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The Thameslink Programme, formerly known as Thameslink 2000, is a £5.5 billion major project to upgrade and expand the Thameslink rail network in southern England. The project includes the lengthening of platforms, station remodelling, new railway infrastructure and additional rolling stock.

Project history (pre-construction)

Background

The Thameslink rail network was created by joining the electrified network south of the Thames with the recently electrified line between Bedfordmarker and St. Pancrasmarker to the north via the Snow Hill tunnelmarker. It was fully inaugurated in May 1990, two years after services began. Thameslink is the only National Rail service that crosses the centre of London. This reduces the need to use the Underground for cross-London journeys. As a direct result of its inception, journeys between destinations in north and south London that were served by Thameslink services quadrupled after the first year of operation.

A consequent unusual feature of its history is that all through services need to be operated by dual-voltage trains since the original 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. All plans for development as well as day-to-day operation of the line are constrained by this.

Initial planning

The increasing patronage was seen as a potential problem for the network, given that £4 million was spent on infrastructure that was built for the network. As a result, British Rail started developing plans to expand and upgrade the original network during the early 1990s. The Railways Act of 1993 meant that responsibility for the project was transferred to Railtrack in the mid 1990s, but privatisation combined with a recession in the UK economy caused the first of many delays to the project which was initially envisaged to be complete by 2000 (hence the original name).

Beginning of planning process

Railtrack applied for Transport and Works Act powers on 21 November 1997. Just two months later, the prospects of Thameslink 2000 becoming reality were thrown into doubt because London and Continental Railways , a new company that was appointed by the Government to construct High Speed 1 announced that they required further direct government grants worth £1.2 billion (in 1995 real prices) to finance the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. As part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act of 1996, LCR were under obligation to build a concrete 'box', which was to house a new sub-surface station that was proposed as part of Thameslink 2000, since the new station would be built under St Pancras stationmarker itself.

The Government and LCR reached agreement on a set of revised proposals in June 1998, which allowed the construction of the rail link (and the concrete box) to proceed. Meanwhile Railtrack took the opportunity to carry out an extensive public consultation exercise, which resulted in the revision of their original proposals and subsequently they submitted a Supplementary Order on 29 September 1999.

First public inquiry

Given the size of the project, the Deputy Prime Minister decided to call for a public inquiry, which commenced in June 2000 and was brought to a close in May 2001. 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 Ministermarker (ODPM, now known as the Department for Communities and Local Governmentmarker) 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, since there were three 'deficiencies' that he was not satisfied with:

Further delays

As a result the Deputy Prime Minister stated that the project would not receive approval and that Network Rail (which replaced Railtrack) was required to submit an improved set of proposals (i.e. with no deficiencies) and a new Environmental Statement on 29 January 2003. As a result of lack of progress on the project, the 'Thameslink 2000 Agreement', a contract that obliged Network Rail (and previously its predecessor Railtrack) to maintain responsibility for funding the project, was terminated in April 2003. Responsibility for project funding was subsequently transferred to the Strategic Rail Authority.

Nevertheless, Network Rail made adjustments to the Thameslink 2000 proposals and in June 2004 they submitted the aforementioned proposals, along with an updated Environmental Statement (dated 14 June 2004). On 22 March 2005 the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport called for a new public inquiry in light of the amendments and also confirmed that it would commence in September 2005.

As a result of the Railways Act of 2005, the Department for Transportmarker (DfT) took over funding responsibility for the project from the Strategic Rail Authority on 25 July 2005.

Second public inquiry

The second public inquiry commenced on 6 September 2005 and was brought to a close in December 2005. The Inspector's report (dated 17 February 2006) was subsequently submitted to the DfT for consideration. On 18 October 2006, the DfT published the second report, which declared that the Inspector was satisfied that the deficiencies from the previous Thameslink 2000 proposals were dealt with, and that he recommended that the project be given approval.

Project approval

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; furthermore, on 19 December 2006, 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'.

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. Since the planning permission and legal powers associated with the project have already been granted, the project is now clear to proceed.

Summary of project phases

To minimise the risk, the Thameslink Programme is being divided into 3 phases.

Key Output 0 (Complete)

Works are complete to permit the 15tph peak hour service between St. Pancras and Farringdon to be extended at least as far south as Blackfriars, since services to/from Moorgate and Blackfriars have been merged from 22 March 2009. 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 which previously terminated at Blackfriars now terminate at Kentish Townmarker or further north, and dual-voltage Class 377 Electrostars have been procured in order to help fulfil the additional rolling stock requirements.

