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Yesterday Queen Elizabeth formally opened a new private station on the London Underground system with direct access from Buckingham Palace. The short stretch of new line has new connections to the main system at nearby Victoria and Green Park stations.

The new scheme will allow "royal" trains to run to most stations on the "tube". This will virtually cut out all non-ceremonial road travel by the royals in London.  Currently royals travel in (short by US Presidential standards) convoys of cars with police motorcycle outriders to stop traffic. These had been causing great disruption in central and busy parts of outer London due to the very high number of vehicles on the streets. The smallest delay can have ripple effects and delay huge numbers of people on buses and in cars.

The "royal" trains will actually be ordinary carriages but consisting of two cars rather than the usual six. The Queen was shown round one and was particularly interested in the driving cab.

(More pictures and details beyond the orange genuflection)

The line builds on an existing, previously secret underground route to a emergency nuclear bunker next to Hampstead station platforms. Hampstead has the deepest platforms on the Underground.  Parts of the route linked in to the tunnels used by the (now disused) Royal Mail underground line used to carry letters and parcels across London. (You may note that in the bottom left,  the line is shown running under the Serpentine at the front of the Palace.) Strategic parts like that were built to full London Underground size, with "dual gauge" tracks to accommodate ordinary tube carriages as well as the narrow gauge trains used by the Post Office. This helped reduce the cost of the "Elizabeth Line" down to under £200 million and it is estimated this cost will be recovered over 10 years from the costs the royal car convoys would other cost in traffic disruption.

Overseas visits are already made on commercial flights from Heathrow and the trains will run there directly, passing through intermediate stations without stopping, by joining the District Line at Victoria and changing to Picaddilly Line tracks at Earls Court. This use of multiple lines and points also allows the trains to run to St Pancras International station where they will change to Eurostar services if they are visiting cities in near mainland Europe. She also uses the next door Kings Cross station to take an ordinary train to her Sandringham estate usually for Christmas. Trains are also run from there to Scotland so she can visit Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh to open the Scottish Parliament and to her summer residence at Balmoral although it's likely the much more lavish Royal Train carriages will be used for these onward trips.

The line will have its first use immediately; in a speech the Queen remarked that "tomorrow will be a significant date for my family's travel. My great-grandmother (Victoria) was the first to travel regularly by overground train. I will become the first to regularly use the London Underground"

Transport for London are to film the first journey for posterity which led the Queen to joke "Prince Phillip reminded me that you also filmed me opening the Heathrow extension so this will not be the first underground movie I appear in."

The Queen was also presented with a special "Freedom Pass" to operate the entry and exit gates at tube stations. (Freedom passes allow all elderly residents in London to travel free on most of the system.)  The gates at Buckingham Palace station (and those she visits) will normally be opened specially for her to avoid using the pass but the gates there are linked to a security system to ensure only the official party enters. The station when open will not have a ticket hall but London Transport mocked up one from an historic station to demonstrate the workings.
At the Queen's insistence, ordinary train cars will be used. These will come from the reserves held in case of breakdowns but are likely to be given a deep clean when used for royal duties. Here she is being shown the latest stock which will be used.    
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