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London’s long-delayed Elizabeth line commuter rail link opens

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The long-delayed and over-budget Elizabeth line rail link finally opened in London on Tuesday, with hopes it will speed up journeys across the British capital and provide an economic boost.

Hundreds of people queued outside Paddington station in west London to be on the first train when it left at 6:33 am (0533 GMT).

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the opening “historic” and “the most significant addition to our transport network in decades”.

“The Elizabeth line is much more than just a new railway –- it will provide a crucial economic boost to the whole country and help to turbo-charge our recovery from the pandemic,” he added.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth unveils a plaque to mark the completion of the Elizabeth Line at Paddington Station in London, Britain, on May 17, 2022. (Reuters)
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth unveils a plaque to mark the completion of the Elizabeth Line at Paddington Station in London, Britain, on May 17, 2022. (Reuters)

Khan’s predecessor as mayor, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said the project is forecast to boost the UK economy by £42 billion ($52 billion, 49 billion euros).

Only one of the line’s three branches has opened, from Paddington to Abbey Wood in southeast London.

Sections from Shenfield, east of London to Liverpool Street and Heathrow Airport and Reading, west of the capital, to Paddington will open by May next year.

Trains are currently scheduled to run from 6:30 am to 11:00 pm Monday to Saturday, with a Sunday service expected to start later this year.

The line, named after Queen Elizabeth II, is projected to carry up to 200 million passengers a year, adding 10 percent more capacity to London’s transport network.

Work started on the project back in 2009 and was initially called Crossrail. It was originally due to open in 2018.

But it was hit by problems with construction and complex signaling systems. Costs ballooned to £18.9 billion -- some £3 billion over budget.

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