First Abbey Wood to Heathrow train runs as Elizabeth line network expands

Today saw a major milestone for Crossrail as the Elizabeth line commenced Sunday services plus train beyond Paddington from Abbey Wood.

The very first train running to Heathrow left Abbey Wood at 7:29am.

Trains alternated between Terminal 4 and Terminal 5 until 10:09 when the first train direct to Reading begun.

Train at Stratford. Will now continue into core

The service pattern is then split between Heathrow, Reading and Maidenhead.

My one and only memory of Maidenhead is getting off an old diesel First Great Western train at night, tiptoeing about 20 metres on snow and ice, saying sod this then heading into the nearest pub.

Maybe I’ll give it another shot.

Timetable reductions

One of the downsides for those in Abbey Wood and Woolwich from through running is a reduction in off-peak services from every five minutes to every eight minutes.

This is because the Shenfield to Liverpool Street section is also now extended into the central London core.

Canary Wharf station sees frequencies reduce

That means 12 trains per hour to Abbey Wood reduces to 8. With eight now on the Shenfield branch the core increases from 12 to 16 per hour.

The reduction at Abbey Wood could determine my journeys a bit, as if I’m heading to Stratford (pretty common now for me from Abbey Wood) they’ll be almost as much chance as a Southeastern or Thameslink arriving first (with six train per hour off peak most days – it used to be eight) to take me to Woolwich Arsenal to change onto the DLR rather than Elizabeth line and change.

Still, that’s a niche case and trains every eight minutes aren’t too bad of course.

Elizabeth Line at Stratford

It does tickle me a bit though that the brand new system often has frequencies less than the DLR at Woolwich and the same as pre-pandemic Southeastern.

Of course its a far better experience a lot of the time with air con, lovely big stations and a very smooth ride.





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J Smith

I've lived in south east London most of my life growing up in Greenwich borough and working in the area for many years. The site has contributors on occasion and we cover many different topics. Living and working in the area offers an insight into what is happening locally.

5 thoughts on “First Abbey Wood to Heathrow train runs as Elizabeth line network expands

  • Great post as always. Do you know if the frequency will increase back to 5 minutes on the Abbey Wood branch next year or is this final? Thanks.

  • The EL is brilliant and has reduced the time and stress of travelling from Brockely to Tottenham Court Road. No need to crush onto the Jubilee and then the Northern. The Overground is just too busy at peak times.

    One minor quibble, which is really a psychological one, is that I haven’t seen any screens telling you when the next train is coming either at the top or bottom of the escalators in the central sections I have used so far. Don’t know what it’s like on the outer stations.

    I assume this is to stop people rushing for a train arrriving in 30 seconds, and possibly timbling down the stairs, even though you never have to wait more than a max 4 mins 59 seconds on the central section. And you can in fact use the waiting time to walk down the platform to get you closer to the exit or interchange you need and save some time that way – walk down the platform at TCR from the TCR entrance and you are right next to the quick exit to Whitechapel Overground – though you might still have to wait for a service beyond the split at Surrey Quays.

    But still, the (or at least my) urge to rush for the first available service is there.

    I did see a timetable screen at the ticket barriers in TCR but it tells you the second next service. I guess this too is to stop people rushing for a train coming in 2 minutes or something – which you can just about make from the ticket barriers! But but, this could also have the opposite effect on people like me who find even small waits very irksome so I will rush anyway.

  • Yes a good post John, thanks. Amazing isn’t it how life in London has become, rushing for a train in case u need to wait 4 minutes haha. Seem to remember not long ago services to Chislehurst from London after a night out were half hourly-if they weren’t cancelled, otherwise hourly. Getting into the old single compartments full of smoke and steamed-up windows in winter, windows needing an arm wrestler to slide down open, years of etched-on grafitti. But boy weren’t cushions well-padded in those days! Perfect for those suffering piles haha!. The morning rush meant people standing in the single compartments until full, the train pulls way and someone always rushes to squeeze on and push everyone along before the closest passenger seated attempted to close the door on the moving train, with the guard occasionally spotting it and flag waving whereupon train grinds to a halt just inside the station. All stations having outside toilets with the standard men’s single floor level running water urinal, foul smells even though open to elements if/when water is not flushing. But fully staffed ticket offices and platform staff. No information boards of course, Last train back after weekend night in town around 11.30 and full of drunks (little change there then). Nostalgic for it, no not really haha! I’m guessing though that many parts of UK still suffer the negatives of those days without the positives we have gained here in London. Let’s be thankful but more progress needed to get everyone out of those single-passenger vehicles on our roads. With climate change an urgency now we need big investments in alternatives, not cutbacks. Pleasant journeys to you John, hope you’ve got a freedom pass for all these trips?

  • This is not an “expansion” of the Elizabeth Line; it is merely what should have been done many, many months ago. The line is still incomplete with an inconvenient interruption for anyone wishing to travel from Shenfield to Heathrow, highlighting the spin that everyone was suckered into at the “launch” of what was mostly a rebadged existing network. All that said, when it is finally completed next year getting to Heathrow from Essex by train should (reliable services permitting) be much more convenient and comfortable – unless you live on the C2C line! Now that would be a useful expansion! Just the exorbitant costs of travel on a privatised network to contend with then….

  • The Department for Transport call the shots across the rail whole network (operating under their masters the Treasury).

    Almost all fares are set by the DfT both now and before many franchises came under direct DfT control.

    The greatest trick of privatisation was to install a useful whipping boy for govts under Tory, labour and coalition, who retained control over just about everything. Train types, frequencies, fares, staffing. You name it.

    Even now we see Southeastern, for example, being blamed for fares and much else. Its under DfT control. It emanates from Whitehall. Even before Go-Ahead were removed – or their contract not extended – the DfT called all the shots.


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