Key Output 1

A major aim of the project is to allow the introduction of 12-car trains on the Thameslink network. Platform extension works will be required at around 50 stations, particularly north of the Thames on the existing Thameslink route where all stations (with the exception of St Pancrasmarker and City Thameslinkmarker) are currently restricted to a maximum length of 8 cars; these works commenced at Luton Airport Parkwaymarker on 24 October 2007 and will be carried out at another 22 stations until 2011. Platforms at Hendonmarker, Cricklewoodmarker, Kentish Townmarker, and Tulse Hillmarker stations will not be extended. Platform extensions at Farringdonmarker and Blackfriarsmarker will also be provided as part of major remodelling works which commenced in early 2009.

A second objective is to increase the capacity of the central London section in terms of trains per hour. A new viaduct will be built over Borough Marketmarker to provide trains to Blackfriars and trains to Charing Crossmarker with their own dedicated routes. All of the above is planned to take place prior to the 2012 Olympics and would result in 10,000 extra peak period seats from December 2011.

Key Output 2

After the Olympics London Bridgemarker will be subject to major track, signalling and station remodelling works as part of the Masterplan project (some works within the station building may commence during Key Output 1). 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 between the Thameslink route and the East Coast Main Line, consequently opening up the network to new destinations north of Central London. The fly-down at Tanners Hill will be widened and become double trackand a grade separated junction will be created at Bermondseymarker.

Once the project is completed, 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) between St Pancras and Blackfriars from December 2015, which equates to an extra 14,500 peak period seats when compared to the current level of service.

As part of the project a purpose built fleet of 1100 NXEMU vehicles (equivalent to 275 4-car trains) would operate across the network - for which the procurement process commenced on 9 April 2008. Due to the additional power requirements of this new fleet, electricity supply enhancement works across the network will be carried out during most of the entire project - this will be achieved by 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 will be installed in 9 locations and upgraded in a further 4.

Major project works

King's Cross Thameslink / St Pancras



The previous station King's Cross Thameslinkmarker closed in 2007 and trains now stop at St Pancrasmarker. The need for a replacement station arose due to factors regarding King's Cross Thameslinkmarker such as substandard platform widths and lengths, lack of step-free access, lack of easily accessible fire escape routes and a poor quality passenger environment. If the previous station had been upgraded to modern standards, it would have required in excess of £60 million (which is similar to the cost of fitting out the new stationmarker anyway) and serious disruption on the nearby Circle/Hammersmith & City/Metropolitan LUL lines and roads would have occurred as a direct consequence.

The new station accepts 12 car trains (the previous station was limited to 8 cars) and allows better interchange with other forms of transport. It also has a CCTV system, seven escalators and two lifts, which allows people with impaired mobility to use the station. 'Fit-out' works began in the summer of 2006 (following the decision by the DfT to provide a further £60-65 million for the High Speed 1 project), and operations commenced on 9 December 2007.

Due to the planned closure of King's Cross Thameslink, passengers who were using the station to access the Underground lines would have had to proceed to the other entrances to King's Cross St Pancrasmarker in order to access the lines once Thameslink service calls at King's Cross Thameslinkmarker were discontinued (although the station would have been retained as an emergency exit, which remains the case today). For this reason, London TravelWatch recommended that the Thameslink station should be retained as an entrance/exit facility for London Underground passengers.

London Underground agreed with the recommendation but stated that funding for the required modifications would need the agreement of the DfT; in response the DfT decided against pushing this forward, stating that it was a matter for Transport for London . Since 10 December 2007 (the day after Thameslink service calls at King's Cross Thameslink were discontinued), the old station entrance has been retained as part of King's Cross St Pancrasmarker.

Farringdon & the Moorgate branch



Farringdon stationmarker is limited to 8 cars, and therefore requires platform extensions to handle 12 car trains. Extensions towards the north are not planned mainly due to the steep gradient (1 in 27) of the Thameslink line immediately north of Farringdon. Northward platform extensions therefore would not comply with safety standards, which leaves the alternative of realigning both the Thameslink and Circle/Hammersmith & City/Metropolitan LUL lines, given that the latter crosses over the former on a bridge. This has been deemed impractical due to lack of space. The platforms will therefore be extended southwards, severing the two-station branch to Moorgate.

The buildings at 54-60 Cowcross Street will be demolished and a new ticket hall and concourse for National Rail passengers will be built in their place; furthermore, the existing listed ticket hall and concourse will be remodelled, but it will be used exclusively by LUL passengers. Despite the separate functions of the two station buildings, interchange within the station will be improved by means of removing the existing interchange bridge and installing new stairs and lifts with access to all four platforms, thereby allowing passengers with impaired mobility to use the station.

