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Look around the £6.5bn London Bridge redevelopment getting Kent trains to run on time

Despite the diggers shifting soil and the absence of trains sweeping overhead, it is easy to picture what the huge concourse at London Bridge station will look like when it opens in three years’ time.

At peak times, more than 16,000 passengers an hour will travel down escalators from the platforms to this vast open area, the size of the pitch at Wembley, connecting to new destinations like Peterborough and Cambridge.

Alongside the rows of shops will stand the original Victorian archways, with a walkway connecting the riverbank to the Shard and Borough Market.

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The giant concourse at London Bridge will be able to handle about 16,000 people an hour at peak times
The giant concourse at London Bridge will be able to handle about 16,000 people an hour at peak times

Until January 2018, when the station fully reopens, the area will be mixture of a building site and partially reopened platforms. Services from Kent to Charing Cross will continue to go straight through the station until next summer. Some peak time Canon Street trains are still stopping but due to be disrupted next year.

“You have to understand we’re rebuilding a station used by 56 million people a year and we’re rebuilding it while it’s open,” said Network Rail spokesman Chris Denham.

“There is always going to be an element of disruption but hopefully the way we’re doing it is going to keep that to a minimum.

“When this massive concourse is completely open in 2018 we will have a much better station and a much more reliable railway.”

The key to the reliability lies down the line where the 40-year-old tracks are being replaced.

The point of the redevelopment, known as the Thameslink project, is to increase connectivity between the north and south of the city but also to make it easier for trains to stay on time.

The redevelopment will use the latest signalling technology to get 16 trains an hour into London’s core network from London Bridge, allowing commuters to travel to more destinations more quickly.

The new London Bridge station under construction, next to the Shard
The new London Bridge station under construction, next to the Shard
Part of the new concourse with a platform overhead
Part of the new concourse with a platform overhead
Building work at London Bridge
Building work at London Bridge
Network Rail spokesman Chris Denham
Network Rail spokesman Chris Denham

Meanwhile, for Southeastern commuters, the work has simplified the layout of the track so trains do not cross over the lines of different networks, increasing capacity in the system.

“One of the biggest difficulties before was we had a load of trains coming in higgledy piggledy like spaghetti crossing each other,” added Mr Denham.

“That causes delays, reliability problems and our passengers a great deal of stress.

“By separating them out, although people won’t have direct journeys to new destinations, by changing at this fantastic new concourse, you will be able to get to different places.

Workers carrying out the £6.5 billion redevelopment of London Bridge
Workers carrying out the £6.5 billion redevelopment of London Bridge
London Bridge will have rows of shops when its redevelopment is complete in 2018
London Bridge will have rows of shops when its redevelopment is complete in 2018
Network Rail hope London Bridge will become an iconic landmark for the city
Network Rail hope London Bridge will become an iconic landmark for the city

“From Kent, you will suddenly have a large number of options.”

As the warning buzzer signals a crane operating overhead against the shadow of the Shard, London’s tallest building, the scale of the project becomes more apparent.

“We may never work on a project as large as this again,” said project director Laurence Whitbourn.

“It is a real privilege to work on something of this scale and complexity. Hopefully it will be an iconic landmark for London.”

One of the new platforms and track beds
One of the new platforms and track beds
The redevelopment will mix new and existing architecture
The redevelopment will mix new and existing architecture
Many of the Victorian archways have been preserved
Many of the Victorian archways have been preserved

The London Bridge redevelopment will declutter the congested platforms, which had obstructive columns in the centre.

It will also extend rain covers to the end of the platform, avoiding swathes of passengers huddling for shelter in one spot.

Before the development there were nine terminating platforms and six through platforms. The new development reverses this, which prompted the construction of a viaduct to carry new track.

Construction has been carried out from south to north and incorporated the old Victorian architecture. The outside parts of the station date back to 1836 and was built piecemeal, ending up with more than 100 different types of arches.

The redevelopment has reinforced existing archways in London Bridge
The redevelopment has reinforced existing archways in London Bridge
The tunnel linking the platforms will be replaced with a huge concourse
The tunnel linking the platforms will be replaced with a huge concourse
Thameslink project director Laurence Whitbourn at the £6.5 billion redevelopment of London Bridge
Thameslink project director Laurence Whitbourn at the £6.5 billion redevelopment of London Bridge

“It’s probably one of the most complex engineering challenges we have undertaken,” said project director Laurence Whitbourn.

“It is in the centre of London and right next to the Shard, all of which we have to consider, and we have both new infrastructure and Victorian arches we are going to keep.

“We are trying to keep some of the heritage of the station, which would look good in the new environment.

“Also it is sustainable and cost-effective to reuse existing infrastructure where we can, rather than knocking it all down and bringing in new bricks and concrete.”


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