What is Thameslink 2000
Thameslink 2000 is the name given to the proposals for the upgrading of the present Thameslink system which crosses London from North to South. If Thameslink 2000 is built the number of trains which can cross London will increase from the present 8 an hour to a maximum of 24 trains per hour in the peak periods. With Thameslink 2000 platforms will be extended and therefore longer trains can be operated to help alleviate the present overcrowding. Because the number of trains which can cross London will increase so the number of destinations that Thameslink 2000 serves also increases.
Thameslink 2000 overview
London, the South East and the East of England are set to benefit from an £800 million transport programme which will considerably improve rail services in and around the region. Not only will connections into London be enhanced, but services through the Capital will also be significantly improved.
‘Thameslink 2000’ will be achieved by upgrading existing rail infrastructure and thereby providing the means for more and longer trains to run into and across London.
The existing Thameslink network has already brought wide-ranging benefits to people in the London area and beyond, from Bedford to Brighton and the South Coast. Its projected expansion as Thameslink 2000 will ensure that people living and working in those areas served by the new network will also benefit from direct access to Thameslink services - in some cases, for the first time.
Thameslink 2000 will:
• maximise the potential of the existing network
• bring more train capacity for rush-hour commuters
• provide modern trains with the latest safety features
• help take traffic off the roads through and around London
• assist the local economy and economic regeneration
• enhance accessibility to business, commuter and leisure rail
• generate employment opportunities for local people during the construction period
• improve access to Gatwick and Luton airports
Thameslink 2000 will help to serve the needs of the hundreds of thousands of people who commute into London from the South East and East of England each day. At the same time, it will ease congestion on the Underground for those travelling in London itself, as well as reducing the need to change trains.
The original Thameslink network was launched in 1988. If the government gives the go-ahead on Railtrack’s proposal, it will expand the existing network from 50 stations to 169 stations by 2006.
The proposal is supported by a consortium of some 140 organisations ranging from local authorities and passenger groups to business organisations. Consortium members include County Councils in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, East Sussex, Kent, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Peterborough Surrey, West Sussex, as well as fifteen London Borough Councils. The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) has identified Thameslink 2000 as one of the priority infrastructure developments in its economic development strategy.
Railtrack believes that Thameslink 2000 offers the best solution to the challenge of delivering more rail capacity through central London. A Public Inquiry into the scheme has already been announced which will begin on 27 June. If the scheme is given the go-ahead, major works are likely to take place between the early part of 2002 and the middle of 2006, when the expanded Thameslink 2000 network is set to open, although these dates are all subject to the outcome of the Public Inquiry.
The support received for Thameslink 2000 to date helps to confirm that the expansion of the Thameslink network is the most preferable solution for providing improved rail services into and across London.
Railtrack is required to give OPRAF threes years notice of the completion date. They would then award the franchises early enough to enable them to obtain suitable dual-voltage rolling stock. The current Thameslink and WAGN franchises include termination clause so that Thameslink 2000 services can be re-franchised. However the Connex South Eastern franchise is for 15 years without a termination clause. Instead Thameslink 2000 services into this area might go to open bidding, if the Connex bids are not competitive.
OPRAF have guaranteed Railtrack to fill 24 train paths per hour in the peak periods for 14 years after the completions of the scheme. In the off-peaks 18 paths per hour in each direction have to be filled.
Consultation of Railtrack’s Transport & Work Act application will begin in 1997 and construction is due to begin in 1999. It is expected that services will begin in 2003 at the earliest
History of Thameslink 2000
The original Thameslink scheme connected Blackfriars and Farringdon stations was a cheap somewhat patchy scheme. The route was formed by a disused route which was last used before World War One. The signalling and track cost just £4 million. Most of the capital was spent on the 60 dual-voltage Class 319 units. The service was basically formed of joining the pervious service north and south of the Thames.
Capacity on the route was limited mainly due to the junctions south of the Thames. Thameslink 2000 will provide a higher capacity layout and a new station at King’s Cross to replace the cramped existing station. This station will serve the new international Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras. The scheme will also allow 12-car formations and more frequent services.
The main aims of the project are:
- To offer a limited stop service into the suburbs and surroundings around London.
- To relieve congestion on existing London Underground Lines .
- To offer better access from Gatwick and Luton Airports into Central London.
- To provide a high quality service.
- To disperse travellers arriving at St. Pancras International station.
On the 27 February the £650 million project was given the go-ahead. £100 million of this funding will go to London & Continental Railways who will built the International terminus at St Prancras including the below ground Thameslink station. The building of the Thameslink station will be linked closely to the main development, so the timing depends on how quick L&C can get enough funding and planning permission.
Railtrack is funding most of the scheme, but the £100 million to L&C will come from public funds. Railtrack will recoup the funding through track-access charges to the train operators.
Stansted Airport could be served but this would need an extra £28 million of improvements. A rebuilt station would be provided at Luton. This may house check-in facilities to relieve passengers of their baggage before they boarded the coach links to the Luton Airport.
1997 - 1999
Proposals for Thameslink 2000 were submitted within the Transport and Works Act (TWA) Order of November 1997 and, following extensive public consultation, a Supplementary Order was submitted in September 1999.
2000 - 2001
The Thameslink 2000 TWA Orders were considered at a Public Inquiry which took place between June 2000 and May 2001.
The Inquiry Inspector’s report was published by the ODPM on 30 July 2002. In his report, the Inspector concluded that:
"Thameslink 2000 is a proposal which would enhance existing assets to provide very substantial public benefits, both directly to the travelling public, and in underpinning the economy of London, and enhancing the conditions for regeneration in parts of the capital." (paragraph 1.26)
The report highlighted three deficiencies in the project:
The design of London Bridge station
The absence of proposals for the reinstatement of buildings to be demolished in the Borough High Street Conservation area
The absence of proposals for the "Missing Tooth" at Blackfriars station
On 29 January 2003, the ODPM deferred a decision on the Thameslink 2000 TWA Orders pending submission of planning proposals that address the resolution of the three deficiencies and the preparation of "an amended, expanded and updated Environmental Statement covering the whole scheme."
The SRA and Network Rail continue to work together to establish how these concerns can be met. During the last few months the SRA and Network Rail have been developing new planning applications for the Borough High Street area and for Blackfriars. The SRA has also asked Network Rail to develop the design at London Bridge on the basis of Masterplan - a consented scheme for the comprehensive redevelopment of London Bridge Station.
We are undertaking an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the scheme as a whole and this will lead to the production of a new environmental statement (as requested by the ODPM) for the project next year. A starting point in the EIA process is the preparation of a scoping and methodology report. This was made available for consultation at the end of July 2003.
We have submitted planning applications for the Borough High Street conservation area and Blackfriars to address the issues raised by the public inquiry inspector. At Blackfriars our new planning applications address not only the replacement building for 167-179 Queen Victoria Street but also the further development of the design for Blackfriars railway bridge. We have also submitted a new environmental statement covering the whole scheme. For further information please see the consultation page.