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Thameslink Programme's colossal rail delivery

Simon Blanchflower provides a top-down perspective on the Thames programme.

It’s been in the headlines for commuter delays, but delivering a £7bn programme, £5bn of which is infrastructure, is never going to be an easy task.

Built in 1836, London Bridge station is the oldest London rail terminal. That’s a proud boast, but the 170-year-old station was in dire need of some major surgery.

Principal focuses include increased capacity, frequency and connectivity, says Thameslink major programme director Simon Blanchflower.

Construction on the scheme – which has also included new stations at Blackfriars and Farringdon – started as far back as 2007. By the time work completes in 2018, it will have included a massive new track remodelling called the Bermondsey Dive Under, tunnels connecting St Pancras and the East Coast Mainline, power supply upgrades and new stabling capacity.

“At London Bridge the aim was to unpick track complexity and to reorder in a way that will result in better capacity and performance,” Mr Blanchflower says.

This is seeing the former nine terminus and six through-platforms becoming the opposite with six terminus and nine through-platforms.

“At Bermondsey in particular there was a ‘scorched earth policy’ that saw most of the arches demolished”

Simon Blanchflower, Network Rail

It will feature a concourse bigger than the Wembley pitch, 15 rebuilt platforms, a regenerated St. Thomas Street and new cafes and bars.

No easy thing, especially when more than 140,000 people are using it every day making it the capital’s fourth busiest station.

“It’s built on hundreds of Victorian arches, many of which had to be demolished while trains continue to run around them,” Mr Blanchflower says. “At Bermondsey in particular there was a ‘scorched earth policy’ that saw most of the arches demolished, though some foundations were reused as piling mats as well as in embankment construction.

Tackling the works at such a busy site where logistics and space constraints were a constant pressure meant employing offsite construction for prefabricated platforms and canopy structures. This had the added benefit of driving build quality, Mr Blanchflower says.

Recent milestones include the opening of the new integrated station control room at London Bridge in May, along with two thirds of the new station concourse in August.

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