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Railfanning London‘s Railways

Visitors to London who are also transport enthusiasts (‘railfans’) sometimes ask for advice as to the ‘best’ things to see on London’s railway network. This page is part of a guide which aims to answer that question.

If this is the first time you have reached these pages then it is best to go to the Opening Page which sets the scene, explains the difference between the small and the large profile trains, offers advice on the best type of ticket to buy and photography tips.

Alternatively, it is possible to view everything on one page


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Crossrail Line 1 (Elizabeth Line)
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Crossrail as a name in the London context refers to two (or three) new subterranean railway lines which will travel across central London and in the suburbs extend over existing heavy rail routes. The primary aim is to reduce overcrowding on London's existing railways. The concept of introducing trains to the many areas which are remote from any railway service is seen as a secondary (less important) side effect.

What is significant about Crossrail is that its deep level 'tube' tunnels will be large enough for full size mainline trains. Until now only the deep level 'tube' tunnels used by Northern City Line were suitable for full size mainline trains.

CrossRail Map; click image to see a larger version in a new window.
Map modified by me, original source & license: Ed g2s / Wikipedia encyclopædia CC BY-SA 3.0 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CrossrailLine1Map.svg

Click map to see larger version in a new window! .

When it opens Crossrail Line 1 (which is going to marketed to the public as the Elizabeth Line) will enable some of the existing mainline suburban and regional trains that travel through west London into Paddington station and almost all of the east London trains on the Stratford - Ilford - Romford - Shenfield route which travel into Liverpool Street station to be joined up via new deep-level tube train tunnels through the centre of London. In addition there will be a new branch to the south-east of London which will end at an interchange station at Abbey Wood, which is on the southern side of the River Thames. This branch will also serve the Excel exhibition centre and Canary Wharf Financial District in the east London Docklands area.

The railway routes Paddington - Reading and Liverpool Street - Shenfield both already have at least four tracks, with one pair of tracks (per route) dedicated to fast (longer distance) trains and the other pair of tracks for slow (local) trains. Mostly Elizabeth Line trains will use the slow (local) tracks.

In addition to building new sections of underground railway and stations, the existing railway routes are being revamped. The first stage towards this occurred at the end of May 2015 when control of the London Liverpool Street - Shenfield suburban service was taken over by Transport for London and started using the temporary brand name of TFL Rail. To make this route suitable for the new trains many station platforms are being lengthened and the overhead wire power supply system which dates from the late 1940's is being renewed. In addition many points / switches / turnouts are being renewed or removed, so that the route will have very few remaining connections with the rest of the national rail network. One side-effect of this descoping is that freight / goods trains which used to be able to join this route at Forest Gate and then cross over to the adjacent fast lines before diverting to the North London Line (which is a major freight artery across London) at Stratford will find that the crossover tracks to the fast lines have been removed. making such journeys impossible. A potential side-effect of this is former railfreight traffic switching to the roads! The national railway system is supposed to be for the entire nation - not just the people of London!

The line to the west of London is also benefitting from much investment, both as part of the Crossrail project and as part of an electrification project that extends to faraway destinations not served by the Elizabeth Line.

TFL Rail Class 315 train. . TFL Rail Class 315 train.
A Class 315 train in full TFL Rail livery at Seven Kings station. The white railing are a recent innovation designed to prevent passengers from entering the little-used section of platform passed by fast trains. . The grey surround around the doorway on the left identifies
this as being the nearest entrance to the wheelchair space.
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Inside a TFL Rail Class 315 train. . Classes 345 and 315 trains.
Inside a TFL Rail Class 315 train. The seats with a different colour scheme are 'priority seats' for infirm people who can walk. . TFL Rail 345 007 and 315 822 at London Liverpool Street station.

The Elizabeth Line will use 70 air-conditioned trains which feature a fully walk-through internal design, electronic (visual and audible) real-time information, CCTV, Wi-Fi and 4g. However there are no USB power sockets.

Each train has four wheelchair spaces and (at different locations) groups of folding / tip-up longitudinal seating which create multi-user spaces for luggage (eg: on airport journeys) and parents with children in pushchairs / buggies / strollers.

The first of the new trains arrived in London on Friday 9th December 2016. The train type is the Bombardier Aventra. In the British train naming scheme these trains are known as Class 345.

Eventually these trains will be 200 metres long with 9 coaches, 450 seats and an estimated total passenger capacity of 1,500 people. However because of short platforms (especially at Liverpool Street station) the first trains to enter passenger service have just 7 coaches and are about 160 metres long - this being about the same length as the Class 315 trains they are displacing.

London Crossrail poster. . TFL Rail Elizabeth Line message on train side.
A poster about what at the time was simply known as Crossrail at Whitechapel station. Click here to read the text on an extra large 480kb version of this image. . . A message about the planned eventual use of the new trains - this was on the side of 345 007 as seen at Liverpool Street station one row above.
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London Crossrail poster. . TFL Rail Elizabeth Line message on train side.
Some coaches feature a mix of longitudinal and transverse seating.
Longitudinal seats have fixed armrests whilst transverse seats have folding armrests.
. Some coaches only offer longitudinal seating.
This includes the coach with the wheelchair spaces, one of which is to my immediate left. There is another wheelchair place at the far end of the row of seats on the right.
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London Crossrail poster. . TFL Rail Elizabeth Line message on train side.
There are four wheelchair places per train. These have drought screens on one side and tip-up / folding seats for use by other passengers when the space is not needed by wheelchair users. . Some of the messages seen on the electronic real-time information displays. The trains also have traditional paper route maps.
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seat fabric colour palette Class 345 train Crossrail Elizabeth Line. . Class 345 train Crossrail Elizabeth Line Stratford station.
Class 345 trains have the same seat fabric pattern as the Class 315 trains but a different colour palette.
On the left is a 'priority seat' - these are for infirm people who can walk and they follow their own colour scheme.
. Calling at platform 8 at Stratford station, as seen from platform 3a.

