The final stage of the East London Line extension (phase one) opened this morning, when the link between Dalston Junction and Highbury & Islington via Canonbury opened to the public.
Never one to knowingly miss a media opportunity (particularly over an issue — public transport — that will be fiercely fought for in next year's Mayoral election), Boris Johnson nipped up the road from his Angel home to metaphorically break a champagne bottle against the side of the first train to pull out of Highbury & Islington. While there, he made a couple of curious boasts. Firstly, that the extension has opened three months ahead of schedule, which is correct in one sense (they were working to a 'May 2011' timetable last year), though the project has had a long gestation; it was proposed on more than one occasion in the 1980s and '90s, and once given the all-clear, it was originally meant to be complete by the mid-2000s.
Secondly, Boris described London Overground as "a rail version of the M25". Leaving aside that a comparison with the M25, long regarded as Britain's biggest car park, is perhaps not an appropriate one, we're still a couple of years from getting a proper orbital railway. Phase 2 of the project will see a link between Surrey Quays station and Clapham Junction, using mainly existing rail infrastructure. This should be completed in 2013.
The new link (which we took a walk through late last year) will run trains every seven or eight minutes between Dalston and Highbury, with a slightly higher frequency between the core section of New Cross and Dalston. All trains will terminate at Highbury; if you want to continue westwards, you'll have to change trains there to an adjacent platform (though depending on which platform you arrive in, it may involve a trip on the stairs). The connection with both the Victoria line and First Capital Connect at Highbury & Islington should also help alleviate the strain on those services.
Perhaps most importantly, the opening also means that the second part of our East London line pub crawl can be completed... but more on that in a couple of days time.