Queen making unplanned trip to Paddington Station for Elizabeth Line opening
By Max Parry
Published: 17/05/2022- 10:35
Updated: 17/05/2022- 11:07
The Queen has made a surprise appearance at Paddington Station to see the completed Elizabeth Line, which is named in her honour.
The 96-year-old monarch, who now rarely makes public engagements outside of her royal residences, was joining her youngest son the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, for the official visit on Tuesday.
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.
The nation’s longest reigning head of state is just over two weeks away from her Platinum Jubilee celebratory weekend.
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.
Queen Elizabeth II at Paddington station in London, to mark the completion of London's Crossrail project
Queen Elizabeth II and The Earl of Wessex meet staff who have been key to the Crossrail project
“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.
But Tuesday’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.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at Paddington Station
The Queen and Edward were being welcomed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford.
They were meeting staff who have been key to the project and who will run the railway, including train drivers, station staff and apprentices.
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.”
The Queen unveiled a plaque stating that she “officially opened” the Elizabeth Line.
She spent 10 minutes in the station before departing in a lift, escorted by her son the Earl of Wessex.
Edward returned to the concourse ahead of a return journey on the railway.
The Elizabeth line, named in honour of the Queen, 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 £14.8billion in 2010.
The total cost has been estimated at £18.9billion, including £5.1billion 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.