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Trial Operations Explained

Trial Operations Explained

Trial Operations started in November 2021 and marks the final phase in the Elizabeth line’s transition to an operational railway and the start of passenger services.


Trial Operations involves operational exercises to ensure the safety and reliability of the railway for public use and to fully run the timetables.

More than 150 real-life scenarios will be carried out over the coming months to ensure the readiness of the railway for passenger service. It will prove and build on the reliability demonstrated during Trial Running and will include exercises to make sure that all systems and procedures work effectively and staff can respond to any incidents, including customers being unwell or signal failures. During this period, timetabled services at 12 trains per hour (tph) will continue to build reliability on the central section of the railway.

Collaboration will be key to operating the Elizabeth line and these exercises will focus on key operational scenarios that demonstrate how we can safely and effectively communicate between a number of organisations, including London Underground and Transport for London, MTR Elizabeth Line, Network Rail and the emergency services. The exercises will not just trial how we respond to operational issues, but how we fix them and recover the service back to full reliability.

In the new year, a series of more complex exercises will include evacuations of trains and stations using thousands of staff as passengers. Further software adjustments to the train, signalling and tunnel ventilation systems will take place in December and over the Christmas period. These adjustments need to be completed before we embark on the mass evacuation exercises.

The exercises will demonstrate we can safely evacuate passengers, including persons with reduced mobility, from trains in tunnels, from stations and through emergency shafts. Some of the exercises will include involvement from other emergency services including London Fire Brigade and British Transport Police. The results will help refine plans and ensure that we can perform evacuations not just safely, but also efficiently.

Trial Operations Explained


From the start of Trial Operations, it will take several months to complete this final phase. This is an immensely complex railway and Trial Operations will continue until it is clear the Elizabeth line can operate at the highest levels of safety and reliability before the start of passenger services. This is critical to confirming when the railway will be ready to open.

Woolwich Elizabeth line station


Once the railway’s systems and procedures are proven to work effectively, safely and reliably, the final step in Trial Operations will see a period of timetabled services called shadow running. After the Trial Operations phase is complete, the railway will open.