The transport secretary has accused the mayor of London of breaking election rules and of ‘breathtaking political cynicism’ by revealing the opening date of Crossrail just a day before people in the capital are due to travel to the ballot boxes.
Grant Shapps claimed the announcement was an attempt to curry favor in Thursday’s local elections and said he was referring it to the regulator, the Electoral Commission.
Political rules restrict the communication activities that can take place in the run-up to an election.
The Tory minister described the announcement as an ‘unscrupulous headlock’ and said the government had ‘poured billions into Crossrail to resolve backlogs under the mayor’s watch’.
Mr Khan, a Labor Party member, replied ‘he can do whatever he wants’ when asked if he was concerned about Mr Shapps being sacked.
The mayor said the opening of the line was “the most significant addition to our transport network in decades” and would provide “a massive economic boost” to London as well as the UK as a whole.
Crossrail, known as the Elizabeth line, will open on Tuesday May 24, Transport for London confirmed on Wednesday – but it will be more than three years late and billions over budget.
It will run from Reading in Berkshire to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in southeast London.
It was originally planned to fully open in December 2018, but it was hit with numerous issues, including construction delays and signage difficulties.
It is hoped that the Queen – for whom the line is named – will be involved in the opening.
The line will operate 12 trains per hour between Paddington and Abbey Wood Monday to Saturday from 6.30am to 11pm.
Further testing and software updates will take place on Sunday.
Sunday closures will be lifted on June 5 to help people moving around the capital over the Platinum Jubilee weekend.
Andy Byford, Commissioner of TfL, said: “I am delighted that we can now announce a date for the opening of the Elizabeth line in May.
“We are using the last few weeks to continue to strengthen the reliability of the railway and prepare the Elizabeth line to welcome customers.
“Opening day should be a truly historic moment for the capital and the UK, and we look forward to presenting a simply stunning addition to our network.”
The project far exceeded its initial budget of £14.8 billion in 2010.
The total cost of the project was estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion from the government.
Mr Khan also said the Elizabeth line would make London ‘safer, fairer, greener and more prosperous’.
Crossrail journey times
Liverpool Street to Ealing Broadway: 19 minutes (currently 32 minutes)
From Tottenham Court Road to Heathrow Terminal 4: 39 minutes (currently 61 minutes)
Woolwich Arsenal to Canary Wharf: 5 minutes (currently 22 minutes)
Stratford to Bond Street: 14 minutes (currently 22 minutes)
Road from Tottenham Court to West Drayton: 32 minutes (currently 42 minutes)
He said it would “revolutionize travel across the capital and the south east – while delivering a £42billion boost to the wider UK economy and hundreds of thousands of new homes and jobs”.
Mr Khan added: “Green public transport is the future, and the opening of the Elizabeth Line is a historic moment for our capital and our whole country, especially in this special Platinum Jubilee year.”
A full timetable with direct trains crossing the Elizabeth Line is expected to launch by May 2023.
The Bond Street Elizabeth line station will not be ready to open on May 24 but is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
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