line Set to Open | Business News

 Years Late, London’s ‘Game-Changer’ Subway Line Set to Open | Business News


By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) – Andy Byford points to the cathedral -like ceiling, the crystal clear acoustics, the “aesthetic purity” that surrounds him.

The head of London’s public transport system is rhapsodizing about a subway station-about a new line he says will be “the envy of the world” when it opens this month.

“It really gives people a sense of grandeur, but there’s also a sense of calm,” Byford said as he showed reporters around Liverpool Street Station the shining new east-west Elizabeth Line in London, due to open on May 24.

The 19 billion pounds ($ 23 billion) mixed above and below ground rail, named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, is three and a half years later and 4 billion pounds ($ 5 billion) behind budget. . But Byford said it could be “a substitute for the game” for Britain’s pandemic-ravaged capital town.

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“I think if it opens it will be a huge moral boost for London, after COVID,” said Byford, Transport commissioner for London. ? ”

Yet there is a question mark as to whether London still needs the Elizabeth Line.

Since the project’s ground – also known as Crossrail – was first broken up in 2009, London has gone through a recession, a rocky exit of Britain from the European Union and a coronavirus pandemic that has shut down the town for months. and changing work and travel standards, which can. for good.

Tony Travers, a government professor at the London School of Economics, said the Elizabeth Line was “a unique and beautiful thing.”

“But it was built – after a lot of effort and a long time – for a different economy,” he said. “The whole economic case is very much focused on the continued economic growth of central London.”

Britain’s largest infrastructure project in decades, the new line involves digging 26 miles (42 kilometers) of new tunnels beneath Europe’s largest town-which has seen 68,000 -year-old mammoth bones, Roman ruins and the skulls of the victims of the medieval plague on the road.

It is scheduled to open in late 2018. But in just a few months the launch was postponed, and then postponed again as workers struggled to complete 10 new stations and connect three. separate signaling systems on the west, central and eastern parts of the 60 -mile (100 -kilometer) railroad.

In 2020, the founders turned to Byford, a veteran public transportation executive who ran the Toronto Transit Commission and then the New York transit authority, where he was nicknamed “Train Daddy” as he struggled with the often frustrating subway and bus systems in the Big Apple. .

Byford put his reputation on running and running the Elizabeth Line.

“It has challenges,” he admits. “It was a labor of love for us. We are sweating blood because of this. ”

Much of the underground central section from Paddington Station in west London to Abbey Wood in the south-east opens to paying customers this month, days before the UK celebrates the queen’s Platinum Jubilee, though it will not be fully united on the ground east and west legs until the fall.

The founders say the Elizabeth Line will provide a fast-paced new link between Heathrow Airport in west London, the City financial district in the center and the Canary Wharf business hub in the east.

For anyone who has ridden London’s narrow Underground, parts of which are over 150 years old, the scale of the new line is a delightful surprise. The wide trains can carry more than 1,000 passengers each. They are also air conditioned, something unique to the Sweat Tube in London. The tunnels seem to curve forever and the stations fly – Paddington is 10 storeys long and as tall as the Shard, London’s tallest skyscraper.

The founders of Crossrail take pride in attention to detail, from the purple patterned fabric of the train seats to the playful station design touches, such as the ceiling at Liverpool Street Station in the City being striped to evoke a pinstriped suit in a bankers. The concourse lighting was cool, the platforms warm – a “nudge” to encourage people towards the trains.

The Elizabeth Line opens up a town, and country, facing economic uncertainty, with the Ukraine war raising record inflation and the town center quieter than before the pandemic because so many officers work at least part-time from home. Expected line rides have been scaled from a predicted 250 million people a year before the pandemic, to about 200 million a year.

The transit network, London’s circulatory system, needs more investment. But the Conservative British government is focused on spreading economic opportunity from the wealthy in southern England to the poorer Midlands and north, and is reluctant to spend money on the capital city – especially since London is a stronghold. of the opposition Labor Party.

A planned Crossrail 2 to pass through London from the south-west to the north-east has been blocked, although Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild hopes it will be completed one day.

He is sure the new line will help bring London back.

“If there’s a railroad with pandemic evidence, it’s this,” Wild said. “Windy, fast, stations like the cathedral, fresh air. It’s modern, clean. If there’s one rail that inspires a return to the office, it’s this one.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.



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