The increasing patronage at Farringdon also necessitates the widening of the platforms, which itself requires the Cowcross Street bridge abutments to be shifted; for this reason the bridge will be demolished and then rebuilt once the abutments have been shifted. Other planned major works within Farringdon include the erection of a new roof over the northern half of the station premises and the pedestrianisation of Cowcross Street. This is to help passenger movements around and within the station, particularly during the peak; and to protect passengers from the weather.

The intermediate station at Barbicanmarker (which is located on the Moorgate branch) was used by Thameslink trains only when travelling east (from Farringdon); westbound trains (from Moorgate) did not stop. Passengers wanting to travel to or from Barbicanmarker or Moorgatemarker stations now have to change at Farringdon onto London Underground trains on the Circle/Hammersmith & City/Metropolitan LUL lines. Although this will be inconvenient for some passengers (the disbenefits are estimated at £65 million over a 60 year appraisal period), the benefits to other Thameslink passengers are deemed to be significantly greater (£5.7 billion over the same period).

City Thameslink

No major works will take place within City Thameslink railway stationmarker, although the OHLE system will be extended from Farringdon to City Thameslink. Combined with a new crossover in Snow Hill tunnelmarker between the two stations, this will allow southbound trains to be turned back should they fail to change from London Midland Region AC traction current to Southern Region third rail.. For northbound trains the changeover from third rail to overhead line will be moved from Farringdon to City Thameslink . 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.

The platforms are to receive a face lift along with improved CIS (Customer Information Screens) to give a more uniform feel for customers accessing information across the Core. The design of the new CIS is the same as St Pancras Internationalmarker.

Between City Thameslink and Blackfriars a large electrical substation is currently being built at Ludgate Chambers. This 20MW substation will be the largest on the 750 V DC third-rail network.

Blackfriars

The existing building at 167-179 Queen Victoria Street (which was formerly used as an LUL office) is being demolished, and a new station building (with a façade mostly of glass) will be built in its place to the same height. Within this building a new shared National Rail/LUL ticket hall and LUL ventilation shaft will be provided; in addition, new escalators and lifts will take passengers to a mezzanine level (for National Rail services) or to a sub-surface level (for the Circle/District LUL lines). The LUL station will also be subject to major enhancements, and therefore will be closed for 24 months. The existing subway entrance to Blackfriars station will be permanently closed as a result of the Thameslink Programme.

The through platforms will be extended along Blackfriars Railway Bridgemarker over the River Thames in order to accommodate 12 car trains (in place of 8 today). The platform layout will also be altered so that the through platforms will be located on the east side of the station (currently the west side), and the terminus platforms will be located on the west side of the station (currently the east side).This means trains to and from London Bridge will no longer have to cross the lines that lead to the bay platforms, which is currently a source of delays.

In order to accommodate the new and extended platforms, the existing bridge deck will be strengthened and widened towards the west, and consequently the easternmost line of disused piers (which supported the former West Blackfriars and St Paul’s RailwayBridge) will themselves be strengthened, tied into the existing bridge and clad in stone. The number of bay platforms will be reduced from 3 to 2 in the process, but some terminating services will become through services, and the increased length will allow longer trains to terminate at Blackfriars. The existing station roof will be demolished and replaced by a new roof of glazed north lights and partial-height glazed side panels, which will be installed along the entire length of the bridge. In addition there will be a new station entrance on the South Bankmarker, where a second ticket hall will be provided. The project is being designed by Jacobs and Tony Gee and Partners and built by Balfour Beatty.

Borough Market Viaduct

The two-track Borough Market Viaduct west of London Bridge is currently used by trains on the Thameslink route to Blackfriars and all trains to Charing Crossmarker. This causes a major bottleneck in the area. To relieve this, an additional pair of tracks will be added to this short section of the route. Trains to Charing Cross will use the southern pair of tracks. This will give Thameslink trains a dedicated route to Blackfriars on the northern pair, which is key to providing the nominal peak hour frequency of 24tph on the core route.

Between London Bridge and the vicinity of Stoney Street, the extra pair of tracks will be on a new viaduct to the south of the existing one. This will require the demolition (and subsequent replacement) of a group of listed buildings within Borough Marketmarker, which is a conservation area. West of Stoney Street, most of the widening of the existing viaduct will be to the north, to avoid affecting the Hop Exchangemarker building to the south.

London Bridge



London Bridge stationmarker will undergo a major transformation as part of a wider project known as Masterplan. One aspect of the proposals involves the closure of 3 terminus platforms and the creation of 3 through platforms to allow additional services to continue to either Cannon Street, Charing Cross or Thameslink stations north of the River Thames. The increase in through platforms will also allow London Bridge to function as an emergency terminus for services approaching the station from the west. For the platform alterations, the listed northern wall of the terminus trainshed will be demolished and replaced with a new retaining wall, and the listed bays of the roof over the terminating platform will be dismantled and stored.

