The cross-London tunnel section of the Thameslink route is planned for closure from September 2004 to March 2005 to permit the construction of a new Thameslink station “box” at St Pancras. The new station is part of the Thameslink 2000 project and is proposed to be built by Union Railways.
A series of infrastructure modifications are necessary to allow the temporary closure of the Thameslink route. These are already being implemented and include a new train maintenance depot at Bedford and track and signalling improvements at Belsize and Clerkenwell tunnels.
These measures will allow the overall number of passenger seats on Midland Mainline and Thameslink to be maintained during the peak periods. Southbound trains will terminate at St Pancras and Thameslink Brighton/Sutton northbound trains at Kings Cross Thameslink
It should be noted that the CTRL Blockade Works (the signalling, track and station alterations to allow a revised Thameslink train service to operate during the September 2004 to March 2005 CTRL Blockade) are continuing and are unaffected by the situation regarding non-receipt of TWA powers.
Work since January 2003 has been focused on the following key areas:
- seeking resolution of the ‘deficiencies’ associated with the replacement buildings at Blackfriars and Borough High Street that were identified by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister;
Section 2 of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) is programmed to open in 2007 whereupon Eurostar services will start to operate out of St Pancras.
In Britain, the Eurostar fleet is currently maintained at North Pole depot and empty coaching stock transfers take place along the West London Line into Waterloo station. London & Continental Railways (LCR) has yet to finalise the future maintenance and servicing strategy of the Intercapital Eurostar fleet. One option under investigation is to keep maintenance at North Pole depot and transfer some or all of the units between North Pole and St Pancras over the North London Line via Willesden Junction High Level and Kentish Town West.
LCR is developing plans with the DfT to build a new maintenance depot at Temple Mills on the CTRL route, which could reduce the maintenance work at North Pole and the demand for the North London Line paths from St Pancras. We are supporting the option study by carrying out an operational planning study to assess the capacity of the existing network to accept the Eurostar empty carriage stock workings.
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link is being built by London & Continental Railways Limited. It will be Britain’s first major new railway for over a century - a high-speed line running for 109km (68 miles) between St Pancras station in London and the Channel Tunnel. The project was authorised by Parliament with the passage of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act, 1996.
The new high speed line is being built in 2 Sections. Construction of Section 1 began in October 1998 and runs between the Channel Tunnel and Fawkham Junction in north Kent. The first Section opened in September 2003.
Work on Section 2 began in July 2001 and completes the new line into London’s St Pancras. Section 2 is on schedule for completion by early 2007.
Prototype Eurostar Unit on high speed tests in France.
The new railway will bring major transport and economic benefits:
- The new railway from St Pancras will be able to carry up to eight Eurostars per hour each way.
- It will be possible to run twice the number of Eurostars to Paris and Brussels at peak times from St Pancras, because of the new railway’s greater capacity.
- Eurostar journey times between London and the Channel Tunnel will be halved. The current 70 minute journey from London Waterloo station has been be reduced by up to 15 minutes since the opening of Section 1, and when the new railway is completed through to St Pancras the journey to the Channel Tunnel will take only 35 minutes.
- Paris will be 2 hours 15 minutes from St Pancras by non-stop Eurostar - today the journey time is about 2 hours 55 minutes from Waterloo.
- Brussels will be 2 hours from St Pancras, instead of the previous journey time from Waterloo of about 2 hours 40 minutes.
- Now that Section 1 of the new railway has opened through Kent in September 2003, it is possible to run up to four Eurostars per hour to and from Waterloo and the journey to the Channel Tunnel has been reduced to around 55 minutes which is an initial journey time saving of 15 minutes.
- Now that Section 1 has opened in September 2003, Paris is now about 2 hours 35 minutes from Waterloo, and Brussels about 2 hours 20 minutes.
- New international stations will be built at Stratford in east London and Ebbsfleet in north Kent, and the new railway will serves the existing Ashford International station.
- It will be possible to run new, much faster commuter trains between Kent and St Pancras.
- Easier and faster international travel by Eurostar will be possible from the Midlands and North.
- Growth of the ’Thames Gateway’ area will be boosted, by fostering additional development estimated to be worth about £500 million. Regeneration will be encouraged too in the St Pancras area, and in east London.
- It will be possible to run more Channel Tunnel freight trains, serving the whole country, as the new railway releases capacity on the existing network. The new railway itself has been designed so that it could also be used by freight trains.
