Dawn of a new era for Thameslink line
PUBLISHED: 11:52 31 August 2010
A NEW extended platform for 50 per cent longer trains has been unveiled at St Albans City Station.
Transport Minister Theresa Villiers cut the ribbon at the event to mark the completion of the project which will allow for the new trains to be rolled out from December next year.
The work is part of the £5.5 billion Thameslink Programme to increase capacity on the Bedford to Brighton Route, which is being funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by Network Rail in conjunction with train operator First Capital Connect (FCC).
The 80-metre extensions at 12 stations will bring a total of 4km of additional platform and carriage space to the crowded line.
At St Albans – which is FCC’s busiest station outside London with more than six million passengers per year – three 12 carriage trains will be introduced in the morning and evening peaks in December 2011, increasing capacity to 1,500.
More improvements will follow as the new trains continue to be rolled out across the network, but passengers won’t see the full effect of programme until all the structural work along the line is completed in a few years time.
Speaking at last week’s event, Ms Villiers said: “I know St Albans commuters have had a bit of a tough time recently and I hope this will be good news for them and a really welcome step.
“As a government we are very supportive of this programme. We have inherited a real overcrowding problem from the previous government and we all know that this is one of the most overcrowded lines in the country, so we want to provide relief for commuters and today is an important step towards introducing those 50 per cent longer trains.”
David Statham, projects director at FCC, said: “The Thameslink Programme has achieved much already with 23 brand new air-conditioned Electrostar trains, almost 5,000 extra seats in the rush hour and new routes across central London into Kent. The opening of longer platforms at St Albans is another key milestone as we prepare for the first 50 per cent longer trains from December 2011.”
Jim Crawford, Network Rail major programme director for Thameslink, commented: “London relies on rail to get more than three million people to and from work every day, which is why projects like the Thameslink upgrade are so vital to the capital’s economic recovery.
“The Thameslink Programme will give passengers what they want – longer trains, more seats and better journeys. Crucially, it will help take pressure off the tube network and deliver much-needed extra capacity on this important rail route.”
Other benefits of the programme include a new station at Blackfriars, which Mrs Villiers also visited last Tuesday to see the newly completed concourse for the north station, which will pave the way for the track ‘switch’ at Christmas whereby the tracks will be moved from the western side of the bridge to the eastern side.
This challenging and complex move – which will close the station for two months from November 20 – will create the final track alignment for the station and allow deck replacement and widening work on the western side of the bridge, where the new terminating platforms will be built.
When complete in spring 2012, the new Blackfriars station will be the first to span the River Thames and will provide passengers with direct access to London’s cultural quarter on the South Bank for the first time.
Other benefits of the programme will include a better interchange at West Hampstead and a direct interchange with Crossrail at Farringdon.
The final phase of the Thameslink Programme is scheduled to start after 2012 and will involve redeveloping London Bridge station to unlock the capacity to run up to 24 trains per hour in each direction through central London.