Thameslink Programme

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For other uses, see Thameslink (disambiguation).

The Thameslink Programme, originally Thameslink 2000, is a £6 billion project in south-east England to upgrade and expand the Thameslink rail network to provide new and longer trains between a wider range of stations to the north and to the south of London without requiring passengers to change trains in London. Work includes platform lengthening, station remodelling, new railway infrastructure, and additional rolling stock. The project was originally proposed in 1991 following the successful introduction of the initial Thameslink service in 1990. After many delays, planning permission was granted in 2006 and funding was approved in October 2007. Work started in 2009 and is expected to be complete in 2018. The whole Thameslink programme will be run by Thameslink, part of the new company Govia Thameslink Railway.

Planning[edit]

Background[edit]

The railway junctions at Blackfriars and Snow Hill in 1914

The original Thameslink rail network was created by joining the electrified network south of the Thames with the then recently electrified line between Bedford and St. Pancras to the north via the Snow Hill tunnel, allowing passengers to travel between stations to the north and south of London, including Bedford, Luton Airport, Gatwick Airport and Brighton, without changing trains or using the London Underground.[1] New dual-voltage rolling stock was required for the service on account of differing electrification standards north and south of London; lines south of the river are electrified using a 750-volt third rail and those to the north by the more modern 25kV overhead system. Services began in 1988 and the route was fully inaugurated in May 1990.[2]

Passenger traffic between destinations in north and south London that were served by Thameslink services quadrupled after the first year of operation.[3] The success of this initial project encouraged British Rail to develop proposals to extend the network.

British Rail plans[edit]

British Rail proposed to expand and upgrade the original network in the early 1990s, with plans to increase the number of stations served from 50 to 169 and to increase passenger capacity by allowing 12-carriage trains and allowing more trains per hour.[4] In 1993 responsibility for the project, intended to be complete by 2000, was transferred to Railtrack as detailed in the Railways Act of 1993. This privatisation, combined with a recession in the UK economy, caused the first of many delays to the project.

Railtrack plans[edit]

Railtrack applied for Transport and Works Act 1992 powers on 21 November 1997,[5] but two months later London and Continental Railways (LCR), a company created to build the High Speed 1 railway between London and the Channel tunnel, announced that it would require a further direct government grant of £1.2 billion (1995 prices) to finance the rail link;[6] and the Thameslink Programme relied on the construction of a 'concrete box' provided by this other project to house the new Thameslink sub-surface station underneath St Pancras station. The Government and LCR did however reach agreement in June 1998[6] allowing the construction of High Speed 1 and also the associated works required for the Thameslink programme to proceed.

During this period Railtrack carried out an extensive public consultation exercise, which resulted in the revision of the original proposals; it then submitted a Supplementary Order on 29 September 1999.[5]

First public inquiry[edit]

Given the size of the project, the Deputy Prime Minister decided to call for a public inquiry, which began in June 2000 and closed in May 2001.[7] The Inspector spent several months compiling a report on the proposals submitted by Railtrack and the feedback provided by various parties for and against the project before submitting the report to the Government. On 30 July 2002, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM, now known as the Department for Communities and Local Government) published the Inspector's report, which stated that although there was a strong case for the project, the Inspector did not recommend that the project should be given approval as there were three 'deficiencies' that he was not satisfied with:[8]

Revision of plans[edit]

As a result, the Deputy Prime Minister said in January 2003 that the project would not receive approval and that Network Rail (which had replaced Railtrack by this time) must submit improved proposals and a new Environmental Statement.[10] The delay also led to the 'Thameslink 2000 Agreement', the contract that obliged Network Rail/Railtrack to maintain responsibility for funding the project, being terminated in April 2003. Responsibility for project funding was subsequently transferred to the Strategic Rail Authority.[citation needed]

Network Rail revised the original proposal and submitted it along with an updated Environmental Statement dated 14 June 2004.[11] The Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport called for a new public inquiry to begin in September 2005.[12] During this period the Strategic Rail Authority was abolished by the Railways Act of 2005, and the Department for Transport (DfT) took over funding responsibility for the project in July 2005.[13]

Second public inquiry[edit]

