■ 23:24 (UTC±00:00 +DST), 31 MAY 2015 | GBR HARROW, GREATER LONDON
Consider it Mac OS X Public Beta for London’s rail & tube network. Within a couple of years, TfL Rail will give way to the mighty monster we’ve all been dying for (felt the most when Oxford Circus is no different than Xizhimen in Beijing, or People’s Square in Shanghai, underground trains-wise) — Crossrail.
I have always had this manic compulsion, of sorts, of trying new trains the moment they roll out. Sometimes, I get interviewed; more often than not, though, it’s just a secretive little trip to test the new system. Now in the case of TfL Rail services from Liverpool Street to Brentwood and Shenfield, I actually cheated by taking an Abellio Greater Anglia train some time back straight to Shenfield (where the Oyster card reader happily feasted itself on my pay-as-you-go credit; I was dim-witted to cram in with other commuters — not the most pleasant ride, obviously; plus you pay more during rush hour!). So this time, I actually took a train out to Brentwood, and in the process, snapped picture of almost all stations enroute.
I do have to say that I find the station name of Maryland to be most, well, interesting. What’s a US state is a mere station inside the M25. Hmm.
The train did terminate halfway at Gidea Park — blame it on me just taking a short stroll, and finding no other signs of life other than a toy shop (nice stuffed animals for Tracy, by the way) — but I was luckier on the second go, getting a train to Brentwood. That was the difference, though: beginning 31 May 2015, that station became a Zone 9 station, which makes it London’s third such station on the Tube map (Amersham and Chesham came first).
This being the first day, though, I found little difference — except for the odd train had already been painted TfL Blue (most other trains were still red, though). They were pretty much the same rolling stock inherited by Abellio Greater Anglia — standard class only seating, a tad loud, “the usual” door controls and doors between carriages — nothing too much out of the ordinary. (I was used to these, by the way, as I used to travel a fair bit on Abellio Greater Anglia between Liverpool Street and Stratford.)
There were, of course, a few minute changes. Any Abellio / etc logos were removed (probably except at the Liverpool Street and Shenfield termini), and TfL signage popped up around Liverpool Street and Stratford stations. I did find the shade of blue they were using to be annoyingly / confusingly similar to that on the Piccadilly line, though — they could’ve picked purple a la the real Crossrail. (Right?)
It’s still way too early to call the shots on Day 1 — but it’s a fair start. The fact they’ve added TfL Rail to the Tube map should mean more people should be using this service. The one last thing I love, by the way, is the introduction of weekend works posters on all stations TfL Rail have taken over from Abellio Greater Anglia. Whilst it might be a little far from Brentwood to know that, say, Gloucester Road is closed on the Circle line on a certain weekend, at least you’ve got that in you as you go. It is always so much better to travel prepared!
Even if I might not be in for the launch of Crossrail (as in the real thing), I did bear witness to the very beginning of what must be a long and, hopefully, successful Crossrail story. The fact that it’ll be operated by Hong Kong’s MTR is probably way too cool… ■ ■ ■
PS: Sorry — I haven’t tried out the new Overground routes out of Liverpool Street yet. But hey, nice leaflets, TfL…