Rail Industry Focus

12.02.16

Thameslink transformation taking effect at London bridge

Source: RTM Feb/Mar 16

Mark Somers, rail systems project director on the Thameslink programme, updates RTM on the latest developments taking place in and around London Bridge station.

The London Bridge station redevelopment is a key part of the mammoth £6.5bn Thameslink programme. As one of the busiest stations in the capital, these works could not be (and have not been) completed without disruption: crowd chaos hit its platforms multiple times last year, rail performance suffered, and urgent congestion measures were implemented to stop its rush hour crush. 

But the compensating benefits of the five-year project will soon start to unfurl from this August, when Network Rail finally unveils the first part of the huge concourse it has been building – you may remember it from the ‘bigger than the pitch at Wembley stadium’ or ‘longer than the Shard is tall’ headlines. 

Mark Somers, rail systems project director at Thameslink, told RTM: “I’m expecting there to be a bit of a ‘wow’ factor about it, to be quite honest, [with] the whole of the St Thomas Street side of the station, with all the refurbished façades, with new retail opened up… It is a massive change.” 

Re-signalling 

Somers also ran through some of the other, less visible but just as important updates that have been taking place in and around the station. Most recently, this included the new Westlock trackside systems – known as the Siemens Zone Controller – introduced over the festive period after a six-month on-site trial. 

“Since it was commissioned at Christmas, the system has performed without any failures whatsoever, so it’s been a major success,” he said. “All future major milestones on the Thameslink signalling systems will be delivered using the Zone Controller.” 

In the months preceding the Christmas works, the Orange Army had introduced new tracks through the new Borough Viaduct. “We effectively re-signalled the railway from London Bridge to Waterloo East and Charing Cross, introducing a new junction at Ewer Street, which is between Borough Market and Waterloo East,” Somers explained. 

“We essentially disconnected the line of route of the Charing Cross lines across the old Borough Viaduct, and we put in temporary track slews at either end of London Bridge station to connect up the new platforms 7, 8 and 9, which get opened this coming August.” 

The Charing Cross services are now already running through the temporary track slews at the country end of the station, through the new platforms and onto the new Borough Viaduct, and then across temporary connections at the other end of the viaduct going towards Metropolitan Junction. 

Platforms and Bermondsey dive-under 

“We’re now on programme as we work through to August this year to effectively slew the Cannon Street [station] lines across the new bridge decks that Costain has built, which eventually will become platforms 6 and 5,” said Somers, noting that Cannon Street services will then become non-stopping at London Bridge for 18 months. “In August, we will then open platforms 7-9 to enable passengers to embark and disembark on those platforms.” 

Platform 6 is already substantially complete, with the track bed and platform already there, as well as the track bed for platform 5 – which will be one of the Thameslink platforms. Network Rail will soon be able to demolish the last part of the station and build the remaining platforms 1-3, later coming back to finish platforms 4 and 5. 

Bermondsey dive-under works are also progressing smoothly, with all of the ground works complete and the structures now coming out of the ground. Between September and December this year, Network Rail will build the first tracks through the dive-under ahead of commissioning the first of the new lines – the Down Sussex slow line – due to open in January 2017. 

“The final commissioning stage is December 2017, and at that point all of the operational lines and all of the operational functionality of the new signalling system will be fully introduced,” said Somers. “So at that point, the planned throughput of Thameslink services of 16 trains per hours through London Bridge will be realised.”

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