The second public inquiry took place between September to December 2005[14] and the Inspector completed the report in February 2006,[15] which was submitted to the DfT for consideration. In October 2006 the DfT published the second report, declaring that the Inspector was satisfied that the deficiencies of the previous proposals had been resolved satisfactorily, and recommending that the project be approved.[16]

Transport for London's plans[edit]

In 2004 TfL had wanted to bring the Thameslink network into the London Underground network or have the route branded as a London Overground route.[citation needed] This would have meant the network being re-branded. The drawback to this idea was that the planned routes to Cambridge, King's Lynn, Ashford (Kent), Littlehampton and Eastbourne would have been abandoned and the improvements would have only benefited London and commuter belt towns within 15 to 20 miles of it.

Project approval[edit]

In conjunction with the second report, the Secretaries of State for Transport and 'Communities & Local Government' consequently granted Network Rail the planning permission and legal powers required to execute the project, and the Order (officially described as The Network Rail (Thameslink 2000) Order 2006) came into force on 13 December 2006;[17] furthermore, on 19 December 2006,[18] the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport announced that the DfT would grant Network Rail £30 million to 'enable a more informed decision to be made regarding the case for funding the implementation of the project in summer 2007'.[19]

On 24 July 2007, the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, formally announced that the Government was fully committed to funding the Thameslink Programme.[20] Since the planning permission and legal powers associated with the project had already been granted, the project was now clear to proceed.[21]

With the downturn in the economy there was some doubt that phase 2 of the project would be completed in its entirety, but on 25 November 2010 the Secretary of State for Transport (Philip Hammond) confirmed that no cutbacks would be made. However, project completion would be delayed until 2018 as the schedule was already difficult to achieve and because cost savings could be made if the level of concurrent activity was reduced.[22]

Construction[edit]

Construction is divided into three stages, each with 'Key outputs'. Key Output 0 was to make service changes to allow other work to proceed. Key Output 1 is for work that had to be completed before the 2012 Olympics. Work for Key Output 2 started after the London Olympics,[23] with a planned completion date of summer 2018.[24]

Key Output 0 (completed March 2009)[edit]

The first stage, completed on 22 March 2009, was to introduce service changes to allow the major work to take place. The terminal platforms at Blackfriars were closed, as was the Farringdon to Moorgate branch line.[25] A 15tph peak-hour service was introduced on the core section between St. Pancras and Blackfriars.[26] A new footbridge was built at Farringdon to improve interchange with London Underground's Circle line. A temporary entrance (now removed) was created at Blackfriars station.[27]

This involved signalling works and alterations to the tracks and overhead line equipment between Farringdon and City Thameslink to allow the merged services to operate. Trains from the south that previously terminated at Blackfriars now terminate at Kentish Town or further north, and 23 dual-voltage Class 377/5 Electrostars have been procured to meet the additional rolling stock requirements.[28]

Key Output 1 (completed 2012)[edit]

All aspects of Key Output stage 1 were completed by mid-2012, in time for the London Olympics. A major objective of this phase was to enable 12-carriage trains to run on the Bedford-Brighton route. Work affecting this was completed in time for the December 2011 timetable change,[29] when 10,000 extra peak-period seats were provided.[30][31] By then, 23 stations between Bedford and Brighton had been extended to accommodate the longer trains; in addition, Farringdon and Blackfriars stations had been rebuilt to take 12-car trains and allow for increased passenger flows. Works at Farringdon also allow for the east-west Crossrail route (due to open in 2018), while Blackfriars has gained a new entrance on the south bank of the Thames.[32] Platforms at Hendon, Cricklewood, and Kentish Town stations will not be extended. Those from Elephant & Castle southwards on the Thameslink suburban (Wimbledon/Sutton) loop, and on the Catford loop line towards Sevenoaks, will likewise remain 8-car stations.

A new viaduct has been built over Borough Market and Borough High Street to provide trains to Blackfriars and to Charing Cross with their own dedicated routes, and hence allow increased capacity through central London.[30] However, this will not come into use until the project is finished in 2018.

