The Queen was shown how to top up an Oyster Card today during a surprise visit to Paddington Station to officially open the Elizabeth line with Prince Edward – days after cancelling her appearance at the State Opening of Parliament due to ‘mobility issues’.
The 96-year-old, who now rarely carries out public engagements outside of her royal residences and was using a walking cane, picked up a limited edition Elizabeth line Oyster card. It had already been topped up with five pounds for the Queen, who famously rarely carries cash.
Customer service assistant Kofi Duah then showed the monarch how the ticket machine worked, telling her: ‘If I just give you this ticket here, you just put it by the yellow reader right there.’
‘On there?’ the Queen replied.
‘Perfect, and if you see on the screen here it says you’ve got £5, and if you want to top up here’s £5 and £10.’
‘And where might I go?’
‘You can go all the way from here to Abbey Wood.’
‘Oh nice, splendid,’ the Queen said, before Andy Byford, the Transport for London Commissioner, turned to Prince Edward to explain that he would be given his own Oyster card so he could ride one of the first trains.
Dressed in sunshine yellow, the Queen arrived at 11.32am, stepping carefully from the transparent lift while holding a walking stick and smiling warmly.
Unveiling a plaque stating that she had ‘officially opened’ the Elizabeth line, the monarch spent 10 minutes in the station before leaving in a lift, escorted by her son Edward. The earl then returned to the concourse ahead of a return journey on the railway from Paddington to Tottenham Court Road.
Her attendance was not publicly announced in advance, with the head of state facing ongoing mobility problems, but organisers were told there was a possibility she might be able to attend.
But in a major clue an hour and a quarter before Edward was due to arrive, Transport for London removed a plaque saying he had opened Crossrail and replaced it with one eight inches lower bearing the Queen’s name.
The Queen’s outfit was a Stewart Parvin double-wool crepe coat with an A-line silk dress in shades of yellow, royal blue and turquoise, and a matching hat by Rachel Trevor-Morgan. She was wearing her Singapore brooch.
Prince Edward was invited to stand in the driver’s cab during the second leg of the journey back to Paddington and chatted with driver Carinne Spinola as the train moved. After stepping off the train at Paddington, the Earl of Wessex said: ‘That was brilliant. I did enjoy that. It was good fun.’
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, Grant Shapps and Sadiq Khan also spent an awkward few minutes sitting side by side on the train. Transport Secretary Mr Shapps recently referred Mr Khan, the Major of London, to the Electoral Commission for revealing the start date of the new Crossrail commuter line on the eve of local elections, making the photo op especially uncomfortable.
Following the Queen’s visit, the Prime Minister told the invited guests: ‘We’re all incredibly touched and moved and grateful to her Majesty for coming to open the Elizabeth line today. It was fantastic to see her.’
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The Queen, who now rarely carries out public engagements outside of her royal residences and was carrying a walking cane, picked up a limited edition Elizabeth Line Oyster card before staff showed her how to top it up
The Queen does not usually carry cash, although she makes an exception on Sundays so she can donate during church services
Queen Elizabeth II at Paddington station in London, to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line
In a major clue an hour before Edward was due to arrive, Transport for London removed a plaque saying he had opened Crossrail and replaced it with one eight inches lower bearing the Queen’s name
The Queen walked slowly as she made her way around the station concourse with Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford (left) and Prince Edward (right)
The Queen, who was using a walking stick, smiled warmly as she met Crossrail and Elizabeth line workers
Dressed in sunshine yellow, the Queen arrived at 11.32am, stepping carefully from the transparent lift while holding a walking stick
The Elizabeth line, named in honour of the Queen (who is pictured today), will open to passengers on May 24
The Queen with Edward, the Earl of Wessex, during the opening of the Elizabeth line at Paddington Station today
Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan riding the Elizabeth line today
Mr Shapps recently referred Mr Khan to the Electoral Commission for revealing the start date of the new Crossrail commuter line on the eve of local elections, making the photo op especially awkward
What is the £14.8bn Elizabeth line and how could it improve my journey?
The delayed and over-budget Elizabeth line was officially opened by the Queen today. Here are key questions about the line and how it will affect commuters.
– What area will the Elizabeth line cover? It will run from Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow Airport in west London, to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London, via the centre of the capital.
– Can I travel direct between those places from May 24? Unfortunately not. The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with a change of trains required at Paddington and Liverpool Street.
– When will they be integrated? That is expected to happen in the autumn.
– What is it currently like to travel through central London? Many passengers travel by Tube on the Central line for east-west journeys across the capital. These trains are often crowded and get hot in the summer due to not having air-conditioning.
