Elizabeth line

An east-west railway

Formal plans for a railway across the middle of London were first proposed in the 19th century, but never realised. Just after World War II, another attempt under the Abercrombie Plan also came to nothing. It wasn't until the 1974 London Rail Study that 'Crossrail' got its name.

Sixteen years later, in 1990, British Rail and London Transport got Government permission to start making plans for the east-west railway, including a section built under Central London. However, cost concerns kept the project on hold for another decade. Find out more about this history on the Crossrail website.

Elizabeth is lowered into place to start tunnelling

Crossrail is created

The real momentum behind the project started in 2001 when what was to become Crossrail Ltd. was formed under a joint sponsorship between TfL and the Department for Transport. The Crossrail Hybrid Bill passed in 2008 gave it permission to 'build, operate and maintain' the new railway across London.

The company broke ground at Canary Wharf in May 2009 and tunnelling started in May 2012.

crossrail launch event at canary wharf may 2009

Crossrail work begins

In December 2008 the process of acquiring land to build Crossrail started - it was one of the most complicated ever in the UK.

In May 2009, Crossrail marked the formal start of construction with an event at Canary Wharf attended by the then Mayor of London and the Rail Minister.

HM the Queen unveils the Elizabeth line roundel

The Elizabeth line gets its name

In February 2016 HM Queen Elizabeth II unveiled the new roundel for the Elizabeth line, cheered on by staff who had been building the tunnels in the central portion of the line.

Services begin

TfL Rail services opened between Liverpool Street and Shenfield May 2015 to form what would become the eastern branch of the Elizabeth line. Stations along the line were refurbished, with some getting new ticket halls and upgraded facilities.

  • 2017: New trains start running between Liverpool Street and Shenfield
  • 2018: Services to the west of London begin running as TfL Rail between Paddington and Heathrow, replacing the existing Heathrow Connect service and part of the Great Western inner suburban service
  • 2019: Services start between Paddington and Reading
  • 2022: HM Queen Elizabeth II formally opens the line on 18 May 2022. Elizabeth line service starts on Tuesday 24 May 2022, bringing together a brand new section with 10 stations under central London with existing TfL Rail services to create the new railway
archaeologists working during the Elizabeth line dig


More than 10,000 objects were unearthed during the build in one of the UK's most extensive archaeological programmes. Find out more about the archaeological investigations on the Crossrail website.