Rail Industry Focus


Thameslink benefits already on the horizon

Source: RTM Apr/May 16

Nick Gray, principal programme sponsor for Thameslink, reveals the latest statistics and changes taking place in and around London Bridge ahead of project completion in 2018.

In the last edition of RTM, rail systems project director on the Thameslink programme, Mark Somers, told us that, despite intense disruptions in 2015, the project’s benefits would start to unfurl from later this year. 

Speaking at this year’s Infrarail exhibition, Nick Gray, the principal programme sponsor for Thameslink, assured delegates that this was still the case. He ran through the changes that had taken place in and around London Bridge station since 2013, including major platform rebuilds carried out in short slivers – including six new terminating platforms already in use – and the middle section of the station itself. 

The focus is now on building the first of the nine through platforms before the final set of through platforms is rebuilt between August this year and January 2018. 

Structures and concourse 

Underneath the platforms, Gray said, there is “a real maze of different types of Victorian arches built over the years” previously used for storage and other leisure activities. Thameslink engineers have now taken that over and opened up a huge new concourse, as well as some of the archways to create walkways – such as for the western arcade linking London Bridge with London Underground’s Tube station. 

On the south side of the station, where there is a Grade II listed viaduct with Victorian brickwork at one end and the Shard at the other, the Thameslink team is building a façade with brickwork “that reflects the Victorian era but doesn’t try to copy it”, which will come into use in August. 

Inside the new concourse, which will be “a big, big change” from what is there at the moment, engineers are already putting in cedar wood cladding to cover the underside of the railway bridges. 

In August this year, where a lot of work will take place during the bank holiday weekend, engineers will be carrying out extensive track work and bringing the first phase of the new street-level concourse into use. Systems going in include a new control suite, gate-lines, ticketing, and all the communication systems needed in modern stations. This ‘interim’ concourse will serve platforms 7 to 15. 

But Gray noted: “It will still be a construction site, so it won’t be a finished product. We will have a bit of retail, but nowhere near the 82 units that will be in when we finish.” 

Phenomenal figures 

Running through the latest project statistics, Gray said there has been “just a phenomenal amount of track and signalling work going on”. The station, which has an 11-track approach, allows 8% of all UK passenger trains to pass through it – translating to 1,800 trains a day, or 170 in the peak hour. 

“We are, to all intents and purposes, completely relaying the approaches on both sides of London Bridge,” he added. 

So far, in terms of volume, there have been eight major commissionings and around 50 stageworks (S&C, plain line, signalling and civils works). For example, around 217 new signal heads and 211 train protection warning systems have been delivered. 

More than 110 S&C have been recovered and 90 installed, over 27km of plain line was recovered and 20.2km renewed, 36 gantries were installed, 135 automatic warning systems were delivered, and 12km of new route works were carried out. 

Finally, 318 tamper shifts were done and 22 new signalling relocatable equipment buildings were delivered, along with almost 250 track circuits. 

Bermondsey dive under edit

Signalling and passenger information 

In terms of signalling, Thameslink will be operating an ATCS using ETCs Level 2, which will be the first big use of that on a UK main line. Gray said there is a lot of testing going on at the minute, with the latest milestone taking place in December when a Class 700 successfully tested communications between the train and track balises during Siemens’ capability testing. 

The next step is to test using a Class 700 at the Hertford facility, where a semi-rural railway replicates the Thameslink structure. 

Passenger information will also be key to the project considering its vast amount of permutations of services and destinations. “We are putting new style screens, and lots of ergonomics and human factors studies have gone in to try to get the information across. The first of these screens has gone into use at St Pancras,” Gray explained. 

Overall, Thameslink costs around £1.3m per day, which the director acknowledged “doesn’t come cheap” but argued is ultimately “a very significant investment into UK rail”.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Manek Dubash   16/05/2016 at 12:57

I hope that the rail reconstruction project is more successful than the London bridge station rebuild. This soulless steel and glass monstrosity just looks forbidding from the outside, and causes a huge venturi effect on the walk down to Borough High Street, so the wind whistles chillingly around you. Not pleasant to look at, not pleasant to be near.

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