Construction News gets an exclusive walk around the new concourse and platforms at London Bridge prior to the grand unveiling to see the construction process in action.
NG Bailey London Bridge view from escalators
In November 2014, Construction News wrote about the ongoing work at London Bridge station.
Four months after that visit, a commuter captured an image that went viral of fellow passengers crawling over and under ticket barriers, as Network Rail’s hierarchy faced a barrage of criticism over the works.
Today, the station reaches an important milestone as it moves nearer to completion, and passengers are looking forward to smoother journeys.
“A lot has changed since we last spoke,” says NG Bailey operations director David Jones. Construction News is talking to Mr Jones in a huge site office next to London Bridge, the largest station redevelopment project in Europe.
Today, London Bridge opens three more platforms and most of the new concourse to the public.
The new concourse, two-thirds of which is unveiled today, is larger than the pitch at Wembley Stadium and connects all 15 of the station’s platforms together for the first time – a huge change for commuters who have used the station throughout the construction process.
NG Bailey London Bridge platforms 12 to 15
NG Bailey, the biggest subcontractor working on the scheme for principal contractor Costain, gave CN an exclusive tour around the site to see the progress. “There’s around two more years to go on the project, with around 14 months left for NG Bailey,” Mr Jones says.
Right on track
Our tour starts in the aforementioned site office, which houses the co-located Network Rail, Costain, WSP and NG Bailey teams. Work here takes place around the clock, seven days week. There are up to 1,000 operatives working here at any one time, with a night shift staff of 400.
NG Bailey has designed and installed temporary M&E works for the construction phase, before also completing design and installation of fire suppression, fire detection, telecoms and security systems, as well as the full permanent M&E services found throughout the station. Its facilities services team has also supported WSP’s design team to maintain all new services installed until project completion, scheduled for January 2018.
“Improving access has been a big part of this – it was pretty poor before, and the interchanges were pretty difficult”
David Jones, NG Bailey
“Improving access has been a big part of this – it was pretty poor before, and the interchanges were pretty difficult,” Mr Jones says. “We’ve demolished nine through platforms [allowing trains to enter and exit the station] and then completely rebuilt them,” Mr Jones says. “The new platforms are all longer than the old ones to accommodate 12-carriage Thameslink trains.”
The six terminating platforms, numbers 10-15, have all been complete for some time, but now three of the through platforms – seven, eight and nine – are being unveiled along with two-thirds of the concourse.
As London’s oldest terminus station, the previous platforms were built on top of more than 200 Victorian-era brick arches, many of which have now been completely demolished to make way for the concourse.
Replacing the arches are enormous motorway-style concrete flyovers, which tower above as you walk through the concourse, with a striking V-shaped truss supporting the large roof beam that runs from east to west.
Network Rail CEO:
“The construction work to totally transform London Bridge station and improve the reliability of the approaching railway has been going on for four years.
”It is the most ambitious redevelopment of any London station in a generation and one of the most technically demanding projects ever undertaken on our railway.
”We are rebuilding Britain’s fourth busiest station – the tracks, the platforms and the infrastructure which enables trains to run – all the while keeping the station open and doing our best to keep passengers moving.
”I am extremely sorry that while doing this work there have been times when passengers have suffered frustrating delays. I know that the promises about tomorrow are of little consolation when performance isn’t good enough today.
I am pleased that, finally, some of the benefits of this project will be much more visible from next week. From this Monday we are opening two thirds of a brand new concourse.”
CN walks through the concourse, underneath the platforms, moving from the St Thomas Street side towards Tooley Street. Two-thirds of the way across we come out into the open to where platforms four and five will be constructed next – currently they stand half-built, with a large gap in the middle of the platform.
Once the concourse partially opens, this section under platforms four and five will be closed off and construction finished, with these two platforms opening in March 2017, before the last three platforms are also worked on.
Network Rail London Bridge
A new station control centre has also been built on the new concourse. CN gets a look inside this new-build structure, which also required specialist M&E from NG Bailey to ensure all of its systems and electronics were as robust as possible.
This building will allow station operations staff to monitor all security and building functions from one place using a new station management system, which includes video surveillance, electronic access control, public address and radio communications.
Platform for success
As our tour moves above ground, we walk up a staircase running parallel to one of the project’s 24 new escalators and onto platforms eight and nine. Here, numerous operatives are putting the finishing touches to the lighting and signage, ensuring they are ready for passengers and trains.
Safety is a critical concern here – the railway line running adjacent to platform nine is closed off during construction but still has a live rail, while trains are running non-stop in both directions past platform eight.
Here we see some of the modular roof components that NG Bailey and Costain have produced in tandem, with lighting and services already installed. “We actually had our site operatives working in the factory to make sure that everything was of the highest quality,” Mr Jones says.
The level of design detail on the project is remarkable – Mr Jones reveals that there were more than 16,000 drawings produced by the project JV, not including NG Bailey’s own individual drawings.
“It’s the biggest rail building project in the UK at the moment – and it’s been such an exciting job to work on”
David Jones, NG Bailey
After seeing what’s happening above ground and in the concourse, we then move behind the scenes to see the systems that will keep it all running.
NG Bailey has created a ‘spine’ plant room which runs from one end of the station to the other. This contains nine chillers that will feed the 80-plus retail units in the station, as well as four modular plant rooms built off site and installed by NG Bailey.
All of the M&E has been installed in phases. “There is stuff here that we put in four years ago that still doesn’t have cabling,” Mr Jones says. “It’s quite a jigsaw puzzle.” The boiler rooms and plant rooms are located off the concourse, in the spaces below the brick arches that still remain.
Worth the wait
The public, of course, won’t see these systems behind the scenes – but they will notice the huge new space that has opened up, which will hopefully ease congestion and make commuting through London Bridge a more pleasant experience than in recent years.
NG Bailey London Bridge view from above
“We know there have been problems here with commuters,” Mr Jones says. “So we make sure all of our staff are always friendly if they see people, that if they are on site or moving between one part of the site and another, to stay out of people’s way. The relationship with the public has been really important here.”
It’s certainly been a long time coming and although the job still isn’t finished yet, the opening of the concourse should go a long way towards appeasing those who have to use London Bridge every day.
And with the wide open spaces and vastly improved facilities, Mr Jones believes it is worth the wait.
“It’s the biggest rail building project in the UK at the moment – and it’s been such an exciting job to work on.”
CN visits London Bridge's new concourse