- The Channel Tunnel Rail Link is not just for London and the south east. A connection to the West Coast Main Line will be built near St Pancras so that it will be possible to run Regional Eurostar trains directly to and from the West Midlands and the North West*. From St Pancras, Regional Eurostars can reach the East Coast Main Line to serve Yorkshire, the North East and Scotland*.
*As part of the revised arrangements for constructing the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. London & Continental Railways is reviewing the operation of Regional Eurostar services over the West and East Coast Main Lines, and no date has been set for the introduction of these services.
- St Pancras is also well placed for easy interchange between British inter-city services and Eurostar. Midland Mainline services to the East Midlands and South Yorkshire will continue to operate from St Pancras, allowing easy interchange with adjacent platforms for Eurostar. In addition there will be new platforms at St Pancras for cross-London Thameslink services, and improved connections to London Underground lines.
- Domestic passengers will experience high speed, high quality Kent express trains reducing journey times and offering a more reliable service.
- The Channel Tunnel Rail Link’s stations at St Pancras, Stratford, Ebbsfleet and Ashford will encourage local commercial development. The quality and speed of international and domestic travel for business and leisure will be transformed, offering a stimulus to many sectors of the local economy.
Part of pan-european network
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) forms a missing link between the high speed railway networks of mainland Europe and the United Kingdom. The European Union has classified the CTRL project as one of 14 most important routes of the Trans European Railway Networks. Financial support for the CTRL feasibility studies and design work has been provided since 1990 through to 1998, and in 1999 for construction work.
Nationally the railway has been supported by the UK Government through the route selection and preliminary design stages prior to awarding the lines construction and operation to London and Continential Railways. The UK Government support for the public private partnership extends to a substantial capital grant of £3.1 billion.
What is the Channel Tunnel Rail Link?
The Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) is the first major new railway to be constructed in the UK for over a century. The 108km track will stretch from Central London to the Channel Tunnel, connecting Britain directly with Europe’s expanding high speed rail network and significantly reducing journey times for passengers.
It is one of the largest engineering projects to be undertaken by the Department for Transport and the first section of the line has been successfully completed both on time and on budget - a significant achievement.
This link is being built in two separate sections. The first section of the route, a 43km stretch through Kent from the Channel Tunnel to the outskirts of London has been completed. The second section, which continues the route towards a new international terminal at St Pancras will open in 2007.
Why was a faster track needed?
Eurostar - the passenger service linking London to Paris and Brussels- commenced services in 1994. On the continent, high speed railway lines already existed to allow its trains to travel at top speeds of 260km/h. In south-east England, there were no high speed lines, and since operations commenced, services have shared the existing track with local commuter trains and have been restricted to regional speed limits. The average speed of Eurostar services between the Channel Tunnel and London was 100km/h.
Using the existing track in the UK, services take just under 3 hours to go London to Paris, and 2 hours 35 minutes from London to Brussels. The opening of Section 1 reduced travel times by up to 20 minutes to each destination. When fully opened, the track will potentially cut journey times to each destination by up to 35 minutes.
What route does the new link take?
Construction of Section 1 began on October 5 1998 and consisted of building a new line from the Channel Tunnel and towards London through the north and eastern parts of Kent, primarily along the existing M20 motorway corridor. The route also required the development of the 1.2km Medway Bridge and the nearby 3.2km North Downs Tunnel. The section opened to passengers for the first time on September 28th 2003.
Section 2 of the project will see the line extended from North Kent, through a 3km tunnel beneath the River Thames and across a new viaduct under the M25 London Orbital motorway as it approaches the outskirts of East London. The line then travels for 19km underground, passing through Stratford and towards St Pancras. The amount of tunnelling underneath the built-up areas of London means that almost 25% of the entire route will actually be underground.
Construction work on Section 2 commenced in Summer 2001 is due to be completed on schedule in 2007. Section 2 also involves new international terminals at Stratford and Ebbsfleet and substantial redevelopment at St Pancras station. The existing station, a Grade 1 listed building built in the Victorian era, will be upgraded into a major interchange between international and domestic train services and the London Underground.
Why didn’t they upgrade the existing line?
There were several issues that prevented simply upgrading the existing track. Although large sections of the track are straight enough for high speed trains, it uses a ’third rail’ electric system, meaning that power is collected from an electric rail laid along the track, a system which can supply 750V, but not nearly enough power for high speed running. An overhead wire system providing 25kV could have been introduced, however this would have required all bridges and tunnels along the route to be raised and the line resignalled.