The fly-down at Tanners Hill is being widened and made double-track.[33]

Key Output 2 (2013-2018)[edit]

Canal Tunnels entrance

Until summer 2018 there will be major track, signalling and station remodelling works at London Bridge station as part of the Masterplan project (some works within the station building started during Key Output 1).[31] A grade-separated junction is being created at Bermondsey. New permanent way (track level, in this case including both plain rail and junctions) and overhead line equipment will be laid out in the new Canal Tunnels just north of St Pancras between the Thameslink route and the East Coast Main Line,[34] thereby opening up the Thameslink network to new destinations north of London.

Once the project is completed,[30] the Thameslink network will be able to handle a nominal peak-period frequency of 24 trains per hour (tph) (equivalent to one train every 150 seconds) through the central core between St Pancras and Blackfriars from 2018,[18][30] providing an extra 14,500 peak-period seats compared to the current level of service.[35]

As part of the project, a purpose-built fleet of 1,100 new passenger vehicles (equivalent to 275 four-car trains) will operate across the network. The procurement process started on 9 April 2008.[35] To meet the power requirements of this new fleet, electricity-supply enhancement works are being carried out during most of the entire project, creating 11 new feeder stations/sub-stations, upgrading a further 21 and converting 9 from track sectioning/paralleling equipment; in addition, new track sectioning/paralleling equipment is being installed in 9 locations and upgraded in a further 4.[36]

Major station works[edit]

Blackfriars station[edit]

Blackfriars Underground Station worksite
Main article: Blackfriars station

Blackfriars station has been rebuilt to accommodate 12-car trains and to make many other improvements to both the main line and underground stations. The mainline station remained open during most of this work. The Underground station was closed for almost three years; it reopened on 20 February 2012.[37]

The through platforms have been extended along Blackfriars Railway Bridge over the River Thames, and the platform layout altered to avoid the need for trains between City Thameslink and London Bridge to cross the lines giving access to the terminus platforms.[38] The new station houses a new shared National Rail/LUL ticket hall and LUL ventilation shaft together with new escalators and lifts between a mezzanine level for National Rail services and the sub-surface level for London Underground services.[39] A new station entrance has been created on Bankside, with a second ticket hall.[40] It opened on 5 December 2011.[41]

City Thameslink station[edit]

City Thameslink station has been upgraded to enable 12-car trains to call. The platforms themselves were already long enough, but it was necessary to replace and enhance the CIS (Customer Information Screens) so that information is displayed in a standard format across the central section. New lighting and an additional ticket gate have also been installed. The work was completed in October 2010.[42]

Farringdon station[edit]

Main article: Farringdon station

Works began in 2009 to remodel Farringdon station to accommodate longer Thameslink trains and make other improvements. Platforms were lengthened and a new roof canopy covering the north end of all four platforms was provided, together with a permanent new entrance and concourse facing Turnmill Street. Platforms were widened to accommodate increased patronage.[43]

It was necessary to build the Thameslink platform extensions to the south, since there is a sharp gradient to the immediate north of the station. This resulted in the two-station branch to Moorgate being permanently closed.[44]

King's Cross Thameslink station[edit]

King's Cross Thameslink closed in 2007, and trains now call instead at St Pancras International using the new low-level platforms at the north end of that station. The Pentonville Road entrance of the old King's Cross Thameslink station remains open to provide pedestrian access to King's Cross St. Pancras tube station between 07:00 and 20:00 Mondays to Fridays.

London Bridge station[edit]

Main article: London Bridge station

London Bridge station is undergoing a major transformation to accommodate Thameslink trains during the peak period and achieve many other benefits. Three terminus platforms and a through track will be closed and three new through platforms created, to allow all services going to Cannon Street and Charing Cross to stop at London Bridge, as well as additional services to Thameslink stations north of the Thames. A new station concourse is being built to improve circulation, and the adjacent bus station expanded.[45] New retail facilities will be built into the existing western arcade, which will be re-opened and extended to link the Underground station and Joiner Street.[46]

As shown in the revised timetable from 13 December 2008, capacity constraints mean that through London Bridge there are no northbound Thameslink trains in the morning peak between 07:24 and 09:09,[47] and no southbound Thameslink trains in the evening peak between 16:43 and 18:27.[48] During these times, Brighton line Thameslink trains go via Herne Hill instead. The present work is designed in part to remedy this situation. It will improve the flow not only of Thameslink services but also of all South-Eastern commuter services from Kent into Charing Cross and Cannon Street.[29]

