Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Bridge of…

Posted in Commuter, Customer service, Infrastructure, London by Chairman Pip on 6 November 2012

I mentioned in a previous post that the programme of work for the rebuilding of London Bridge has now been announced, with a detailed five year plan outlined that will see each part of the project done individually, meaning it will be staggered so as to allow the station to remain open to traffic. Although, as you might expect with a project this big, there will be some disruption, there certainly won’t be as much as there would be if the station was completely closed – yes, it would be done a lot quicker, but you can’t just close off one of London’s major transport interchanges for a couple of years. But, as I also said, minimising disruption is never enough for people, or so it seems. Let me point you towards a letter received to the letters page of the Evening Standard, written by a chap called Nick Thompson. As usual in these instances, I shall give you the whole shebang, completely verbatim.

I was in LA after the 1987 earthquake, when part of a huge elevated section of an interstate highway was badly damaged and the highway was closed for nine days while hundreds of workmen worked day and night to repair it. Does it really take five years to rebuild a station?

Short answer? Yes. Because London Bridge is such a major hub, it realistically can’t be closed off to have the work done all at once. But the work is going to be disruptive to transform three terminal platforms into through platforms that will accomodate the planned 18 additional trains per hour that will call there by 2018. Because the work does not simply cover London Bridge – it is in fact the final stage of the entire Thameslink Programme, which will cover the construction of the widened route through the centre of London from Blackfriars intended to once and for all remove the bottleneck that trains running on the Thameslink route causes. The plan is to give Thameslink trains their own dedicated up and down roads to separate them from trains running to and from Charing Cross. Not only will this remove the threat of trains coming to a standstill on both routes if there is a problem on one, but it will also create the capacity for the planned 18 trains per hour that will run between London Bridge and St Pancras. Further, Thameslink will also have dedicated roads on the other side of London Bridge through the installation of a flying junction, which will require remodelling of the approaches. All of this work is necessary. All of it will cause disruption. All of it will take a long time. But, just as with Crossrail when it’s finished, we’ll all feel the benefits when this work is done. Yes, I’ll be forty when it is done, but it gives me something to look forward to.

Oh, one more thing – another letter from the Evening Standard. This one is from this week, seems to come from someone who isn’t one of the poor 50m shmoes that use London Bridge every year, but is instead someone who apparently commutes in to the idyllic setting of Marylebone. Mr Ian East helpfully points out the following:

London Bridge commuters might like to compare the five years that will be spent revamping the station with the 9-12 months Chiltern Rail (sic) believes it will take to rebuild the 13 miles of track and two completely new stations between Oxford and Bicester.

Not wishing to rain on Mr East’s parade, but the Oxford to Bicester line hardly compares to the approaches to London Bridge in terms of number of train movements, making it much easier to do the work to allow Chiltern’s planned service to Oxford in a year rather than five.

The London Bridge Plan

  • December 2012: London Bridge to Victoria via Denmark Hill service withdrawn with opening of London Overground ELLX Phase 2.
  • May 2013: London Bridge Platforms 14-16 removed from service to allow for redevelopment.
  • December 2014: Thameslink services through the Snow Hill Tunnel are diverted away from London Bridge until 2018.
  • Early 2015: Services to and from Charing Cross non stopping at London Bridge to allow for redevelopment work until early 2016.
  • Early 2016: Services to and from Cannon Street non stopping at London Bridge to allow for redevelopment work until December 2017.
  • May 2018: London Bridge fully reopens.
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