London Bridge Station will open on time in the new year after a ten day intensive engineering ‘blocade’, Network Rail bosses promised MPs during a grilling over rising costs and further delays on the Thameslink Programme.
The £7bn programme now will not run a full timetable until December 2019 because the wider rail network cannot reliably support the new services, a National Audit Office report found. Instead of running the planned 24 trains per hour from December 2018 there will be a phased increase to allow Network Rail and operators to “learn and implement” lessons from each service change.
There will be major changes to services over Christmas as the Thameslink Programme brings all remaining new platforms at London Bridge into use and the final section of the new concourse opens to passengers. As well as limited services at London Bridge, Southeastern services will not run to or from Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Waterloo East, London Bridge, Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill, Westcombe Park, New Cross and St Johns for the entire period of 23 December to 1 January.
The 179-year-old London Bridge station is being upgraded in nine stages, creating a new concourse and changing six through and nine terminus platforms to nine through and six terminus platforms without causing serious passenger disruption.
Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail representatives were quizzed by MPs this week over this latest delay and rising costs, after it was revealed last year that a further £900M investment in rail infrastructure was needed to run the new Thameslink services.
The total budget of infrastructure works increased from its 2012 budget by 9.4% to £5.5bn. The budget for phase two increased by 18% to £3,103M, which was largely associated with works at London Bridge where changes were required to the design, additional work and acceleration of other works to keep to schedule.
The London station will be fully operational on 2 January 2018 after ten days of intensive engineering work over the Christmas period, the Public Accounts Committee was told.
“It is a really intensive ten-day blockade, we have a high level of confidence of coming out of that blockade successfully, the reintroduction of Cannon Street services stopping at London Bridge,” said Thameslink programme director Simon Blanchflower.
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne added: “There is still a lot to do and I have every confidence, I have a really fantastic team working on this they have delivered every bank holiday at London Thameslink without fail, but it’s still tough…I think it’s right to say it’s a great programme, a successful programme, I have every confidence it will be open on the 2nd of January.”
The full Thameslink scheme involved two phases of infrastructure works including the redevelopment of Blackfriars, Farringdon and London Bridge station, and new track and signalling technology in central London as well as a fleet of 115 new trains and two maintenance depots to service them.