Published 19th June 2012
LONDON - The railway layout at Blackfriars station has been reversed following major reconstruction which has taken place over the last three years. This meant that only the two through lines remained open and the Underground station was closed while a new one was built.
The ‘main lines’ now run on the eastern side of the station over where the former bay platforms were located but have been rebuilt on the west side of the station opening for service on May 19. The new layout has removed the conflicting train movements over the flat junction to the south of the station reducing delays and increasing capacity.
The rebuilding was a hugely complex operation involving relocating services which also use Blackfriars Bridge to cross the River Thames. The bridge has been widened with four new ‘ribs’ on each of the five spans, carefully installed to link in with the original 1880’s Victorian riveted structure.
This in turn led to the requirement for new bridge abutments made from pre-cast concrete sections and faced with stone from the same Portland quarry as was used when built. This work has allowed wider and longer platforms to be created which can accommodate 12 car trains.
The original piers on the west side of the bridge had the track removed from them when Holborn Viaduct closed around 25 years ago and were retained as protection against scour from the huge 20 foot tides that occur on the Thames. They were used as work platforms in conjunction with a couple of barges, used to deliver bulky components for the bridgeworks.
These barges carried steel spans fabricated in Bolton, from a wharf near the 02 Arena. This necessitated closures of one bridge span at a time liaising with the Port of London Authorities while road closures were also needed as the bridge spans the embankment road.
One closure was booked 18 months in advance and was nearly cancelled by the authorities when last year’s Royal Wedding was announced for the same day! This was when first Works Train, carrying a crane, ran on April 30 last year using class 73 electro-diesels.
The heavy lifting was carried out by cranes on barges which had to be carried out at slack tide times while 70 ton crawler cranes were used on the bridge decking.
The project meant that the London Underground station was closed for three years while the building above it was demolished and a new integrated station was built with nine escalators and eight lifts, combining London Underground and Network Rail’s requirements.
While this was going on, the tubes ran non-stop every three minutes through the station under a steel shield forming a protective tunnel. This was painted yellow and black so crane drivers knew where not to drop things and to remind the 140 ton piling rig operators that they had to be careful as well!
Blackfriars is the first station to span the Thames and the northern entrance incorporates the new wholly accessible Underground station as well. The Southbank will become a huge tourist destination now that the works are complete and trains will run every day plus late evening as well. So far, 35% of passengers use the new south bank entrance.
The core section through London between St. Pancras and Blackfriars has been subject to weekend closures for the last 40 months in addition to no late evening trains. These ‘no-trains’ periods are now at an end and passengers will be able to get to Gatwick and Luton Airports round the clock from now on.
The end to the improvement programme means that over 700 extra trains will serve Blackfriars every week helping to cope with demand. A workforce of 1200 has been working round the clock on the project and more areas of the new station will be opening month by month.
“The new South Bank station entrance has already made a major contribution to the regeneration of the South Bank” Network Rail commented.
Network Rail, working with Balfour Beatty built a new station, in essence, on top of a Victorian rail bridge while trains continued to operate. The roof was fitted with 4,400 solar panels to create London’s largest solar array providing 50% of the power needed by the station.
First Capital Connect Customer Service Director Keith Jipps said: "The continued improvements at Blackfriars station are great news for our customers. We'll have 40% more trains serving the station once we reopen at night and weekends.”
The next phase of major construction works will commence after the Olympics when London bridge will be the focus of a huge workforce and when complete, will eventually allow 24 trains per hour in each direction to run through Blackfriars in each direction from 2018.
Southeastern services to Sevenoaks will use Blackfriars’ new platforms from May 21 along with a new First Capital Connect service to Sutton from May 27. These services, with the return of weekend and late evening services to Blackfriars give an extra 727 trains serving Blackfriars every week, a 40% increase in the number of trains using the station.
The Engraved Stone Wall that carried destinations served by trains and their continental connections from Blackfriars will be replaced in a suitable location at the new station.