Disruption At London Bridge Station: What’s Happening?

Commuters through London Bridge station face nine days of disruption from this weekend, as First Capital Connect and Southern services are diverted elsewhere.

This will not be fun. It is, however, necessary. London Bridge is the oldest major station in the capital and handles 54 million passengers a year, while platform 6 is reckoned to be the busiest in Europe, with 18 trains per hour. So the station is long overdue an upgrade. The Thameslink Programme, which has already seen, among other achievements, the complete overhaul of Blackfriars station, is finally kitting out London Bridge for the 21st century.

Work is currently underway to rebuild all the platforms and create a spacious new concourse among the ancient arches beneath. When finished in mid-2016, this concourse will cover an area greater than Wembley’s pitch. It will also introduce a new north-south axis into the station, making it easier to move between the thriving Bermondsey Street area and the Thames. Many of the Victorian arches supporting the platforms will also be revealed.

New platforms 14 and 15 opened in March 2014. The engineering works taking place between 23 and 31 August will complete the reconstruction of platforms 12 and 13, which will open at the start of September. Platforms 10 and 11 will then close for rebuilding, as work progresses north, two platforms at a time. Eventually, all platforms at London Bridge will be fully integrated to the same concourse for the first time.

The project will be completed in 2018, a little before the opening of Crossrail. Click through the gallery above for more details about the changes.

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  • avlowe

    The solution for many could well be to use a bike. I’ve studied the massive growth in the use of cycling for onward connections from London’s commuter railheads. Overall for every major Central London commuter station cycle use has risen by an estimated 400% between surveys in 2001 and 2011. However there have been step changes when major blockades have closed lines, and the alternatives on offer have been penury.

    In 2004-05 Thameslink was cut in half as the St Pancras Midland Road station was built – within 2 months the number of bikes parked overnight went up by 1000% and even more cycle commuters were bringing bikes in on the trains – most of these being compact folding bikes. St Pancras now has over 3000% more cycle parking spaces than it did in 2004, although because these are in the wrong place, and access from Pancras Road is blocked off, most bikes are parked on stands provided by Camden Council on the streets they manage.

    Then in 2006-07 ‘The Drain’ closed for 6 months, the impact on Waterloo was substantial, but less in % terms, as the station already had a large number of bikes parked overnight. The stsle parking was however being used to at least 200% of its theoretical capacity, and users often had to get assistance to extract bikes, jammed in the overloaded bike park. The impact was apparent in the cycle cordon survey for peak hour cyclists heading North across Blackfriars Bridge – 25% had set off from Waterloo. Around 5 years ago some spot counts done by myself and other CTC members estimated over 1000 bikes/hour heading out from Waterloo during the morning peak – 40% of them Bromptons, 20% other compact folders and 40% either coming from long distance services, or from the cycle parking on the platforms. If they attach I’ve pictures of the 30 spaces neatly parked in 2002 at the top of the then new bike lane from York Road, to contrast with the mayhem of the 2006 blockade, which you might then compare with the 630+ spaces, now in the same location, plus the 500 or so BCH bikes which are also hired out every weekday morning.

    So what might happen, or be encouraged by way of Blockade Buster Bikes?

    For a start there are now 8 Brompton Bike Hire docks where a fully serviced bike can be hired for as little as £2.50 per day, with (unlike the BCH Bike Share system) no limit on how long you keep it. For this rate you pay the regular user annual subscription, or if you are a member of City Car Club, or Co Wheels, or your employer has set up a special staff rate you get a better deal. A casual user registration cost just £1 per year, but you pay £5 per day for the bike.

    Of course you can always splash out on a new Brompton, with several dealers in stores close to most major stations, or go to Brompton Junction in Long Acre to see the full range of bikes and accessories in a dedicated store.

    But what about the Borisbikes? Well the original plan recognised that the tariff, and desired operation of a circulating fleet of shared use bikes, would not work if the huge tidal flow of commuters used them, but the politics swayed the day and has left TfL with the massive costs of labour and vehicles to rebalance and regulate the system as thousands commuters make those tidal trips. The added cost of doing the same with Victoria and Blackfriars, plus Cannon Street/Waterloo East is not an appealing prospect.

    A dedicated fleet could be introduced, perhaps sponsored by an employer or city institution, and the modern 4th generation systems can be set up and running within a couple of hours. The bikes used in Glasgow, use standard bike stands as the bikes themselves have all the intelligence required to say where they are and ‘unlock’ for hire. These bikes were used for 2 day bike hire schemes – free for the delegates – at the 2 Cycle City Expo conferences in 2013 and 2014.

    The other option – mirroring the St Pancras and Waterloo blockades is to accommodate a surge in bike use, and by sheer good fortune Victoria now has a massive new bike parking facility on the Brighton Station raft ready for all those low value ‘hack’ bikes that can sit out in all weathers but still reliably get the user between the station and workplace.

    No such facility at Blackfriars sadly, but there are options for modular parking systems that can drop in to place, whilst parking bikes neatly in a high density arrangement. I can always provide pointers for this to those who may, as a result also experience increased demand for parking at their City offices, when the station bikes move to the workplace for the working day.

    So with the potential to do more for increasing cycling activity in in London, in a shorter time than any ‘cycling’ project, let us both seize this opportunity, and monitor it as it happens over the next 2-3 years.

    Matt – I’ll need to e-mail the images I think.- St Pancras before and possibly after hits upload limit

    • HHGeek

      I would LOVE to see more people cycling as a solution, and ideally a long term change. But a problem with this is that many Southern / FCC trains are already more than full at commuting times. Even one more folding bike per carriage is a big ask; the numbers that would be necessary (even if people were inclined to spend on them) are impossible. So it comes back to bike parking options at the terminals, which are, as you say, horribly limited where they’re needed for the City people.

  • Dave K

    Thanks for sharing the photos M@

  • Meg

    Presumably there’s been some archaeology done ahead of the development – do you know if they found anything interesting (either industrial or older) or are they just tearing up the old station?

    • MattFromLondonist

      Yup. They’ve found quite a few medieval mugs and other bits and bobs. Unfortunately, the Victorians wiped out most of the potential on the site when they built the original station, but they have found a fair few trinkets between the brick columns. There’s a small display about the findings on the hoardings along Tooley Street.

  • Michael Jennings

    Of course, the most important change that which will come from this is the increase in the number of through platforms at London Bridge from six to nine, meaning that trains to Charing Cross and trains to Blackfriars/Thameslink will no longer have to share the same platforms (and the same viaduct north/west of London Bridge). This in turn means that Thameslink trains will no longer have to be diverted via Elephant & Castle during peak hours.

  • Kart Durai

    I would use tube or overground. This work is essential as London bridge is so busy.