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Completing a critical timetable

Responsibility for delivering the Thameslink project for Network Rail lies with Jim Crawford, who was appointed in 2009 as programme director. Interview by Margo Cole

One of his first initiatives was to move the programme office into a refurbished building at the north end of Blackfriars Bridge − directly overlooking the construction works.

“A lot of people in this office are not directly involved with the construction, but I wanted them to be on a live construction site so they could really see what it’s all about,” he says.

“Everything we are designing is fundamentally around providing longer trains and more of them. If you look at how you build the programme, the key components of Key Output 1 are at Blackfriars − where to be long enough for 12-car trains the station has to sit on the bridge − and similarly at Farringdon, where we need to cater for more, longer trains but with the extra dynamic that it is a hub for Crossrail. That gave us two large projects that we needed to design and construct.

Jim Crawford - Network Rail

Jim Crawford - Network Rail

“Then we needed to look at the infrastructure from Brighton to Bedford and reconfigure it to take 12-car units.”
If 24 trains are to run every hour in each direction, they will have to be much closer together than they are now, so the entire signalling system must be changed to create shorter sections between signals.

“You are starting to get heavy rail running to a metro level of service,” says Crawford. Key Output 2 will also add automatic train operation (ATO) to help get the required throughput.

Longer, more frequent trains are also more power-hungry, so the electricity supply is being beefed up − including construction of a new substation beneath Ludgate in central London.

This means big civils contracts − Farringdon won by Costain and Blackfriars won by Balfour Beatty − and a raft of railway systems contracts for the power and signalling. “Because it’s so big we have to break it down into packages we can plan and manage,” says Crawford.

Crawford has a team of programme managers dedicated to managing the outputs, work identification and delivery structure of the project as a whole, as well as individual teams embedded with the contractors on site.

“Some existing infrastructure has been here for 150 years. We are building this with the view that we’re not coming back to replace it for a long time.”

Jim Crawford

The site teams are currently working towards the two major milestones of Key Output 1 − delivering 12-car functionality by December 2011, and then finishing all the work on site by summer 2012, in time for the Olympics when the Thameslink stations are set to be vital for accessing the Games’ sites.

Immediately after that, work is due to start on Key Output 2 − rebuilding and remodelling London Bridge stationand the rail infrastructure around it to enable 24 trains an hour to run through the core of the Thameslink system.

The contractors for the larger station projects are incentivised through risk/reward contracts and are encouraged to come up with savings.

Although the project has been split into different contracts and phases, Crawford says the “core section has been designed and built as single section − to create a high performance railway capable of running 24 trains an hour”.

He adds: “Some of the existing infrastructure has been here for 150 years, and we are building this with the view that we’re not coming back to replace it for a long time.”

Thameslink in numbers


extra seats each day on Thameslink by 2017


trains per hour stopping at Farrington when Crossrail opens


lorries off London roads by using barges to deliver the Blackfriars site


the year a Royal Commission created a ‘no go zone’ to stop overground trains passing straight through London


international connections on the Thameslink route (Gatwick and Luton airports and Eurostar and St Pancras International)


the gradient of the track north of Farringdon, the steepest on the rail network


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