A London Underground station on the Circle Line closes from tomorrow (Monday 2nd March 2009) for more than two years for engineering works. Blackfriars will shut until late 2011 as part of the £5.5bn Thameslink upgrade project. The work will improve the station with step-free access, increased capacity and enhancement to interchange facilities with the over ground station.
The shutdown for two and a half years in one of the longest closures of a central London station. Rail chiefs said the Square Mile station would shut in March and not reopen until late in 2011. More than 44,000 daily users of the station face long delays getting to and from work and will be forced to use other stations, lines or the bus.
Underground and rail bosses have decided there is no way to do the work except to close the Tube section, and users will have to alight or board at Mansion House or Temple stations – both 10 to 15 minutes walk away.
The mainline rail section of Blackfriars will remain open, but Thameslink and Southeastern commuters wishing to change to the Tube will have to use Farringdon, Elephant & Castle or London Bridge stations instead. It is promised the first phase of the Thameslink programme, which will virtually treble passenger capacity from the current 4,500 an hour to 12,000, will be completed for the 2012 Olympics.
Network Rail said Blackfriars mainline station will remain open during the course of the work. District and Circle line services will not stop at the station during the engineering work and passengers are advised to use nearby Temple and Mansion House stations. Improvements to the Tube station will also include an enlarged ticket hall and refurbished platforms. The work is part of a £350m project that will see Blackfriars become the first station to span the River Thames. As such it will be a welcome replacement for the current gloomy and awkward Blackfriars Mainline station which was rebuilt cheaply and badly after being bombed during the Second World War.
The Thameslink upgrade will see peak-time trains increase from eight an hour to as many as 24, using 12-carriage services instead of eight. There will also be major improvements to the nearby London Bridge and Farringdon stations. As the Thameslink project was originally called “Thameslink 2000” the more observant blogistas will deduce that these trains have been slightly delayed!
Thameslink is one of the more interesting transport links in London being the only cross London rail link (contrast this with the 5 RER lines in Paris) and uses the Snow Hill tunnel which was originally opened on 1st January 1866 and intended to link with a future channel tunnel. The Thameslink rail network was created by joining the electrified network south of the Thames with the recently electrified line between Bedford and St. Pancras to the north via the long disused Snow Hill tunnel. It was fully inaugurated in May 1990, two years after services began. Thameslink is the only National Rail service that crosses the centre of London. This reduces the need to use the Underground for cross-London journeys. As a direct result of its inception, journeys between destinations in north and south London that were served by Thameslink services quadrupled after the first year of operation.
A consequent unusual feature of its history is that all through services need to be operated by dual-voltage trains since the original lines south of the river are electrified using a 750 volt third rail and those to the north by the more modern 25kV overhead system. All plans for development as well as day-to-day operation of the line are constrained by this.
For more information on Blackfriars and all the London Circle Line Stations see;