Work started in 2013 and is expected to be completed by 2018.[49] From 2015, all Thameslink trains will be diverted via Herne Hill and will not call at London Bridge for a period of two and a half years.[50]

St Pancras International station[edit]

Two new low-level platforms at St Pancras International which accept 12-carriage trains replaced the old Kings Cross Thameslink station[51] and opened on 9 December 2007.[52] It allows for better interchange with other forms of transport; it has seven escalators, and also two lifts to allow people with impaired mobility to use the station; and it is covered by CCTV.[51] 'Fit-out' works began in summer 2006 (following the decision by the DfT to provide a further £60-65 million for the High Speed 1 project).[51]

Other stations[edit]

Work has been carried out at a number of stations north of the Thames to extend the platforms to accommodate 12-car trains. These vary from quite major works such as at Luton, where new bridges had to be installed, and West Hampstead, where a new station footbridge has been built, to relatively straightforward platform extensions.[53]

Other major works[edit]

Borough Market Viaduct[edit]

First span of the new Borough Market viaduct at Stoney Street
See also: Borough Market

Between London Bridge and the vicinity of Stoney Street, an extra pair of tracks is being built on a new viaduct to the south of the existing one.[54] Widening of the existing viaduct west of Stoney Street will be to the north to avoid affecting the Hop Exchange building to the south.

The new, southern pair of tracks will be used by trains to and from Charing Cross. Thameslink trains will have a dedicated route to Blackfriars on the northern pair of tracks, which is key to providing the nominal peak-hour frequency of 24tph on the core route.[38]

This work required the demolition of 20 grade 2 listed buildings and many other buildings within Borough Market, which is a Borough High Street Conservation Area,[55] and the original Thameslink programme was rejected at public inquiry partly on the grounds that suitable arrangements were not included to replace the buildings to be demolished within the market.[8] A revised proposal involving remedial work to the market was accepted at a second public inquiry. By January 2009 businesses in the path of the new viaduct were closing down or relocating in preparation for demolition work,[56] and the first section of the new viaduct was installed over the weekend of 10 October 2010.[57] These works had been brought forward to fit in with other, non-railway, developments in the Borough High Street area; the viaduct will not see actual use until 2016 as part of the Key Output 2 stageworks when the Charing Cross services start passing through the new platforms that will have been built on the south side of London Bridge High Level Station.

Bermondsey dive-under[edit]

The overgrown spur line to the Bricklayers' Arms branch

With the completion of Borough Market Viaduct to the west of London Bridge, Thameslink trains will use the pair of tracks to the north, and Charing Cross trains will use the new pair of tracks to the south. At present, northbound Thameslink trains arrive into London Bridge to the south of the Kent lines. Construction work will be undertaken to the east of London Bridge so that Thameslink trains from the Brighton Main Line can use a grade-separated crossover to avoid impeding trains from Kent bound for Charing Cross.[58][59]

Services to Charing Cross on the Kent lines will be diverted slightly south in the vicinity of Trundleys Road onto the route of the former branch line to Bricklayers' Arms. They will then slope up alongside the Brighton Main Line just north of South Bermondsey station. Thameslink trains in both directions will cross over the Kent lines on a new bridge, meeting the existing alignment just north of Jarrow Road.

Work commenced during 2013, with bridge-strengthening works near London Bridge station completed in June 2013,[60] and the overall programme of work is expected to be completed in spring 2017.[58]

Farringdon to Moorgate[edit]

The Farringdon to Moorgate branch was permanently closed in March 2009 at the start of the project - the platform extensions at Farringdon blocked access to the tracks leading to this branch. Passengers for Barbican or Moorgate now have to change at Farringdon and use the Underground.

Tanners Hill fly-down[edit]

To improve capacity on the line between London Bridge and Lewisham, a new stretch of single track has been built alongside the original bi-directional single track between Tanners Hill Junction (near St John's Station) and Lewisham Vale Junction. Before the new track was laid, St John's Vale Road Bridge was partially demolished and reconstructed with a concrete pier, as well as a new south span over the new track; the existing embankment along the fly-down was also widened.[61] This work was completed in April 2013, and the new track is being used for some services to/from Charing Cross via Lewisham.

