Network Rail has completed the installation of track ready to allow cross-London Thameslink trains to stop at London Bridge again.
New track and signalling is now in place between London Bridge and Blackfriars and from May 2018, after a break of three years, Thameslink services will resume calling at London Bridge.
Final signalling commissioning is due to take place at Christmas and the New Year. and drivers will be trained and familiarised with using the new section of track and its signalling.
There will be ten days of major service changes over Christmas and New Year, during which major re-signalling will take place around London Bridge and the final section of the new concourse and final five new platforms will open to passengers.
From December 23 until January 1 there will be significant closures affecting Southeastern, Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services. Passengers are advised to plan ahead and check before they travel by visiting www.ThameslinkProgramme.co.uk/2017.
Mark Somers, project director for railway systems, Network Rail, said: “With the completion of the track on the western approaches to London Bridge, the final track layout is now in place for the reintroduction of Thameslink services to Blackfriars and awaiting final signalling commissioning which will take place over the Christmas period.
“The completion of this section of track is a huge milestone for the Thameslink Programme, which from 2018 will result in more frequent, more reliable services to more destinations and a fully rebuilt, entirely accessible London Bridge station fit for the 21st century.”
George McInulty, Service Delivery Director for Govia Thameslink Railway which operates Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express, said: “Cross-London Bedford-Brighton Thameslink passengers have not had any trains to London Bridge station since January 2015 when their services were diverted on an alternative route to make space for London Bridge to be rebuilt.
“From May, we’ll be back at the station cutting journey times for thousands of passengers travelling to this part of London. At the same time we will expand the Thameslink network massively, connecting Peterborough and Cambridge into the north-south, cross-London route, transforming the journeys for thousands of people.
“This is a major part of our programme to modernise the railway through the government-sponsored Thameslink Programme and address the huge growth in passenger numbers across the South East.”
New year, new station
A press release from Network Rail says that as the railway reopens in the New Year, passengers at London Bridge will be greeted by the remaining section of the new concourse and newly-completed platforms 1-5.
Southeastern services will operate on a new timetable and Southeastern trains to and from Cannon Street will once again stop at London Bridge, meaning that tickets will no longer be accepted on TfL alternative routes.
The Thameslink Programme has already delivered longer, 12-car trains between Brighton and Bedford, platform lengthening at a dozen stations between St Pancras and Bedford, track work and upgraded stations at Farringdon and Blackfriars.
The redevelopment of London Bridge station, a £1bn project that has been ongoing since 2013, is the cornerstone of the Thameslink Programme.
After the Christmas and New Year period, the project enters the final countdown to completion; there will still be work to do in the station and on the tracks, but this will be completed during evenings and weekends, rather than working days.
Once complete, London Bridge will be a modern, spacious and fully accessible station, fit for the 21st century.