Plans to charge Heathrow passengers a premium fare to use Crossrail have been ditched, the Standard can reveal.
The aim of ensuring that all Elizabeth line fares mirror the cost of the equivalent London Underground or national rail journey emerged as the first of nine new Crossrail stations was opened to Tube passengers.
Crossrail chiefs also say they should know within the next two to three months exactly when the £18.7bn line can open under central London next year. At present, TfL has only committed to opening it in the first half of 2022, about three-and-a-half years late.
Liverpool Street station is said to have been the most complex in engineering terms and is also the deepest, at 42m below ground. The station is so big that it stretches from Liverpool Street mainline station all the way underground to Moorgate station.
Transport for London had previously announced, in 2018, that peak hours travel between Heathrow airport and zone 1 would cost £7 more than the same journey on the Piccadilly line, while zone 2 passengers would pay £4.50 more.
Andy Lord, managing director of the London Underground, said the Elizabeth line would be no more expensive than the Tube. At present, a single fare to Heathrow costs £5.30 at peak times and £3.30 off-peak. By comparison, Heathrow Express fares start at £22.
Mr Lord said having a unique fare structure for the Elizabeth line would be “logistically complex” because of the ability to interchange with the Tube. “We will keep it under review, but at the moment the intent is that it will be the same,” he said.
Passengers using the Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines can now use the new step-free Crossrail station entrance on Moorfields, beside Moorgate station.
Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road, Custom House and Woolwich stations have already been handed over to TfL but Liverpool Street, built by main contractor Laing O’Rourke, is the first to benefit Underground passengers.
Paddington should be ready to be handed over to TfL in about three weeks, followed by Whitechapel and Canary Wharf.
But Bond Street may not be completed until early next year, and may not be ready for the start of Elizabeth line services. In that case, trains would run through the station without stopping for several weeks.
Mr Lord said the integration of the new entrance at Moorfields was a “fantastic milestone”. He said: “It’s almost a cathedral underground. It’s an amazing station.
“The Elizabeth line is going to be a fantastic asset for London. The trains are already proving themselves on the TfL Rail network. I think the Elizabeth line will be something that the whole of London will be incredibly proud of.
“The Elizabeth line will do two things for us. It will play a key role in the economic recovery post-pandemic… it delivers a 10 per cent increase in capacity to our network.
“The stations are huge, there is plenty of space and they are well-ventilated. It will enable people to socially distance, if that is still a requirement in the longer term.”
Kim Kapur, head of station integration for London Underground, said: “I think [passengers] are going to be amazed. It’s phenomenal. I don’t think they are going to be prepared for what they are going to see.”
She said the scale of the Crossrail stations would reassure passengers wary of returning to public transport in the wake of the pandemic.
“People will find that there is such vast space and the platforms are so long, the cross passages are so wide, they won’t feel so confined either,” she said.
Mark Wild, Crossrail chief executive, said the completion of Liverpool Street station was a “big jigsaw piece” in an intricate puzzle to get the line open.
“This has been 10 years in the making,” he said. “To get Liverpool Street over the line, we are very, very pleased. It is one of the most complex and most difficult stations, and one of our largest.”
He said the key factor in determining the opening date for the line was the final software upgrade linking the new trains and signalling systems, which is due to happen between August and October.
“When you are talking about software, you are never sure until you are sure,” he said. “We need to see how good that quality is. Then we will know.
“But I am very confident about the [six month] opening window. I think we can almost be guaranteed that we will open in that opening window.”