Queen tops up Oyster card on surprise visit to officially open £18.9bn Elizabeth line

17 May 2022, 11:36 | Updated: 17 May 2022, 14:25

By Asher McShane

The Queen made a surprise appearance to mark the completion of the Elizabeth line, which opens later this month.

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.

"Her Majesty was aware of the engagement and the organisers were informed of the possibility she may attend."

The Queen was dressed in a Stewart Parvin double-wool crepe coat in sunshine yellow, worn with an A-line silk dress in shades of yellow, royal blue and turquoise, and a matching hat by Rachel Trevor-Morgan.

The Queen made a surprise appearance at Paddington Station today
The Queen made a surprise appearance at Paddington Station today. Picture: Alamy

She was wearing her Singapore brooch. The Queen, who was using a walking stick, smiled warmly as she met Crossrail and Elizabeth line workers.

She was given an Oyster card and shown how to use it on a ticket machine. 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. 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 96-year-old monarch, who now rarely carries out public engagements outside of her royal residences, was joining her youngest son the Earl of Wessex for the official visit on Tuesday.

Buckingham Palace described the Queen's visit as a 'happy development'
Buckingham Palace described the Queen's visit as a 'happy development'. Picture: Alamy

The nation's longest reigning head of state is just over two weeks away from her Platinum Jubilee celebratory weekend.

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.

The Queen beamed as she attended the event marking the line's completion today
The Queen beamed as she attended the event marking the line's completion today. Picture: Alamy

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.

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 £14.8 billion in 2010.

The total cost has been estimated at £18.9 billion, including £5.1 billion 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.