To alleviate congestion and improve circulation within the station, a new station concourse will be built. This requires the demolition of brick vaults between Stainer and Weston Streets, which will themselves become part of the new concourse (and therefore cease to be thoroughfares). The space relinquished by the existing concourse will allow Network Rail to expand the adjacent bus station, and 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.

Bermondsey dive-under



With the completion of Borough Market Viaduct to the west of London Bridge, Thameslink trains will need to run on a pair of tracks to the north of the pair used by trains to Charing Cross. However, Thameslink trains currently arrive on the southern pair of tracks. The lines will therefore be rebuilt to the east of London Bridge so that Thameslink trains from the Brighton Main Line can cross over trains from Kent headed for Charing Cross.

Charing Cross services will be diverted slightly south in the vicinity of Trundleys Road onto the route of the former branch line to Bricklayers' Armsmarker. They will then slope up alongside the Brighton Main Line just north of South Bermondseymarker station. Thameslink trains can then cross over the line on a new bridge, meeting the existing alignment just north of Jarrow Road. The Charing Cross line and Thameslink will each cross the Rotherhithe New Road on the other's present alignment.

Tanners Hill fly-down

To improve capacity on the line between London Bridge and Lewisham, a new stretch of single track will be built alongside the existing bi-directional single track between Tanners Hill Junction (near St John's Station) and Lewisham Vale Junction. Before the new track is laid, St John’s Vale Road Bridge will be partially demolished and reconstructed with a concrete pier, as well as a new south span over the new track; and the existing embankment along the fly-down will also be widened. As the existing footbridge will be rebuilt, a temporary footbridge will be provided for the duration of the works.

Rolling stock

As of 2008, the existing Thameslink fleet consisted of 74 dual-voltage Class 319s and 2 Class 317s. While the Thameslink Rolling Stock Project (TRSP) will provide a brand new fleet, the timescales involved are such that interim solutions are required. On 4 April 2007, the DfT authorised the cascade of 12 Class 319s, so that FCC now have all 86 built 319 units. Now that project funding is guaranteed, 23 Class 377/5s have been cascaded from Southern to fulfil further capacity requirements that have come into play now the service alterations of Key Output 0 are in place.

The December 2011 timetable (i.e. after Key Output 1) will introduce 12-car trains and as a result further rolling stock will be required. This will partly filled by three 377/2 borrowed from Southern in November 2011 until enough NXEMU's are ready.

The Thameslink Rolling Stock Project (itself a part of the Thameslink Programme) commenced on 9 April 2008 and it was introduced for the purpose building a brand new fleet of electric trains, currently known as NXEMU's will be worth £2 billion.

The new stock will be fitted with ATO (Automatic Train Operation) and ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management Systems), or will at least be capable of this in the future. The trains will be designed to run under both ATO and driver operation, the ATO being used on the core London route between Kentish Town and Blackfriars. Under ATO, the train driver will only need to ensure the route is clear to proceed, before closing the doors and pressing a button to send the train automatically to its next stop. ATO enables a more intense service than conventional signalling, allowing a service of up to 24 TPH in the central section of the line.

In July 2009, the Department for Transportmarker announced that maintenance depots for the new trains would be built at Hornseymarker and Three Bridgesmarker.

Political developments

Questions have been raised in the north London local press, and taken up by local politicians, over the decision not to extend the platforms for 12-carriage trains at three current Thameslink stations:

The reason regarding Hendon and Cricklewood is the imminent development of a new station in between, at Brent Crossmarker. In the case of Kentish Town, the cost of having to rebuild one or other of the road bridges at the station is considered to be excessive.

This permanent limitation to 8-car trains has created speculation, perhaps unfounded, of future station closures, on what is acknowledged to be the very busy Midland Main Line.

Network Rail has responded by saying that "four 8-car trains an hour will still call at the three stations". However, Network Rail has also insisted that such trains will not also stop at 'Brent Cross Thameslink' (if it is built) which undermines the strategic planning guidance of the Greater London Authority and the London Borough of Barnetmarker that this should be a 'major new transport interchange' in north London.

References

Documents

  • Network Rail (2004a) - "Thameslink 2000 Environmental Statement: Main report (Inner Area)". Network Rail, June 2004
  • Network Rail (2004b) -
  • Network Rail (2005a) -
  • Network Rail (2005b) -
  • DfT (2006) -


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