This August Bank Holiday sees the first major Thameslink Blockade at London Bridge. The low level platforms and the route in from the Southern lines (via New Cross Gate or South Bermondsey) will be blocked from Saturday August 23rd to Sunday August 31st. These nine days have been chosen because they include an August Bank Holiday which not only means fewer working days closure but also it is taking place during a week when rail traffic is unusually quiet.

Parts of The Railway Shut Down

Closed Lines

Map showing lines that will be closed during the blockade. The London Overground line to New Cross is only closed to free up the train paths for extra services to Crystal Palace and to provide the necessary trains

There will inevitably be a lot of disruption and considerable planning has gone into this. Detailed information can be found on the Thameslink Programme website, the First Capital Connect, Southern, SouthEastern websites and the TfL website. Disruption is expected over a wide area as people choose alternative routes. On top of that there has been a lot of activity to make sure commuters are aware of the changes involving posters and distributing leaflets.

There are alternative arrangements being made. This includes unusual train workings such as a peak service from East Grinstead to Blackfriars (details in this very comprehensive Southern leaflet), a limited bus replacement service at Honor Oak Park and Brockley to Ladywell and Lewisham and most dramatically of all an extra 4tph to Crystal Palace on the London Overground between Tuesday 26th and Friday 29th August (timetable here). The latter is achieved by diverting the New Cross London Overground services which in turn are replaced by a special rail replacement bus service between New Cross and Canada Water.

Needless to say First Capital Connect services will run via Elephant & Castle. Amended service timetables can be found here and more general advice from First Capital Connect is here.

Other Parts of The Rail Network Will Be Much Busier

Busier than usual TfL services

The effects of this closure will spread far and wide.

TfL seem to be doing a considerably better publicity job compared with Southern and First Capital Connect with leaflets tailored to individual stations explaining exactly what is happening at that particular station where it is thought necessary. Details on TfL’s website can be found here. All companies involved have explicit descriptions of which parts of the network they expect to be especially crowded. It is clear the biggest concern is for Honor Oak Park and Brockley normally served by London Overground and Southern Services. With the Southern services not running, London Overground is expected to be very busy with queuing to get onto the platforms expected between Sydenham and Surrey Quays.

What appears to be lacking (except at certain London Overground managed stations) is timetable details specific to that station. This does seem rather disappointing especially as in the 21st century it wouldn’t be hard to publish a professionally done poster and supply leaflets with train times on them. The example below shows an effort made by enterprising staff at one station to rectify this. The information is accurate but not put across in the easiest way to understand. It is much better than having nothing at all.

Reedham Train Times

Notice at Reedham Station late on Friday night (22nd August)

Possibly what would be more helpful would be have been put a convenient credit-card sized handy guide which in the case of most stations would be quite feasible because the service is essentially a repeating clockface one throughout the day.

Pictures Galore

With all this activity now seems to be a very good time for another look at London Bridge. Firstly, a look at the end of the new platform 12. This is what is probably the biggest factor that makes the blockade necessary. The platform is incomplete and needs to be built and to be operational needs to be made usable right up to the signal at the end of the platform. However this work cannot be done whilst the current platform 11 is in use.

End of Platform 12

The end of the new platform 12 at London Bridge

Meanwhile final preparations are being made to platform 13.

Final preparations being made to platform 13

Platform 13 at London Bridge

Unfortunately the narrow platform 15 will not be made any wider yet. Apart from work to be done rebuilding the wall there needs to be various buildings constructed here to replace facilities currently on platform 8.

Back of Platform 15

Behind the hoardings of Platform 15

The photo below looks towards the buffers on platforms 12 and 13 which should come into use on 1st September. Note the raised area between the tracks at the 4 car position. This is in order to assist manual attachment and detachment of the jumper cables used on class 455 stock. One wonders how long this will need to remain here.

Last minute preparations to platforms 13 and 12

Towards the buffers of platform 12 and 13 at London Bridge

Modern Jointless track circuit equipment

Jointless track circuit detection will be being used. This should be easier to install and far more reliable.

Space for future escalator

Generous space is allowed for a future escalator.

Underneath

The circulating area of the station underneath the platforms will be massive.

LU tunnels notice

One of the many identical notices present within the worksite under the arches at London Bridge

Our thanks to those at Network Rail who make it possible to take photos of work in progress and supplying information about the work going on or proposed at London Bridge and other locations.

Written by Pedantic of Purley