Other infrastructure works[edit]

The OLE (Overhead Line Equipment) system has been extended from Farringdon to City Thameslink and was commissioned in December 2009,[62] although it is not at present in normal use. Combined with a new crossover in Snow Hill tunnel between the two stations, this allows southbound trains to be turned back should they fail to change from London Midland Region AC traction current to Southern Region third rail.[63] The crossover currently located within City Thameslink station for the purpose of allowing trains from Smithfield sidings to enter platform 2 will be removed once Blackfriars station is rebuilt.[64]

Between City Thameslink and Blackfriars, a large electrical substation has been built at Ludgate Chambers. This 20MW substation is the largest on the 750 V DC third-rail network.[27]

Provisional timetable[edit]

In 2011 a provisional timetable was released for Thameslink services in the London and South East Route Utilisation Strategy. It confirmed that the Sutton loop services will be curtailed at Blackfriars,[65][66] but this decision was subsequently reversed by government. However, with the announcement of the Thameslink, Southern & Great Northern franchise winner in May 2014, a new proposed timetable has been released.[67]

No. North of London South of London Length Times
1 Bedford semi-fast Brighton semi-fast 12-car All day
2
3 Bedford semi-fast Gatwick Airport
(Three Bridges at peaks, in peak direction only)
via Redhill 12-car All day
4
5 Cambridge semi-fast Brighton semi-fast 12-car All day
6
7 Peterborough semi-fast Horsham via Redhill 12-car All day
8
9 Cambridge semi-fast
via Welwyn Garden City
Tattenham Corner semi-fast 12-car All day
10
11 St Albans (Luton in morning peak) stopping Sutton via Wimbledon stopping 8-car All day
12
13 St Albans (Luton in morning peak) stopping Sutton via Mitcham stopping 8-car All day
14
15 Kentish Town (Luton in evening peak) stopping Sevenoaks stopping 8-car All day
16
17 Finsbury Park
(Welwyn Garden City, in peak direction only)
stopping or semi-fast Caterham stopping via Sydenham
or semi-fast
8-car Peaks only
18
19 Luton stopping Maidstone East semi-fast via Bromley South 8-car Peaks only
20
21 West Hampstead Thameslink
(Bedford in peak direction only)
semi-fast Three Bridges
(Littlehampton in peak direction only)
semi-fast 8-car Peaks only
22
23 West Hampstead Thameslink
(Bedford in peak direction)
semi-fast London Bridge
(East Grinstead in peak direction)
semi-fast via Oxted 8-car Peaks only
24

Rolling stock[edit]

In 2009, the Thameslink fleet consisted of 74 dual-voltage Class 319s. While the Thameslink Rolling Stock Project (TRSP) will provide a brand-new fleet, the timescales involved were such that interim solutions were required. On 4 April 2007, the DfT authorised the transfer to Thameslink from Southern, which was not using their dual-voltage capability, of 12 Class 319s, so that First Capital Connect now have all 86 Class 319 units. Once project funding was guaranteed, 23 Class 377/5s were sub-leased from Southern to meet the capacity requirements of Key Output 0.

It was announced by First Capital Connect on 4 November 2011 that four services running in each direction on the Thameslink network from 12 December 2011 would be 12-car trains. Class 377/2 trains have been hired from Southern to enable the longer trains to operate until enough new rolling stock becomes available.[68]

The Thameslink Rolling Stock Project (itself a part of the Thameslink Programme) began in 2008 with the aim of procuring a brand-new fleet of electric trains.[69] A consortium led by Siemens was named preferred bidder for the train contract on 16 June 2011.[70] Maintenance depots for the new trains are to be built at Hornsey and Three Bridges.[70] The new trains will be designated as the Class 700. The new fleet of trains will also enable the transfer of Class 319 trains to the Greater Western franchise, allowing them to replace their aging DMUs.

Political developments[edit]

Network Rail had planned to terminate Sutton Loop Thameslink trains at Blackfriars station, rather than have them continue through central London as at present. This upset many residents in South London and their local politicians, who saw it as a reduction in services rather than an improvement.[71] In response to pressure, government has ordered Network Rail to reverse the decision.

References[edit]

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