London’s Tube network hits a ‘purple’ patch as Elizabeth Line begins

Services on the new central section will run from Paddington to Abbey Wood

By Prasun Sonwalkar

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Published: Mon 23 May 2022, 6:41 PM

The simple, iconic map of London’s Tube network has acquired a new colour – purple – to reflect the new east-west Elizabeth Line that begins from Tuesday (May 24), built after decades of planning, 13 years of construction and at a cost of nearly £20 billion.

Recognised the world over, the map shows how far the Tube network has travelled since 1863, when the first underground railway, the Metropolitan Railway, opened between Paddington and Farringdon, connecting six stations.

Today, several lines criss-cross the capital below and overground, covering over 400km, serving nearly 300 stations, stretching deep into the capital’s suburbs and beyond, handling five million passenger journeys a day.

The addition of the Elizabeth Line on the map is described as the biggest change in London's recent transport history. The line, when fully operational, will stretch more than 100km from Reading and Heathrow in the west through central tunnels across to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, stopping at 41 stations, 10 of them new.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “These stations are like cathedrals. These trains are the longest we’ve seen in London. It is world-leading, world-class. I challenge anyone who uses the Elizabeth Line next week not to have their breath taken away – it’s just mind-blowing.”

Queen Elizabeth, whose Jubilee celebrations are being held during 2022 to mark 70 years of her reign, visited the Paddington station last week to mark the official opening of the Line.

Services on the Elizabeth Line's new central section will run from Paddington to Abbey Wood through the tunnels beneath London. The route now appears on the iconic Tube map as a double purple line rather than a solid line to differentiate the Elizabeth Line as opposed to a London Underground line.

The Elizabeth Line will initially run 12 trains per hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood, Monday to Saturday.

Creating the Elizabeth Line also produced a bird sanctuary on the Wallasea Island in Essex, where thousands of birds have arrived. The sanctuary has been created out of 3.5m tonnes of earth that were dug up during construction of the Line's new stations and 13 miles of twin tunnels.

Julie Dixon of Transport for London (TfL) said: "Our world-renowned map now has another iconic addition in the Elizabeth line, which will serve London and the south-east for hundreds of years to come. When we open on Tuesday 24 May, the new Elizabeth line will begin providing greater connectivity and step-free access from Reading and Heathrow to Shenfield and Abbey Wood through the centre of London”.

She added: "This latest Tube map is a real credit to the team who have put it together. It has been both a challenge and a privilege to update Harry Beck's original design to literally put a new piece of transport history on the map”.

The Tube map was originally the brainchild of Underground electrical draughtsman, Harry Beck, who produced the imaginative yet simple design for a diagrammatic map in 1931.

First published in 1933, it is now an essential guide to London and is used as a template for transport maps around the world. Nearly 90 years on, the map is still recognisable as an iconic symbol of London.

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