2 June 2022
Crossrail & Elizabeth Line.
By Neil Tidmarsh
So the Elizabeth Line / Crossrail is up and running at last. Massive new stations, massively rebuilt old stations, longer platforms, bigger trains, faster trains, central London to Heathrow in a heart-beat, east of London to west of London in the blink of an eye.
And, no doubt, miles and miles of new corridors and passageways and hallways and stairways and escalators, a vastly expanded underground labyrinth at every station to connect all those new or expanded lines and platforms. Ok, you’ll be on the train for only a heart-beat, a mere blink of an eye, but how long will it take to get to the platform in the first place? And from the other platform and out of the station at the other end?
So what kind of ‘My Summer Holiday Diary’ homework projects will schools be harvesting this autumn?
What I Did On My Summer Holidays
Monday: Hoorah! We’re off on our holidays! We’re going to Italy! We’re going to stay at a brilliant hotel at the seaside and it’s right on the beach and it’s got its own swimming pool and everything and it’ll be really hot and sunny and we’ll be away for a whole week!
After breakfast we got a taxi to the underground station because we’ve got a wheelie suitcase each and Dad has got a big rucksack as well with a tent and four sleeping bags in it and Mum has also got a big rucksack with lots of food and a little cooker and some pots and pans in it. I asked them why we needed camping gear if we’re staying in a hotel but they were too out of breath with carrying all that stuff to answer.
At the underground station we went through a big hall and down a big escalator. There were lots of people everywhere and Mum told me and my little sister to stay close because it would be easy to get lost. We walked a long way along a big corridor and then turned left into another corridor and walked and walked and then turned right and went up some steps and then along another corridor and then down some more steps. And then my little sister started saying “How much further?” and “Are we nearly there yet?” and then Mum said it was time for lunch so we stopped and had some sandwiches sitting on our suitcases with crowds and crowds of people hurrying by. Dad said “Once we get on the train we’ll be at the airport in the mere blink of an eye!” and then we set off again, walking along another corridor.
We walked for miles and miles and hours and hours and we were really tired and hungry and then we came out of a corridor into a big hallway and Mum stopped and looked around and said “This’ll do.” She took off her rucksack with a groan and said “I couldn’t carry this much further anyway”. Dad took off his rucksack with a groan too and took out the tent and put it up in a corner of the hallway and Mum started cooking supper on her little gas stove. We’d just started eating when another family with loads of luggage stopped and put up a tent beside us and by the time we’d finished eating there were four other tents and four other families camping all around us in that big hall.
Some of them had Sainsburys trolleys for their luggage and Mum said to Dad that it was wrong to take them from the supermarket and he agreed but I could tell they were a bit jealous. Everybody was really friendly though and they were all on their way to the airport like us. Me and my little sister played with the other kids and then someone lit a big bonfire of old newspapers in the middle of the hall and we all sat around it, the kids and the grown-ups, singing songs and telling stories and jokes until it was time to go to bed and then we all crawled into our sleeping bags and went to sleep.
That night I dreamed of cowboys and Indians – we were the cowboys camped out on the trail West and a raiding party of Indians attacked in the dark and stole all our horses.
Tuesday. When I woke up in the morning I found out that we really had been raided in the night – a band of brigands had made off with those Sainsburys trolleys. Apparently, groups of bandits roam the underground round here stealing trolleys from unwary travellers. We all agreed to stick together for safety and after we had breakfast we all struck camp and packed our tents away and set off together. But just before we set off, this old man turned up and said that he was a native guide, he knew this underground like the back of his hand, he could lead us all to the right platform if we all gave him some money. But Dad said no, he knew the way, they didn’t need a guide, they just had to follow the signs, it was easy.
Well, we walked for miles and miles and hours and hours and Mum asked Dad if he really knew the way and he said yes of course he did and no of course we weren’t lost. Everyone was a bit cross, the ones who’d had trolleys stolen because they now had to carry all their stuff, and so they couldn’t go very fast, and everyone else because that was slowing them all down. Everybody was tired and hungry so we stopped for lunch and Mum gave us cold pizza. My little sister wanted ice-cream but Mum said she’d have to wait till we got to Italy and then she started crying and Dad said “Cheer up, we’re nearly there!”
