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Farringdon Thameslink: Faster track to growth

As the only station where London’s two biggest transport improvement projects will meet, Farringdon station is unique. To cope with the passenger influx this will create, a major upgrade is nearing completion. Mark Hansford checks out the progress.

London mayor Boris Johnson reopened Farringdon station’s London Underground entrance last month following an eight-week closure to restore and expand the Grade II listed building.

It was the latest in a series of milestones during a £250M remodelling of the station as part of Network Rail’s £5.5bn Thameslink programme.

Farringdon is being dramatically expanded in preparation for it becoming London’s newest transport hub when Crossrail services start running in 2018. It will be the only main line station where London’s two biggest transportimprovement programmes will meet.

Network Rail project director Richard Walker explains: “From 2018 the revamped north-south Thameslink route will meet the new east-west Crossrail service, linking with existing Tube connections. With up to 24 trains an hour running in each direction on Thameslink and Crossrail, plus the Tube, Farringdon will be served by over 140 trains an hour.”

New ticket hall

The station, whose concourse straddles London Underground plus Thameslink subsurface tracks, now has an entirely new ticket hall, ready to serve Thameslink and Crossrail passengers, a new entrance, 20 new staircases, one new footbridge and two new ticket offices.

Standing in the newly reopened ticket hall last month, Johnson was enthused. “Farringdon Station has already undergone a massive transformation, with a brand new ticket hall up and running, renovations to the entrances and many more improvements still to come,” he said. “By the time of the Olympics, this station will also be fully accessible with five new lifts, and before too long Crossrail will interchange here too, making millions of journeys easier for passengers.”

“We showed LUL over the course of the project that we understand the station and the people flows”

Richard Walker, Network Rail

Completion of the integrated ticket hall (ITH) in November last year was arguably the biggest milestone - delivered on time. It allows the station to service 50% longer, 12-carriage trains. These started running on the Thameslink route for the first time in December, significantly increasing capacity on the line.

But for Walker, the bit-by-bit improvements have also impressed. “The thing I am most pleased about is the incremental benefits we have been able to give,” he says.

This also gave confidence to London Underground (LUL) that Network Rail and its contractor Costain/Laing O’Rourke knew what they were doing; allowing the project team to change its construction sequence, with significant programme benefits.

Piece by piece renovation

“We never planned to close the old ticket hall in its entirety; we were going to renovate it piece by piece,” explains Walker. “But we showed LUL over the course of the project that we understand the station and the people flows.” Closing the ticket hall completely allowed Walker’s team to really crack on. “It meant all-day working and not just at night, and meant we didn’t have to do it in bits.”

This belief in delivery has been with the project throughout. When NCE last visited in May last year, engineers were building up to a critical summer construction period.

Then, Walker was confident that deadlines would be hit. “We are moving at a fairly fast track pace now. To this point it has all been about surveys, careful planning of the work and redesigning. This summer is now about construction,” he said at the time.

All that is left now - barring a bit of snagging - is to get the old ticket hall’s historic frontages back and to get the lifts up and running.

In the ITH this is more complex than at first sight - the lifts don’t just run from street level to track level, but also deep underground to Crossrail level. Walker’s team built the lift shafts for the future Crossrail project as part of this project. They are being commissioned right now.

In the old ticket hall, lifts have been squeezed in by slewing the old staircase to the right during the eight-week closure and these are being installed right now.

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