– How will Elizabeth line trains compare? They will be much more comfortable, featuring walk-through carriages, wi-fi, travel information screens and air-conditioning.
– How about the stations? Ten new Elizabeth line stations will open in central London. They will be lighter, brighter and larger spaces than the vast majority of London Underground stations.
– What will be the impact on journey times? Many journeys within London will be quicker by the Elizabeth line than by Tube. According to travel app Citymapper, platform-to-platform journeys between Liverpool Street and Paddington will be cut from 18 minutes to 10 minutes.
– How about if I am travelling longer distances? Elizabeth line trains will stop at local stations, so journeys will be slower compared with the fastest mainline services between locations such as Reading and Paddington, or Shenfield and Liverpool Street. But once the three sections are integrated, many passengers will benefit by not having to change between trains and Tube services.
– What impact will the new line have on capacity? It will boost rail capacity in central London by 10%.
– What about fares? Elizabeth line journeys in central London will cost the same as equivalent Tube fares. Fares on services currently operated by TfL Rail will be unchanged.
Elizabeth line customer experience assistant Kofi Duah said he was ‘thrilled’ to present an Oyster card to the Queen and show her how it could be topped up on a machine.
Her Majesty did not top up the card, which was pre-loaded with £5 of credit.
Mr Duah said: ‘I gave her an Oyster card and told her she can tap it on the yellow reader.
‘I showed her the current balance and how to top up the Oyster. She said ‘where can I use it?’.
‘I said ‘you can use it across our line, so from Paddington to Abbey Wood.
‘She said ‘oh nice, splendid’.’
Announcing the Queen’s attendance, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: ‘In a happy development, Her Majesty The Queen is attending today’s event to mark the completion of the Elizabeth line.
‘Her Majesty was aware of the engagement and the organisers were informed of the possibility she may attend.’
The Queen rallied to make a trip to the Windsor Horse Show on Friday and on Sunday was the guest of honour at the equestrian extravaganza A Gallop Through History near Windsor, the first major event of the Jubilee festivities.
Today’s engagement is the Queen’s first one outside of the Windsor area since she attended the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey seven weeks ago.
The Queen and Edward were welcomed by Boris Johnson, Sadiq Khan and Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford.
The Queen and Edward met staff who have been key to the project and who will run the railway, including train drivers, station staff and apprentices.
The Elizabeth line, named in honour of the Queen in her Jubilee year, will open to passengers on May 24.
Crossrail, the project to build the new east-west railway, was delayed and over budget due to numerous issues including construction difficulties and complications installing signalling systems.
It was due to be completed in December 2018 and was set a budget of £14.8 billion in 2010.
The total cost has been estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion from the Government.
The Elizabeth line will boost capacity and cut journey times for travel across the capital.
It will stretch from Reading, in Berkshire, and Heathrow Airport, in west London, to Shenfield, in Essex, and Abbey Wood, in south-east London.
Trains will initially operate in three sections, which are expected to be integrated in the autumn.
The Queen’s public appearances are being closely watched as Britain prepares to celebrate the monarch’s 70 years on the throne with four days of Platinum Jubilee festivities June 2-5.
The Queen seen taking a ceremonial Oyster card from a ticket machine, which had been topped up with £5
She spent around 10 minutes in the station before departing in a lift, accompanied by her Prince Edward, her youngest son
Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Wessex chatting with Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford and a member of Crossrail staff
The Queen unveils a plaque to mark the Elizabeth line’s official opening at Paddington station in London, to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project
The nation’s longest reigning head of state is just over two weeks away from her Platinum Jubilee celebratory weekend
The Queen smiled warmly as she met Crossrail and Elizabeth line workers and walked slowly as she made her way around the station concourse
Following the Queen’s visit, Boris Johnson told the invited guests: ‘We’re all incredibly touched and moved and grateful to her Majesty for coming to open the Elizabeth line today. It was fantastic to see her’
Last week, she asked her son and heir to the throne Prince Charles to preside over the state opening of Parliament and deliver the Queen’s Speech, which lays out the government’s legislative program.
Palace officials have said she is experiencing “episodic mobility problems” in recent months and has difficulties moving around.
The celebration will be marked with national events including a live concert featuring some of the world’s biggest stars to a service of thanksgiving – and a day at the races.
Individual members of the royal family have yet to be named in the plans but it is likely the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and other members of the monarchy will attend various events.
A live concert will be staged at Buckingham Palace – Platinum Party at the Palace – during the Saturday of the long weekend. Performers have yet to be named but it is billed as bringing together some of the world’s biggest entertainment stars to celebrate the most significant and joyous moments from the Queen’s seven-decade reign.
