The opening of the “transformational” Elizabeth line is the first step in providing Havering residents easy access to central London and the West End, says a TfL director.

Heading east as far as Shenfield and out west to Reading and Heathrow, the new line - which is four years overdue - also includes stops at Havering stations Romford, Gidea Park and Harold Wood.

While the whole route is yet to be linked up, meaning those travelling into central London will still have to swap trains at Liverpool Street until the autumn, it will eventually enable people to access stations such as Paddington and Tottenham Court Road without changing.

Howard Smith, Transport for London’s (TfL) director of the Elizabeth line, described it as “transformational”, particularly for those in Havering needing fast, seamless trips into central London.

“When fully operational, customers from Havering will have easy access to the sights and sounds of the West End, as well as new destinations in the west including Paddington, Reading and Heathrow airport.”

Romford Recorder: Howard Smith, Elizabeth line directorHoward Smith, Elizabeth line director (Image: William Mata)

Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, said she is “really pleased” to see the central tunnels of the line open.

While she is disappointed it is not fully operational, once it is, the Elizabeth line will be a “huge boost for the local area”.

“Those working in the city will find their commutes more comfortable with air-conditioned trains, and London’s attractions will be within simpler reach,” she said.

One elderly resident in Rush Green, who wished to remain anonymous, said she currently struggles going into London if she needs to take a suitcase with her and often relies on the other passengers to help her change at King’s Cross.

Once it is complete, she said the new line will be a “good thing” as it will make her journey far easier.

Andrew Blake-Herbert, Havering Council's chief executive, said: “This is great news for Havering and we hope it leads to a financial boost for the borough by improving access to jobs and other services.

"We also hope that it encourages more people to visit our shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities.

“The new connection comes alongside the existing bus routes, tube stations and the council’s transport service – which enables school children, elderly, disabled and vulnerable residents to get around the borough.”

What is the Elizabeth line?

Initially dubbed Crossrail, the Elizabeth line stretches more than 100km from Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Designed to provide a quicker, more seamless experience in and out of London, especially for those travelling in from boroughs such as Havering, the new line will stop at 41 stations, 10 of which are new.

TfL expects it will serve up to 200 million people every year.

Originally planned to open in 2018, having been approved in 2007, the project has been repeatedly delayed for reasons such as the pandemic.

In total, it has cost £20 billion to bring to fruition.

Howard Smith, TfL director of the Elizabeth line, told this paper on the day it opened (May 24), that “hundreds” of people were at Paddington for 6:30am when the first train was due to leave.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Andy Byford, the TfL commissioner, were also in attendance, taking their places at the head of the queue.

On how the opening of the Elizabeth line went down with those able to get on those first few trains, Mr Smith was emphatic.

“It has been remarkable,” he said.

Shaz Bashir

Due to living near to his work and typically using a car to get around, Shaz Bashir said it is not often that he relies on public transport around Havering.

However, he is optimistic about the benefits the Elizabeth line could have on the local area.

Romford Recorder: Shaz BashirShaz Bashir (Image: Ben Lynch)

“I think it’s a good thing because if you want to go to central London, you have to go to Stratford first,” he said.

He added that, once it is fully linked up, the line’s connections to Heathrow will also be useful for people around Havering.

“It’s very good for central London and Heathrow.”

Nilam Hirani

Nilam Hirani, 30, said the introduction of the Elizabeth line will be good for Havering considering how many people use Romford station.

“Romford is a big station, so many people are travelling from Romford,” she said.

Romford Recorder: Nilam HiraniNilam Hirani (Image: Ben Lynch)

In terms of getting around Havering itself, she described the current transport situation as “good, it’s enough”.

She said while she mostly walks to work, her husband uses the bus.

“Sometimes it comes a bit late, but normally it’s okay,” she said.

She added it is “not cheap or not expensive. It’s in the middle.”

Nicos Aniftos

While he does not go into central London very often, Nicos Aniftos, 32, said he does use public transport regularly around Havering itself, including to and from his work on Rush Green Road.

He said he believes the new line “could be good” for those who work or travel into London often, though his main concern is with the bus fares currently charged by TfL.

Romford Recorder: Nicos AniftosNicos Aniftos (Image: Ben Lynch)

“Every day I go by bus,” he said.

Nicos said he thinks the fares should have stayed at £1.50 and not lifted to £1.65, a rise which started in March this year.