London Bridge Rebuilding Works

Thameslink Programme


The first ‘’Thameslink’’ programme was that completed in 1988, under the auspices of British Rail’s ‘’Network SouthEast’’ business sector. This involved re-opening Snow Hill Tunnel to passenger traffic, enabling the start of a regular cross-London service between Bedfordshire and the South Coast. Snow Hill Tunnel runs under Smithfield Meat Market, being situated between Farringdon and City Thameslink stations. It dates from 1866, when the LC&DR opened an extension from Ludgate Hill to Farringdon; at the latter, the company joined the lines of the Metropolitan Railway. Passenger services through the tunnel had ceased as long ago as 1916, but freight continued until 1969, after which time the route closed completely.

The then new ‘’Thameslink’’ service began on 16th May 1988, at the start of the summer timetable, and initially comprised the following direct trains:

The lion’s share of the project’s budget was spent on purpose-built Class 319 electric rolling stock, which had been equipped with dual-voltage capabilities to run off third rail and overhead wires. By 1991, the scope of the services had been widened to include the following:

The success of the new route, which quickly saw trains running at full capacity, provided the impetus for a second ‘’Thameslink’’ scheme. Shortly before its 1996 flotation, infrastructure owner ‘’Railtrack’’ and the Government agreed a £580 million programme of upgrades to increase capacity through Central London. This included revised track layouts, new signals, new power distribution systems, and the provision of a new underground station beneath St Pancras to replace the existing Kings Cross Thameslink site. Major infrastructure works were planned for London Bridge and Blackfriars, and new rolling stock was to be procured to supplement the Class 319 fleet. This scheme was named ‘’Thameslink 2000’’, the suffix indicating the intended date of completion.

By 1998, work still had not started. The capital cost of the project was revised up to £650 million, of which the Government was committed to providing £100 million, and the date of completion was pushed back to summer 2002. The scheme was also dependent on Phase 2 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link going ahead; should the latter fail, Railtrack reported that the Thameslink project would no longer be financially viable. In addition, construction of the underground station at St Pancras was tied in with Phase 2 of the CTRL, which meant delays executing that project had a direct knock-on effect for Thameslink 2000. Revised timescales now pointed to the year 2000 as the start of Thameslink works, with a completion date of 2004. However, slow progress getting Phase 2 of the CTRL off the ground pushed the finish line back further, this time to 2006.

To add more woes, Railtrack was plunged into crisis through a combination of the Hatfield crash in 2000 and spiralling costs on the West Coast Main Line upgrade. This culminated in the organisation going into administration in October 2001, its assets being taken over by a newly-formed ‘’Network Rail’’ on 3rd October 2002.


23rd September 2009


The crane in the background of this westward view is upon the former site of ''Southwark Towers'', the 24-storey skyscraper which was demolished to make way for ''The Shard''. Behind and to the right of the crane is ''New London Bridge House'', which was also scheduled for demolition, and on the left is Guy's Hospital. © David Glasspool


23rd September 2009


Behind the trainshed, we can see the first foundations being made for ''The Shard''. This view shows to good effect the elevated nature of the platforms and tracks of the terminus station. © David Glasspool


23rd September 2009


Panning to the left (north) of the previous view, the southern limit of the existing station concourse (officially opened in 1978) is evident. One of the trainshed's columns can be seen standing precariously on the edge, on the right of this photograph. © David Glasspool


23rd September 2009


Looking Charing Cross-bound, it is evident that ''Railway Approach'' had been closed and boarded off, in preparation for work to begin on the new viaduct. © David Glasspool


4th November 2010


Borough Market: November 2010

Charing Cross-bound once again, but this time we are up high to witness the construction of the new Borough Market Viaduct, by that time well underway. © Roger Goodrum



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