Furthermore there was the problem of Channel Tunnel services continuing to share the track with an expanding number of local services. The track would have faced capacity problems affecting the performance of all services.
The requirement for new a new high speed rail link was originally identified in the ’Kent Impact Study’, published in 1987, which anticipated the need for extra capacity along the route from London to the south coast. Between 1988 and 1994 a number of solutions for a high speed rail connection were considered, but environmental concerns, planning constraints and difficulties raising finance saw frequent delays and changes in management of the project.
In November 1994 a Hybrid Bill finally went before Parliament to confirm the Government’s support for the project and formal steps were taken to secure co-operation from the private sector.
Who is paying for and managing the construction?
It was always accepted that the construction of the CTRL would not be viable without a mixture of private and public finance. The costs of construction could not entirely be re-couped from service revenues and land re-developments to encourage an entirely privately financed project. Plus the benefits to the country - and regeneration in east London and the Thames Gateway in particular - meant that there was justification for a level of public investment to be directed into the project.
The entire project has been established as a Public Private Partnership, using a mix of public sector support and private sector funding. In 1995, an open competition was undertaken to find the appropriate private sector partner to manage the project. Competing organisations were rigorously assessed on their ability to deliver the project in line with performance targets set by the Transport Department, and willingness to find investment and accept the risks of the project.
In 1996 it was confirmed that London & Continental Railways Limited (LCR)- a consortium of eight major shareholders including engineering, financial and train operating companies - had been chosen to undertake the construction of the CTRL.
The total cost of the project is expected to be approximately £5.2billion, of which the Department for Transport committed to giving a total of £1.8billion of grants to the project after taking account of expected net recoveries from Government’s share of property sale profits and rental income. The rest of the money has been raised by London and Continental Railways, who issued Government Guaranteed Bonds to raise £3.75 billion.
Who will operate and oversee the Rail Link when it is completed?
Ownership of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will remain with the Government but LCR own a 99-year lease for the track and the commercial opportunities created along the route. The line will be handed as a single entity to Network Rail who will manage the day to day operations of the track (engineering, general maintenance, signalling etc) and integrate services with the rest of the UK network.
The Eurostar train services which will use the route are also owned by LCR (as part of an international Group, LCR own the UK arm of Eurostar) and they hope to run up to 8 trains an hour across the track. There is also scope for local services to use the track in the future to provide faster services to Central London for urban areas along its route.
What were the environmental effects of the construction?
The original CTRL Bill was accompanied by a full Environmental Impact Assessment that had to be agreed by Parliament. Whilst all major infrastructure projects will have an impact on the landscape, plans for the CTRL were frequently scrutinised to ensure the minimum disruption to the local environment was caused. Over 66km of the line follows an existing transport corridor (such as the M20 motorway) and in total, 85% of the route is built either in a tunnel or along an existing transport corridor.
Throughout construction, careful consideration was given to the landscape. Over 450 hectares of wood and grassland have been created along the route, involving over one million new trees and shrubs.
What are the benefits that are being referred to as ’Regeneration’?
The public sector spend in the project was an acknowledgement of the economic benefits that the rail line is expected to develop.
The new line passes through several large areas identified as key sites for potential inward investment opportunities. The land around Kings Cross and St Pancras stations for example, presents one of the largest inner city redevelopment opportunities in Europe and proposals include a mix of new build and renovations of existing properties throughout the area.
Outside of the city, new stations in Stratford in East London, and Ebbsfleet - in the Thames Gateway area - have also prompted major plans for mixed use developments in designated ’brownfield’ regeneration sites.
The construction of the entire rail link is estimated to have created almost 8,000 jobs. However the long-term economic benefits have been estimated to include the creation of more than 50,000 jobs around London and the South East, and attract up to £8bn in investment.
How is work on Section 2 progressing?
Construction of Section 2 is already over 50% complete and progressing at several sites along the route. In January 2004, the East London tunnel finally ’arrived’ at St Pancras station, a moment marked by a ’breakthrough’ ceremony attended by the Secretary of State for Transport. The tunnel boring will be completed later this year (2004), with track laying, equipment installation and testing to follow. Currently progress remains on time for the route’s full opening in 2007. Progress of the construction can be followed in detail on the CTRL web site, www.ctrl.co.uk.