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BREAKING NEWS: Planning permission granted for £3.5bn Thameslink project

The transformation of the Thameslink route has taken a major step forward with the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities & Local Government agreeing to grant planning permission and legal powers to Network Rail to 're-build' the Thameslink route.
The Thameslink project will more than double passenger capacity on one of Europe's busiest stretches of railway -the core route through London Bridge, Blackfriars and Farringdon stations - benefiting tens of thousands of passengers daily. The future of the £3.5bn project now rests on a funding decision. An early decision would enable the company to deliver substantial passenger benefits before 2012.John Armitt, Network Rail chief executive, said: 'This is a landmark decision that underlines growing confidence in Network Rail to deliver major improvements on Britain's railways. 'We are now one step closer to getting the green light for an essential congestion-beating rail project on one of the busiest parts of our network. An early funding decision would enable us to deliver significant benefits before 2012.' There would be a number of key benefits for passengers, including: - Increased capacity: more trains and more carriages. Up to 24 trains per hour through the core route (presently eight) during the peak period with the added benefit of delivering 12 carriage services, rather than the present eight. - Less overcrowding: easing passenger congestion across the Thameslink route and reducing congestion on the Tube (particularly the Northern and Victoria lines) with improved tube access at the new Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge stations. - More routes and stations: more routes, more journey possibilities and more stations. The new Thameslink route would serve 172 stations (presently 51).- Simplifying track and modernising signals: reducing bottlenecks and logjams on a busy network that is 150 years old and not designed to cope with modern demands. - Better Olympic journeys: connecting more people directly to the special 'Olympic Javelin' service from King's Cross St Pancras to Stratford. The decision to grant legal powers and planning consents to Network Rail follows the recommendations of the planning inspectorate's public inquiry into the scheme.The scheme will take an estimated seven years to build with the ability to 'pause' the scheme for the Olympics. The project will start to deliver passenger benefits within the first three years.

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