The new station forms a key part of the Thameslink Programme, the government funded £5.5bn upgrade of one of the rail network’s busiest routes. Rolling stock and, crucially, this programme is improving the frequency and capacity of services running north-south through the heart of the capital from Bedford to Brighton.
More from: Delivering Thameslink: Major Project Report
It is one of the most important civil engineering projects in the country and for Network Rail it is very much a flagship project, a scheme that will have a massive impact on the capacity and flexibility of the rail network.
The Thameslink Programme is being delivered in stages. Currently platforms along the northern part of the route are being lengthened to cater for trains increasing from 8-car to 12-car.
Blackfriars station is not only being lengthened − out over the river − it’s also being cleverly widened to cope with the extra passengers expected.
Farringdon − where the Thameslink and London Underground platforms sit side by side − is being turned into what will be one of the capital’s most important interchanges.
That’s thanks to the station’s future role as the crossover point with Crossrail, with work already underway to accommodate the station and tunnelling needs of the new east-west route across the capital.
But it is London Bridge that is the lynchpin. This is where the pieces of the puzzle come together, where the biggest bottlenecks need to be unlocked and where the potential for growth is absolutely enormous.
Over 42M people use the station that sits on a viaduct every year. And Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink operator First Capital
Connect are all competing to squeeze their services onto the limited number of tracks. So busy is the station, in fact, that at peak times Thameslink services have to be diverted around it.
Network Rail’s dramatic plans for London Bridge promise to make life better for passengers and locals alike − creating dedicated through tracks for Thameslink trains, providing more space with reprofiled platforms and with a brand new concourse integrated with the beautiful new ‘Shard of Glass’ skyscraper currently being constructed right beside the current station.
The new station will relieve pressure on the London Underground network too, in particular the Northern Line, as Thameslink services expand in numbers, and to new destinations both north and south of the capital.
All of this providing a huge boost to the economy in London and far beyond − and it’s the economic case that’s the key.
“We are working extremely hard on innovative design at London Bridge to avoid cost and disruption.”
Simon Kirby, Network Rail
“The issue from the economic point of view is that Thameslink doesn’t deliver its business case without the increased frequency of trains delivered by the work at London Bridge,” explains Network Rail investment projects director Simon Kirby.
Added to this, the signalling at London Bridge will be life expired by 2021 and will need to be replaced. That would be no easy task and would involve picking apart the station in the next few years to bring equipment up to modern regulations by that date.
Network Rail has opted to include the re-signalling in the next stage of Thameslink − it accounts for a significant part of the budget set aside for London Bridge − thereby disrupting services only once but getting double the benefit.
“It’s vital of course, particularly in the current climate, that we deliver on value for money for the last phase of the Thameslink programme,” Kirby says. “We are working extremely hard on innovative design at London Bridge to avoid cost and disruption.”
Benefits of Thameslink will not be confined to the central and south eastern part of the rail network. New rolling stock for the 12 car/up to 24 trains per hour (in each direction) service will free up other modern trains that can be re-used around the country.
The investment at London Bridge falls into the next stage of funding for the project after 2012 − known as Key Output2 (KO2).
Network Rail is keen to stress the importance of KO2. Kirby states: “We believe that continuing with KO2 should remain a priority for investment even in the current economic climate since this delivers considerable benefit for both rail users and for the economy.
While we recognise that difficult choices will need to be made, the importance of this sort of investment has recently been reinforced in comments from the wider business community.”
Those comments include statements from influential business lobby London First, which has stated: “To maintain London’s economic growth and competitiveness, it is vital that … Network Rail’s investment programmes are maintained.”
“Thameslink is going to be a huge relief for the Northern Line”
David Statham, First Capital Connect
This, they said, included very definitely, Thameslink. And in June new Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond agreed: “Crossrail and Thameslink can be growth generators, not only for London, but for the South East and the whole of the UK.”.
First Capital Connect − the company that operates the Thameslink trains − is very clear about the benefits the upgraded route will bring.
Its project director David Statham explains: “At the moment we can’t stop at London Bridge during the peak hour and a half because of congestion on the lines and at the station. By the time the London Bridge part of the project is finished there will be 18 Thameslink trains an hour stopping at the station, the vast majority 12-car. It’s going to be a huge relief for the Northern Line.”
For customers there will be obvious advantages. “When work at Blackfriars is finished we can offer an extra 2,000 seats on our trains on a service that carries 150,000 passengers a day. By the time we finish London Bridge there will be 60,000 additional seats,”− says First Capital Connect customer services director Michelle Smart. “It’s transformational for the company and for people’s journeys,” she says.
Farringdon is set to be a new transport hub once Crossrail is built and the Thameslink improvements bring more passengers to this strategic station on the edge of the City.
Platforms are be ing extended within an existing rail cutting littered with obstacles, including historic brick arches and the old River Fleet. A new ticket hall will be shared with Crossrail, and existing Grade II-listed buildings refurbished.
The first station to span the Thames will be housed within an iconic glass structure that is set to become a new London landmark. A 120-year-old bridge is being widened on both sides to enable new dedicated Thameslink tracks to be installed and platforms built to accommodate 12-car trains. For the first time there will be station entrances on both sides of the river.
3. Borough Viaduct
A 300m long viaduct is being threaded through a maze of existing buildings in one of London’s most historic areas, in order to double track capacity on the line out of London Bridge. The new structure straddles the busy Borough Market, and includes a 70m trapezoidal girder bridge over a major arterial road that will be slid into position in 2011.
4. London Bridge
Work is set to begin in 2012 to increase capacity at London Bridge station − the main bottleneck on the entire Thameslink route. The station will be completely rebuilt with new track layouts to allow more trains to pass right through the station rather than terminating there. The new station will benefit not just Thameslink users, but all passengers.
Thameslink: Key outputs
Key Output 0: Fifteen, eight-car trains an hour through the core central section from St Pancras to Blackfriars. Works include the closure of Blackfriars station bay platforms and the closure of the Moorgate branch. Delivered March 2009.
Key Output 1 (part 1): To allow 12-car trains to operate between Bedford and Brighton with up to 16 trains an hour through the core central section. Major works include the rebuilding of Blackfriars and Farringdon stations, platform extensions at outer area stations the resignalling of the core area. To be delivered by December 2011.
Key Output 1 (part 2): Re-opening the Blackfriars bay platforms and substantial completion of the station works at Blackfriars and Farringdon. Delivery by summer 2012 (ahead of the Olympic Games).
Key Output 2: Will allow 24 trains an hour to operate through the heart of London. Major works are the redevelopment and resignalling of London Bridge and the fit-out and opening of the Canal Tunnels, which will provide a link to the East Coast Main Line.