The Elizabeth Line, the new ultramodern and comfortable line of the aging and cramped London Underground

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The Elizabeth Line, the new ultramodern and comfortable line of the aging and cramped London Underground
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Edward (right) and Andy Byford (left), the commissioner (executive director) of Transport for London, at Paddington tube station in London on May 17, 2022.

The London “tube”, the oldest underground in the world (opened in 1863), will undergo a major extension. On May 24, the first section of a new line will be inaugurated, the Elizabeth Line, obviously in homage to Queen Elizabeth II, whose platinum jubilee, marking an exceptionally long reign of seventy years, will be celebrated a week later. late. Crossing Greater London from east to west, bringing the City back to just thirty-four minutes from Heathrow International Airport, this massive £19 billion (€22.4 billion) project, originating at 70 % of Londoners’ taxes, required thirteen years of work.

Semi-automatic, equipped with a state-of-the-art transmission system, “it’s a metro for the 21st centurye century, it will increase passenger traffic in the capital by 10%, it will help London rebound after the pandemic,” enthuses Andy Byford, Commissioner (Executive Director) of Transport for London (TfL), Greater London’s public transport management company. This rail professional, who managed Australian railway networks, public transport in Toronto and then New York, leads the tour of the section completed shortly before the opening, from the brand new Paddington station (near the station train of the same name) to Liverpool Street, in the heart of the City, via Bond Street and Farringdon.

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In a megalopolis of 8.9 million inhabitants, at the heart of which has been densely populated for two thousand years, the construction of this central part of the Elizabeth line represented a considerable technical challenge. It took digging deep – 30 meters on average, crossing the Thames three times, excavating so much earth and rubble over four years that there was enough to enlarge an island (Wallasea, Essex) and the set up as a nature reserve. The project engineers had to limit vibrations as much as possible as the train passed – because it passes under the Barbican Center concert hall (in the City) – or around the foundations of Center Point, a skyscraper in New Oxford. Street.

A target of around 150 million passengers per year

The Elizabeth Line was one of the main archaeological sites in Europe, with in particular the discovery of a mass grave of 3,300 bodies, the dead of the Black Death (XVIIe century), at Liverpool Street station. “The most complicated thing was to interoperate the ventilation, station closing or train signaling systems”, points out Mr. Byford. TfL has also bet on gigantism: the Liverpool Street or Paddington stations have been designed in the cathedral spirit, all in curves and in smooth concrete, with impressive ceiling heights, endless corridors, breaking with crampedness. from other downtown stations. The platforms are 250 meters long, allowing 11-car trains to stop – they were made by Alstom in Derby (in the Midlands).

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