Canary Wharf’s Elizabeth line station
If you have missed the last decade, Crossrail, aka the Elizabeth Line, is a completely new 73-mile railway line. It routes east to west across London, and once completed it is predicted over 200m people annually will use it.
The 60miles of track starts further east than Stratford, and runs right the way through central London passing Canary Wharf on its way. The Elizabeth line will eventually reach as far west as Heathrow and Reading.
As of 2020, opening plans have been hit by multiple delays, with the current forecast for the full service to open in 2023.
Despite this, Crossrail Place at Canary Wharf has been completed for several years now and provides a huge range of facilities from public spaces to bars and restaurants.
Here we take a look at the Crossrail Place development itself, and look at what the future transport connection means for Canary Wharf and the wider Isle of Dogs area.
A brief history of Crossrail
- Crossrail was first looked into by the London railways as part of future transport planning in 1944!
- Study after study preceded in the following half a century, but the idea never gained mainstream attraction until the early 2000s
- After publication of the London East West Study at the turn of the millennium, the Strategic Rail Authority and TFL merged, to create a joint venture named London Cross Rail Links in 2002
- Consultations and debates over routing continued, alongside the necessary legislation in both the House of Commons and House of Lords until 2008
- TFL took full control of Crossrail in 2009, and the modern routing and branding is finalised
- A decade later and after significant technical challenges, due mainly in the central part of the network, Crossrail misses its rescheduled opening date of 2018
- Further Crossrail delays due to testing difficulties, budget overruns and later covid 19 push the opening date back until late 2022.
Crossrail at Canary Wharf
Construction and cost of Crossrail Place
The Canary Wharf group lobbied the government intensively to have Crossrail pass via Canary Wharf and improve transport links to the estate. As part of the lobbying, the privately owned group agreed to both pay some of the construction cost of the line, and also take on the construction work of the station themselves.
They recruited world renowned architects Foster and Partners. The two had worked successfully on large transport projects before, with the architect firm previously designing Jubilee Place, Canary wharf’s Jubilee line station.
The Canary Wharf group agreed to construct the station on behalf of TFL at a fixed cost of £200m. Any delays or additional costs incurred would fall upon the group themselves. This proved to be a very wise move on behalf of the government, with most of the 36 contracts for constructing the stations running massively over budget.
The next station along, Whitechapel, increased to nearly £700m, over 6 times the original forecasted budget. The Canary Wharf group claim their total contribution to the Crossrail project saved over £800m in taxpayers money.
Canary Wharf Crossrail FAQs
Is Crossrail at Canary Wharf open yet?
Yes and no. Crossrail Place Station has been open since 2015. However in the latest Crossrail updates, Elizabeth line trains are not expected to be running in the Canary Wharf section of the line until late 2022 at the earliest.
How often will trains run?
Canary Wharf in the central section of the line, with some of the most frequent services. At peak commuter times, there are plans for a train every 5 minutes.
What are the new Crossrail trains like?
The main reason Canary Wharf Crossrail station is over 250m long is the new trains. Crossrail trains can carry up to 1500 people, and will be 205m long!
In comparison the 1995 model tube carriage trains that run through Canary Wharf’s Jubilee line station, have only 234 seats with a maximum capacity of 875 people.
The new Crossrail 345 class trains will whisk you through the central section of the line, including Canary Wharf station, at up to 65mph. Once outside of central london, top speed is 90mph. Significantly faster than the tube service.
A basic, but very helpful improvement, is that the trains will be open access throughout. Passengers can walk through the train internally, similar to the Overground line trains.
The new trains will also be preferable to the Jubilee line on summer days, as they are all fully air conditioned.
How long will it take from Canary Wharf to Heathrow?
Journey times to Heathrow Terminal 4 and 5 are expect to be around 48 minutes. Journeys to Heathrow Terminals 1,2 and 3 should be even faster at under 40 minutes. This is based on a direct routing, when the full line is open in 2023.
