Transport secretary Philip Hammond has today confirmed that the £5.5bn Thameslink scheme will go ahead but its opening will now be delayed by two years because of problems with the programme for rebuilding London Bridge station.
The delay means the project, first discussed in 1991 and originally known as Thameslink 2000, will not be completed until 2018 - the year that Crossrail is scheduled to begin phased opening.
In a written ministerial statement, Hammond said the government would fund Thameslink in its entirety but that the original programme of work for rebuilding London Bridge had been “ambitious” and had “substantial” risks around delivery.
“To reduce these risks, we have re-profiled the delivery of the programme to achieve completion in 2018,” he said. “This will enable Network Rail to make further efficiencies to its design and delivery programme.”
Hammond also said the electrification of commuter services on the Great Western line from London to Didcot, Oxford and Newbury would be done over the next six years.
Work on the £300M electrification of the lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Preston and Blackpool was expected to begin next year and to be finished in 2016, said the statement.
Hammond also confirmed government plans to purchase more than 2,400 new rail carriages by 2019 but delayed the decision on whether to go ahead with the planned order for new intercity trains.
A fleet of 1,200 new electric train carriages will be purchased as part of the upgrade of the Thameslink route. Following the introduction of these new carriages, existing Thameslink trains will be redeployed across the rest of the country’s rail network.
Around 600 new carriages will be provided for the Crossrail project, which was given the go-ahead in the Comprehensive Spending Review last month. Hammond has also confirmed that, separate from these orders, 650 carriages will be provided on the railway by March 2014.
He added that a decision on the new intercity trains will be taken in the New Year.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association national director Rosemary Beales welcomed the announcement but called for more commitment to the Great Western line electrification.
“Contractors will welcome the government’s commitment to developing Britain’s rail capacity and investing in aspects of our rail infrastructure,” she said. “Investment in our transport network is absolutely integral to Britain’s economic growth, especially as rail infrastructure is so vital to British business.
“However, we are concerned about the continued uncertainty in relation to the Great Western line electrification, which has a strong business case and could also provide vital work to the Welsh industry at a time when it has experienced a number of recent infrastructure project cancellations.”