London Mayor Boris Johnson officially opened the East London Line extension on Tuesday morning, taking the twenty minute journey from New Cross to the new Dalston Junction station.
He was greeted by a jazz band, a well breakfasted media pack and a troupe of Indian dancers.
The Mayor described the extension as a “big step forward” and part of a wider orbital vision for London. “Suddenly it’s all opening up,” he enthused to the assembled media before climbing into the driver’s cabin.
However, the decision to open the line on Tuesday was met with criticism by protesters outside Dalston station, which closed in 1986. They said Boris Johnson was indulging in some “none-too-subtle electioneering.”
Councillors from the local Labour Party said they were locked out of Dalston station and had to resort to blowing toy whistles through the railings. “This was Ken Livingstone’s project” shouted one protestor, “it was the Labour Governement that decided to invest in this line.” Mr Livingstone was elected as an independent candidate for Mayor when the project began but was not at the launch on Tuesday.
Hackney Mayor, Jules Pipe, also said he was “locked out and not invited.” He believes the line offers a great boon to the area: “it’s fantastic for the people of Dalston.” He cited Hackney Council’s prominent role in the tower-block development which forms part of the new station and denied that it was an eyesore.
A TfL spokesperson said:
“The East London line is now open and is a fantastic contribution to Hackney and London’s transport network. Due to the laws covering the conduct of public bodies during election periods, TfL was unable to invite any political figure standing in either of the upcoming elections to the East London Line launch. To be as politically impartial as possible, we chose to invite London Assembly members of all political parties with connections to the line to the launch.”
Parts of the new line date back to the 1830s and include the famous Brunel tunnel under the Thames. There are four new stations including Shoreditch High Street close to where two platforms belonging to the disused Shoreditch station were demolished to make way for the new line’s development.
This was a day when the engineers and project mangers could celebrate opening the line on schedule. For the last eighteen months operations manager Doug McEvoy has been walking the line and said he was delighted to see it finally open: “This whole area of London hasn’t been served for years, it’s going to be a big benefit.”
The challenge now is to maintain the line and link it with other London orbital rail services.
East London Lines reporter, Tony Collins, scooped the rest of the media by inadvertently getting on the test train running ahead of the official ‘first’ train and consequently was the line’s unofficial first and only passenger arriving at New Cross Gate ten minutes ahead of the VIPs and accompanying journalists.