Project Timeline

The first Class 345 train started carrying passengers on 22nd June 2017. Although they carry Elizabeth Line livery they are operating as part of TFL Rail.

In May 2018 the local 'all stations' service between London's Paddington station and West Drayton / Heathrow Airport (ie: the Heathrow Connect) will become part of TFL Rail.

In December 2018 trains will start running between Abbey Wood station (in south-east London) and the Elizabeth Line platforms at Paddington station via the new tunnels below central London.

In May 2019 most trains between Shenfield and Liverpool Street will be extended to the Elizabeth Line platforms at Paddington station.

The full service will commence in December 2019. This will include through trains from the Abbey Wood branch to Heathrow Airport and Reading. Although the Heathrow Connect service is being subsumed into the Elizabeth Line, the non-stop Heathrow Express will continue as a dedicated service which links Paddington station with Heathrow Airport.

Note that the Elizabeth Line is expected to operate as two overlapping services. 1) Shenfield - Paddington and 2) Abbey Wood - Paddington / Heathrow / Reading. The reason for this is to reduce the likelihood of delays in one part of London from causing delays in another part of London. Passengers wanting a destination not served by their train will be able to change train by waiting on the same platform.

Some trains from Abbey Wood will end their journeys at Paddington, other trains will travel further west towards Heathrow / Reading. At the time of writing (summer 2017) the plans are for at least 6 trains an hour (tph) to serve Heathrow Airport (this might change to 8 tph), plus according to the time of day and day of week 2 - 4tph to Reading with some other trains travelling only as far as West Drayton, Maidenhead etc.

In the rush hours there will also be additional trains between the existing mainline (above ground) Liverpool Street station and either Chadwell Heath or Shenfield. This is because this extremely busy route will need more trains than those which travel through the tunnel and the platforms at the existing Liverpool Street station will be more convenient for the many people who work in the local area.

The brand new deep level tube train tunnels and the Abbey Wood branch are being equipped with radio Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) moving block signalling with Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and Automatic Train Protection (ATP). To allow train frequencies to increase the signalling is being designed for up to 30tph. All underground stations will have platform screen doors.

West of Paddington station Elizabeth Line trains will travel on the Great Western Main Line alongside other trains and this route is currently being equipped with the European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2. To the east of London Elizabeth Line trains will travel on the Great Eastern Main Line alongside other trains and this route uses the legacy Train Protection Warning System (TPWS).

Sampling The New Class 345 TFL Rail / Crossrail / Elizabeth Line Trains

projector icon Three videos of the new trains in action have been placed on the ‘YouTube’ film / video website and can be watched (in new windows) by clicking the links below .,
The first train arrives in London - seen passing through Stratford station: https://youtu.be/ZsIDjCImUBs
The first day of service: https://youtu.be/NblaJ2hMd78
Exploring the new trains: https://youtu.be/Mhn_7VLkPRk


So far (March 2018) there are only a few of the new trains in passenger service.

This link leads to an interesting source of information about the introduction of these trains in to passenger service: .
http://www.railforums.co.uk/showthread.php?t=120221&page=70

Visible Signs At Stations Destined To Become Part Of The Elizabeth Line

Many stations in central London are being rebuilt for the Elizabeth Line, however because the platforms will be underground there is very little to see which directly relates to the Elizabeth Line.

In suburban London many of the stations which will become part of the new line are having their platforms lengthened and lifts installed. Typically these stations are also branded as being operated by TFL Rail.

Seven Kings TFL Rail station frontage. . railway station platforms being extended.
Seven Kings is one of the existing suburban stations which is now served by TFL Rail but will eventually become part of the Elizabeth Line. . Platforms being extended at Ilford station, which is another of the existing stations that will be served by the Elizabeth Line when it opens.

Perhaps the best station (and closest to central London) where it is possible to see work in progress is Custom House. This east London station is one of the few locations where brand new platforms are being built above ground. It is served by the Docklands Light Railway, Beckton branch. At this station the two railway services will have one double-sided island platform each, centrally located between the tracks.

It would have been much better for the passengers had this station been designed to have cross-platform interchange between the two railway services. This would also have reduced the numbers of passengers walking around the station. However, the railway industry did not want this. Apparently it is seen as 'inconvenient' when trains operated by different railway companies share the same platforms plus because the DLR was already running the safety people said that it was too dangerous to have construction workers close to a live railway.

Elizabeth Line station platform name sign. . Elizabeth line name at station.
From the street it is possible to see part of an Elizabeth Line
platform station name sign. Construction works plastic
hoarding prevents sight of the full sign.
. In a visit in early January 2018 it was possible to see an Elizabeth line name sign on the wall below a footbridge over the road that is alongside this station. However, as only DLR trains currently stop here the Elizabeth Line sign has now been covered over.

Another station where brand new platforms are being built is Abbey Wood, which is in south-east London. This station is already served by trains operated SouthEastern and here too each railway service will have a dedicated double-sided island platform each, centrally located between the tracks.

Abbey Wood Elizabeth Line station platform. . Elizabeth line name on Class 345 train.
The Elizabeth Line platforms at Abbey Wood as seen in March 2018, whilst still under construction. The Class 345 train seen here has the words
'Elizabeth Line' in the Roundel symbol. Both photographs were filmed through the glass window of an eastbound SouthEastern train.



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This page last updated 27th March 2018
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