The Elizabeth line is first set to open to Canary Wharf and the central section only in 2022. Yet even without the direct routing to Heathrow, the new central section of the Elizabeth Line will provide a major improvement on the current service.
The current fastest train journey times to Heathrow from Canary Wharf involve going via Paddington station and getting the Heathrow Express. With Crossrail half an hour will be shaved off the Canary Wharf to Paddington part of this journey.
This reduces times from 49 minutes and one change, to a 17 minute direct routing between Canary Wharf and Paddington
Will Crossrail at Canary Wharf be 24 hours?
Unfortunately not. This may be reviewed in the future, but there are not currently plans for 24 hour Crossrail access.
Round the clock transport access to Canary Wharf will remain possible though. The night tube service on the Jubilee line runs during weekends, and throughout the week there are night busses and 24 hour bus routes connecting Canary Wharf to central London.
The Station – Crossrail Place at Canary Wharf
Despite the lack of trains, the remainder of the Crossrail station at Canary Wharf is open and it provides a huge amount of retail and restaurant space.
The building itself is a 5-storey mega structure, appearing to float in West India Dock. Surrounded by water, the main access routes are via bridge from the estate itself.
The Crossrail station itself sits 18m under the water, with 8 escalators taking passengers down to the platform level.
Foster and Partners had a delicate balancing act in designing the building. They needed to meet TFLs construction specifications, all new public infrastructure buildings should have a life of at least 250 years, but they also wanted to distance themselves from the glass and concrete of Canary Wharf.
The building is conceived to mediate between the adjoining worlds of Canary Wharf and the local community – with its different materials and the emphasis on a softer expression and warmer materials.Norman Foster – Foster and Partners
The resulting Crossrail Place is pretty impressive. Above the subterranean platform level rises 4 storeys of mixed-use commercial, retail and public space. These span a mixture of everything from dentists, cinemas and the famous roof garden.
Places to visit at Crossrail Place
Constructed of 1418 timber beams, the curving latticework roof structure houses Londons largest roof garden. There are a huge assortment of plants from around the globe, with illuminated walkways through the garden.
The roof itself is partially open to the air, providing irrigation for some of the plants, but also partially closed and insulated to let more tropical specimens thrive. In these area where a warmer climate is required, plastic air filled cushions are used between the eco friendly beams, to trap the heat.
There are plenty of seating areas throughout, the garden and toilet facilities are free to access, and the roof garden is open until 9pm everyday.
At either end of the roof garden, there are two large venues at the west and eastern ends, which have been taken by Big Easy and Giant Robot respectively.
As part of a drive to bridge the gap between the local community and the privately owned estate, Crossrail place garden also has an 80 seat space they offer to community groups and schools from the local area to put on performances.
Keep an eye on the Canary Wharf roof garden website, as they also put on free open-air events events here under the title of Bloom.
Up on the Western end of the roof terrace level you will find Big Easy, the American BBQ staple. Spread over 11,000 square foot, the venue is their largest in London.
A popular place for steak and lobster, amongst all manner of BBQ, they have utilised the space here well. There is a giant terrace, which is exceptionally popular in the summer with live music.
At the other end of the roof terrace to Big Easy, is Giant Robot street market. It’s a cool little place, with multiple street food style venues inside selling everything from Pad Thai to burgers. There are a couple of bars for cocktails or beer, and traditional bar games like shuffleboard inside.
Being right at the eastern end of the terrace level, they also have a decent sized roof terrace and indoor and outdoor seating. With such a large space, it’s bookable for private events up to 700 people.
There is always the option to get the food to go, and sit in the garden opposite too.
Everyman Cinema Canary Wharf
Situated on floor -2, Everyman Cinema at Crossrail place is a plush cinema from the brand famous for bringing cocktails, and restaurant quality food and drink to screening experiences.
At Crossrail Place there are 3 screens, and the venue is frequently used for presentations and product launches alongside its usual cinematic showings.
The venue merges polished concrete and cutting edge cinema tech with thick velvet and 1950s style sofa seating. All three screens are available for private hire and range from 52 – 109 seats.