Other highlights include a day at the races for the Queen – a keen horse breeder – and her family who will fill the royal box for the Derby, held at Epsom Downs, before the concert.
The four-day weekend will begin on Thursday with Trooping the Colour, which will be staged in full for the first time since the pandemic.
Platinum Jubilee Beacons will also be lit throughout the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man and UK Overseas Territories – a tradition used to celebrate royal jubilees, weddings and coronations.
On Sunday the Queen was the guest of honour at the equestrian extravaganza A Gallop Through History near Windsor, the first major event of the Jubilee festivities
Today’s engagement is the Queen’s first one outside of the Windsor area since she attended the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey seven weeks ago
For the first time the ceremonial bonfires will be ablaze in each of the capital cities of the Commonwealth countries to celebrate the Queen’s milestone.
A Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s reign will be held at St Paul’s Cathedral on the Saturday.
Communities across the country will sit down together for the Big Jubilee Lunch during the Sunday, the final day of the Bank Holiday Weekend. People will be invited to share friendship, food and fun with neighbours as part of the celebrations.
During Sunday a Platinum Jubilee Pageant will also be staged in the capital featuring more than 5,000 people from across the UK and Commonwealth.
The event will take place against the backdrop of Buckingham Palace and the surrounding streets and will combine street arts, theatre, music, circus, carnival and costume, and celebrate the service of the Queen as well as honouring the collective service of people and communities across the country.
Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was held on June 2, 1953 – just more than a year after the then 25-year-old ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952 following her father George VI’s death. It was the first coronation ever to be televised, with 27million people in the UK tuning in.
Transport for London released this new map this morning showing how the initial Crossrail services will operate from May 24
An Elizabeth line train near West Drayton station. The trains are already running on existing track in East and West London
Transport for London has revealed ‘Elizabeth line’ trains are initially set to run every five minutes from Monday to Saturday
From Cross London Rail Links to Crossrail: Timeline of troubled project
- January 2002: Cross London Rail Links Ltd, a joint venture between the Strategic Rail Authority and Transport for London (TfL), is set up to develop plans for Crossrail.
- July 2004: The Government commits to introducing legislation to enable Crossrail to proceed.
- October 2007: Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives the green light for the project. It is expected to cost £15.9 billion and open in December 2017.
- May 2009: London Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Lord Adonis break ground on the project at Canary Wharf.
- May 2009: London Mayor Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Lord Adonis break ground on the project at Canary Wharf.
- October 2010: Crossrail’s budget is cut to £14.8 billion in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government’s comprehensive spending review. Its opening date is pushed back 12 months to December 2018.
- January 2014: The National Audit Office says the scheme is ‘just behind schedule’, adding that Crossrail Ltd ‘remains confident’ it will open on time.
- May 2015: Tunnel boring is completed as a tunnelling machine named Victoria arrives at Farringdon. Some 13 miles of new tunnels have been dug under London.
- February 2016: The Queen visits Bond Street station and announces the railway will be named the Elizabeth line in her honour.
- July 2018: Rail minister Jo Johnson announces that Crossrail’s budget has risen to £15.4 billion as ‘cost pressures have increased across the project’.
- August 2018: Crossrail Ltd announces it will miss its December 2018 opening date but the central section ‘will open in autumn 2019’. The project is suffering from construction delays and difficulties installing complex signalling systems.
- December 2018: TfL says Crossrail may be delayed further and could require a £2 billion funding boost, taking the cost up to £17.6 billion. The Government, TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan agree a financial package to cover this.
- December 2018: Sir Terry Morgan resigns as chairman of Crossrail Ltd and HS2, days after predicting he would be sacked. He is replaced at Crossrail by London Underground managing director Mark Wild.
- April 2019: A ‘delivery window’ between October 2020 and March 2021 is announced for the central section of Crossrail.
- November 2019: Crossrail Ltd announces that the railway will open ‘as soon as practically possible in 2021’. The cost has increased by up to £650 million to £18.25 billion.
- January 2020: The ‘latest assessment’ is that services will commence in summer 2021.
- July 2020: Crossrail Ltd says the railway will not open in summer 2021 because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It does not give an updated schedule.
- August 2020: It is announced that the line will open in the first half of 2022.
- July 2021: The National Audit Office says the estimated total cost of Crossrail is £18.9 billion.
- May 2022: TfL announces that the Elizabeth line will open in three separate sections on May 24.
- Autumn 2022: The lines from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield are due to connect with the central tunnels.
- May 2023: The full timetable of up to 24 trains per hour is scheduled to be introduced.