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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Evening Standard Comment

OPINION - The Standard View: Delays and old tech take the shine off the Elizabeth line's success

It is every Londoner’s nightmare. Thousands were trapped on Elizabeth line, Heathrow Express and Great Western Railway trains last night, many for as long as four hours, after a rail operator hit overhead powerlines in west London that are managed by Network Rail. Passengers on one train between Acton and Paddington were eventually evacuated and escorted along the tracks to safety.

Crossrail may have awesome new central stations and track, but much of it also relies on older, congested sections where the line must be shared with other operators. It is these overhead power cables between Paddington and Heathrow airport that are the Elizabeth line’s Achilles’ heel. There are plans for modernisation over the next few years, but they remain subject to funding approval from the Office of Rail and Road.

It will take more than a few delays — even the rare ones measuring in the hours — to detract from the stunning success of the Elizabeth line. Not yet three years old, it can claim to be the busiest railway in Britain. But issues are creeping in. Punctuality is falling while cancellations are rising. Transport for London is reliant on Network Rail to fix this Paddington pinch point.

Rwanda splits Tories

Rishi Sunak has made the Rwanda policy, in which some asylum seekers would be sent to the East African nation, a test of his leadership. The Prime Minister has gone over the heads of his MPs and written directly to party members to sell his plan, which he says will crack down on small boat Channel crossings.

One thing that is guaranteed is the cost. The UK has already committed £240 million to Rwanda, with a further £50 million due in the next year. This despite the fact that not a single flight has taken off for Kigali. That some Conservative MPs are talking in hushed tones about a leadership election 13 months into Sunak’s premiership and no more than a year away from a general election speaks to the somewhat febrile atmosphere within the party.

Rather than uniting the Tories, this new emergency legislation — which seeks to compel judges to treat Rwanda as a safe country — threatens to pull it further apart.

Capital’s culture gifts

There is so much to see and do in the capital this Christmas it is practically impossible to know where to begin. So, the Standard’s culture editors have done the hard yards for you.

In today’s newspaper and online you’ll discover Nancy Durrant and Nick Clark’s guide to the best of what London has to offer this festive season, from Macbeth to Chicken Run, and The Nutcracker to Gabrielle Chanel.

Consider your cultural Christmas unwrapped.

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