Why They Call It The Blues: A Look at Crossrail’s Launch Plan


Back in November last year we covered TfL’s plans to launch the first Crossrail services under a TfL Rail brand. As we explained at the time, the idea of launching the first MTR-run Crossrail services between Liverpool Street and Shenfield under a different brand made a considerable amount of sense. With takeover of those services happening in 2015, this would avoid any inflated expectations on the part of passengers who might otherwise understandably assume they would be getting new trains and other service improvements from day one.

What wasn’t entirely clear at the time was just what this would actually mean in practice, although we posited at the time that we would likely see a similar approach taken to that used by TfL on takeover of the North London Line. Thanks to the papers for the upcoming Rail & Underground Panel, however, we now have a slightly better idea of what this approach is likely to be.

Getting colourful

As we wrote back in November, given the intention to launch under a “TfL Rail” brand it seemed unlikely that the Crossrail Roundel would likely feature on the trains and stations themselves. Instead, we made a thoroughly un-LR-like prediction:

We are likely to see the Roundel on the services and stations taken over by MTR under the concession, because not to do so would be to miss an opportunity to highlight that changes and improvements are underway. The betting money here at LR Towers, however, would be on that Roundel not being in Crossrail purple, which would lead to confusion between TfL Rail and the future Crossrail brand, but in a transitional colour – blue.

Readers can find the reasons as to why this made considerable sense from a branding perspective in the previous article, but thanks to the Crossrail operational papers submitted to the Rail & Underground panel we can now confirm that we were correct. Indeed the Roundel in question makes what is likely its first public appearance.


As well as including the new Roundel, the presentation also confirms that TfL Rail services will feature on TfL’s various maps (including the Tube map) and journey planner. The initial timetable will though, perhaps unsurprisingly, remain unchanged. The presentation does confirm, however, that a “turn up and go” service is a key goal. Given that Crossrail’s Operations Director is ex-Overground supremo Howard Smith, a man more than cognizant of what “turn up and go” actually means and a strong advocate of the positive impact it can have on both railways and the communities they serve, it seems safe to assume that despite the lack of timescales investigating the possibility of bringing this in as quickly as possible is likely something that sits high on the TfL Rail priority list.

A Wash and Dust Up

Perhaps more importantly, the presentation also gives us our first idea of what will be happening to the twelve stations handed over in May and beyond – and it does indeed seem to be broadly similar to the Overground approach. All stations are to be staffed from first to last train, with the goal being to improve security and attain Secure Stations accreditation. They will also receive a deep clean, with subsequent twice-daily cleaning schedules for each station to maintain standards.

This will be followed by the installation of new ticket machines during this year and next, with these and gatelines to be in place at all stations by December 2016. The presentation includes several artists impressions as to what these will look like once in place and whilst one must be cautious not to read too much into such visualisations, it seems worth noting that signage and display screens seem set to follow the style first suggested by the Crossrail station mockup (and recent TfL station changes). It thus seems likely that what we have here is confirmation of the style we can expect from Crossrail stations in general going forward.


Look closely at the ticket machines above and we suspect you will also see a rough approximation of what the new ticketing software interface will look like for both Crossrail and TfL going forwards, although again one must be wary of jumping to conclusions just yet.

The rolling stock

As with stations, the presentation confirms that the existing rolling stock will be subject to a deep clean and refreshed internally, in terms of seating, signage and panels. A more rigorous ongoing cleaning schedule going forward also features.

The existing stock will gradually be replaced from December 2017 as the new Crossrail class 345s enter service. Just how those new trains are planned to enter service – and indeed the initial service pattern – is also something the presentation provides some confirmation of. The relevant images are included below.


May 2017: Introduction on Great Eastern


May 2018: Paddington to Heathrow


December 2018: Central Section – Abbey Wood


May 2019: Central Section connected to Great Eastern


December 2019: Full service pattern operating, including to Reading

Finally, we also have confirmation of the initial service level in December 2019, including the split between branches, at least as currently planned.


Those wishing to read the report themselves can find it here.

Written by John Bull
John Bull is the Editor of London Reconnections. A transport journalist and historian, his writing often focuses on the political or strategic challenges facing London's transport network and beyond.