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1977: Queen opens 'tube' link to Heathrow

VIDEO : The Queen opens the tube link to Heathrow

The Queen has formally unveiled a 71m underground link from central London to Heathrow's terminals - the first of its kind in the world from a capital to its major airport.

Commuters and tourists can now travel from the centre of the capital to the airport direct on the Piccadilly Line in just 40 minutes.

The Queen, whose great-grandfather opened the "tuppenny tube" in 1890, paid tribute to underground staff as she unveiled the new service.

"To those on whom the safe running of London transport depends, I extend my thanks," she said.

"I now have great pleasure in declaring the extension formally open and wishing success to those who will manage the line and those who will travel on it."

Regular trains

A total of 11 million people are expected to use the extension in the next year and it will run every four minutes.

Trains are supplied with 64 spaces big enough for two cases on each service but travellers are warned not to use the service if they cannot manage their luggage alone on the tube.

Heathrow Central station, in the middle of the airport complex, features "travelators" - moving pavements - and computer assistance for underground routes in several languages.

There will also be new special ticket machines for long distance journeys.

The service will be the cheapest and fastest service into London with a single journey costing 80 pence.

This is compared to 1 for the airport bus service into the capital, or the 5.50 required plus tip for a taxi service.

Plans to extend the line to the airport have been in the offing for more than 30 years.

But with congestion on roads around the airport expected to rise, particularly if plans for a fourth terminal at Heathrow get the go ahead, the extension could not have come at a better time.

In Context
A fourth terminal was built on the south side of the airport, about 15 minutes from the main buildings.

The Piccadilly line was extended in 1986 into a loop to take people to and from this terminal.

Now there are plans to extend the line to reach the new terminal five building due for completion in 2011.

The Piccadilly line covers 71km and serves 52 stations between Cockfosters and Heathrow or Uxbridge, with 76 trains used to operate the morning and evening peak period service.

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