Today sees the start of through running from the wider National Rail network into the EL core section. In the vast majority of cases this means that you will no longer need to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street. Services from Reading and Heathrow Airport will run through to Abbey Wood, while services from Shenfield will divert from Stratford to Whitechapel and then run through to Paddington. If you wish to travel from Stratford or before to stations beyond Paddington then you can change at any core station and wait for the next direct train. TfL are recommending that Whitechapel is the best station to do this. Whitechapel also becomes the place to change between Shenfield services and Canary Wharf and will result in a cheaper non-zone-1 fare.
Farringdon is one of the stations where the needs of interchanging passengers was not fully thought through. In particular passengers from Thameslink services using paper or other non-PAYG tickets did not always pass a validator to enable them to start/end a PAYG journey on the Elizabeth line. Passengers from the front of northbound services and the rear of southbound services were generally ok because they were signposted through the main gateline, across the road, and back through the new National Rail gateline. However, passengers at the Blackfriars end of the station did not need to go through a gateline on the way to the Elizabeth line.
The issue has, in my view, been partly solved. If you are using the northbound Thameslink platform then there are two validators in the walkway near the Thameslink platform. If you are using the southbound Thameslink platform you first have to go up stairs to cross over the tracks and then down to the aforementioned walkway. The problem is that neither validator is particularly well positioned for this flow of passengers. Verdict: Good progress, but more needs to be done.
Oh dear! At Custom House they installed a brand new escalator to take passengers from the DLR platform to the side gateline for the Elizabeth line. The problem is that you don’t pass any validators to touch out from the DLR before going through the gates to enter the EL station. Initially they patched the side gateline so that it would end an open DLR journey. Sadly that patch was removed, probably at the time of the September fares revision, possibly inadvertantly. They have made the side gateline entrance only so at least the problem only exists one way.
However, there is another quite serious issue at Custom House. People coming out of the Excel Centre are greeted by a plethora of validators which all signal entry to the DLR. Except that there were no signs explaining this. So passengers were charged an incomplete DLR journey if they had touched one of those validators when they had to pass through either gateline to get to the EL. Below is a diagram of the above platform level at Custom House.
To try and aleviate the error of touching into the DLR before the EL, staff had put warning signs alongside the two validators next to the middle staircase from the DLR platforms. But these were the two validators most likely to be used by people changing from the DLR to the EL and the notice said not to touch them if you wanted to use the EL. Thankfully these notices have now been removed. They have been replaced by new signs above the two validators nearest to the Excel Centre. As you walk towards the stations you are directed to turn right along the first passageway for the Elizabeth Line which is sensible as that does lead directly to the side gateline. But you will notice that there is another DLR validator just after you turn right and that has not had the new sign positioned above it.
The other thing that they really could do with providing is a poster explaining that if you are changing from the DLR to the EL then you must touch out at a validator before passing through a gateline. I did see just such a notice on my visits to Custom House, but it is turned away from public view and not actually in front of the side gateline where it would be most useful.
I’m assured that there are plans to install new validators in the area around the top of the escalators and the lift. However, there is absolutely no sign of work in progress which I find a little disappointing. Verdict: Not good enough, needs a lot more work.
Finally, a note about our fare finder. If you search fares for any GWR/EL station west of Paddington to Paddington EL station you were told that no fares exist. This is obviously a little disconcerting. While the TfL single fare finder still gives that impression, I have patched a fix for this site’s fare finder so that the correct fares are displayed.