by Network Rail

Thameslink cross-London services cut by water main bursting - but tube services run as normal

Published: 26th January 2015

Repeat of the 1862 Kings Cross River Fleet flood in the railway tunnels?

Thameslink rail services have been subject to serious disruption since Jan 23rd following serious flooding in the Thameslink tunnels. This was as a result after the collapse of a 16 inch water main in a tunnel between Farringdon and St Pancras International stations.

A limited service had been operating as Network Rail (NR) pumps kept most of the water out of the tunnel keeping the water depth low enough to keep about 25% of the timetabled trains running safely. Despite this there have been hundreds of cancellations and severe delays with a revised emergency timetable operating.

The water main belongs to Thames Water whose engineers have to isolate the leak while keeping water flowing to a nearby hospital. The water continued to flood into the tunnels over the weekend of January 24/5 and the water was still a metre deep on Sunday afternoon despite Network Rail’s continued efforts to pump the water out. This depth meant that no trains could operate and also all lineside equipment and the track need to be checked before train services can resume.

Because of this, Network Rail has said that no trains will run on Monday January 26th between Farringdon and St Pancras International as a minimum.

They said:

Stuart Cheshire, Thameslink’s Passenger Service Director, said on January 23rd: “We’ll do our very best to get people home tonight as quickly as possible but the burst water main is causing significant disruption. We’ve brought in buses and extra staff and we’re pushing out messages through all available means to encourage people to start home earlier if possible and to leave longer for their journeys. “Passengers can claim compensation for the delays via our website”

Govia Thameslink Railway said on January 24th:

"A burst 16 inch water main will continue to affect our services until Thames Water can fix it. It's safe for us to run our trains through the water as long as Network Rail can keep the flood levels down to a manageable level with pumps but we have to run a reduced service.

Thames Water apologises for flood disruption

In response to significant disruption to Thameslink rail services caused by a burst water main, Thames Water has issued the following statement:

"We're really sorry to commuters who have had disruptions to their journeys today. And we would also like to apologise to any of our customers who have experienced interruptions to their water supply.

“We have been working around the clock this weekend, with help from Thameslink, Network Rail and Transport for London, to fix the leak as fast as possible while keeping our customers in supply at the same time.

Govia Thameslink Railway, which operates Thameslink services said: "The disruption caused by the burst Thames Water water main near Farringdon has been hugely frustrating for passengers and railway staff alike but in the interests of safety we have to follow the advice of Network Rail and not run through the area.

"We are doing all we can to help passengers on our reduced service with alternative transport arranged with other operators and rail replacement buses where possible. However, on a working weekday, a problem like this is bound to cause significant disruption and we can only apologise.

"Anyone who has been delayed by 30 minutes or more can claim compensation via our website\delayrepay."

Information underload?

Information on the National Rail website was ambiguous as it offered trains running through London with a warning that they were cancelled. This is precisely the communication failure that happened just after Christmas at Kings Cross as the engineering works overran.

A little background

When the sub-surface Metropolitan Railway was being built in the 1860s between Kings Cross and Farringdon, the River Fleet was an obstacle and encased in a cast iron trunk. This crosses the Thameslink line just to the north of St Pancras International and directly underneath it is a vent to the deep tube lines of the Victorian and Northern lines.

This has always been a potential risk to services but it is not clear if this is the sewer that caused the flood. However, the fleet sewer collapsed in 1862 during the construction of the Metropolitan line and caused serious flooding in the Kings Cross area on the railway lines which were constructed just below street level. When it burst, a large section of the supporting arches lining the cut and cover tunnel collapsed.

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