Well, we walked for miles and miles and hours and hours that afternoon and then when I thought it was just about supper time we got to the end of a long, long corridor and came out onto a big platform and Dad said “Here we are, this is our platform, our train will be along in just a minute and then we’ll be at the airport in the blink of an eye! In a mere heart-beat!”
So we waited, me and my little sister and Mum and Dad and the other families, and when the train came along Mum said “It’s going in the wrong direction” and “This is the wrong platform” and “We’re lost, aren’t we?” Dad didn’t say anything at first. And then he said “The signs must be wrong. The signs must have sent us the wrong way. They must have put the signs up all wrong.”
Everyone was too tired to go any further, and it was too late anyway, so we put up our tents all along the platform and we had supper – Mum cooked sausages – and someone lit another big bonfire and soon everybody was feeling a lot better. Some buskers heard us and came to join in our singing and they played their guitars and violins and drums for us. One of them said he was really an accountant and he’d been down here for ages – he’d been on his way to the airport for a holiday but he’d never made it and he’d given up trying to find his way out and he’d become a busker – he had his guitar because he’d been taking it on holiday with him.
The grown-ups arranged a guard-duty rota in case brigands or bandits tried to raid us in the night (even though we didn’t have any trolleys left) and then we all crawled into our sleeping bags and went to sleep. I dreamt that we were being chased by dragons but then I woke up and it was just the sound of the trains coming and going along the tunnels.
Wednesday There wasn’t much for breakfast – just a bit of bread and some water for me and my little sister. Mum and Dad didn’t have anything at all. Everyone was worried about supplies and when we set off all the other kids were saying they were still hungry.
Well, we walked for miles and miles and hours and hours and then Dad said “Hang on a minute” and dodged back to a platform we’d just passed and then he shouted “Over here! This is it! This is the right platform!”
It was, too. Everybody started cheering and laughing and crying. We were so happy. A train came along straight away. When we got on we realised that two of the other families had gone missing that morning. We don’t know what happened to them. Perhaps they were so tired and hungry that they just fell by the wayside. Perhaps they were picked off by the brigands and bandits, or perhaps they got lost, or perhaps they decided to give up and turn back.
The train got us to the airport in a mere heart-beat, the mere blink of an eye, just like Dad said!
It was another long, long walk to the aeroplanes but there were airport trolleys for the luggage and a lot of the way was on those moving floor things so it wasn’t too bad. We got on an aeroplane and flew to Italy then got off the aeroplane and got a taxi to the hotel and by that time it was dark so we had some supper and went to bed.
Thursday It was lovely and hot and sunny so we played on the beach and swam in the swimming pool all day and ate lots and lots of pasta and ice-cream! Fantastic!
Friday We got up really early the next morning and got packed and checked out of the hotel and got a taxi back to the airport. Me and my little sister didn’t want to go but Mum and Dad said we had to if we were going to get back in time for them to go to work on Monday.
So we flew back to London and went down into the underground and the train journey only took a heart-beat, a mere blink of an eye! When we got off at the other end, there were some people on the platform selling Sainsburys trolleys. Mum and Dad reckoned they were the same people who had raided us in the night, but they bought two trolleys off them anyway and put our luggage in them. There were also some native guides there and Mum persuaded Dad to hire one of them, but when we camped that night in one of the passages the guide demanded more money or he’d dump us there and then in the middle of nowhere. Dad refused and in the morning the man had gone.
Saturday We walked for hours and hours and miles and miles along corridors and passages and up and down stairs and escalators. And the funny thing is we bumped into one of the families who had gone missing on Wednesday! They’d been wandering around lost for the last three days! We gave them some food – we had lots of cold pizza and pasta and salami and bottles of water – and they were really grateful and we all camped together that night.
Sunday We walked for hours and hours and miles and miles and just when we thought we’d have to camp for another night and Mum and Dad would be late for work the next day, there was the Exit, right in front of us! We came up out of the underground and it was getting dark so we said goodbye to the other family and went home and had some supper and went to bed.
That’s what I did on my holidays. We went to Italy for a whole week and the train to the airport was as fast as a heart-beat, as quick as the blink of an eye, just like Dad said!