Canal Tunnels in north London, which run between the East Coast main line near King’s Cross station and the Thameslink route at St Pancras station, will link for the first time local and regional services from Cambridge and Peterborough with the route to Gatwick, Brighton, the south coast and Kent.
Connecting these services, which are currently operated by First Capital Connect, to the Thameslink route through central London is a key stage in the evolution of the rail network and a vital part of delivering capacity improvements in and around London.
Trains travelling through Canal Tunnels will provide up to eight of the possible 24 services an hour which will travel through central London when the £6bn Thameslink Programme is completed in 2018.
The Thameslink Programme will provide a significant increase in capacity into, through and out of London and provide better connections with Gatwick and Luton airports, Crossrail services at Farringdon and Eurostar and high speed services at St Pancras International.
Canal Tunnels were built at the same time as the redevelopment of St Pancras station between 2004 and 2006. Network Rail is currently installing track, signalling, power and safety systems to run services through them from 2018.
Dave Ward, Network Rail’s route managing director for London and the south east, said: “Connecting Canal Tunnels with the two railway lines running into King’s Cross and St Pancras is one of the key parts of the Thameslink Programme.
“The tunnels are just as important as the redevelopment of London Bridge station in helping to deliver capacity benefits in and out of London. They will also provide a range of journeys between the south coast and East Anglia which were previously not possible.
“Thameslink will transform the railway across London and the south east, providing passengers with longer trains, more seats and a better level of service to meet the ever increasing demands placed on the rail network.”
Passengers are already benefitting from the Thameslink Programme. Longer 12 car trains are being used on the route and stations including Blackfriars, West Hampstead Thameslink and Farringdon have been rebuilt.
Work is ongoing to transform London Bridge station, one of the biggest engineering challenges currently underway on the railway. When complete, each platform will be connected by a street level concourse, bigger than the pitch at Wembley stadium, which is being constructed below the current platforms. The station was first built in 1836 and with more than 50m users, is one of the busiest stations in Britain with almost 50% more passengers than Gatwick Airport and more than twice the number it was designed for.
When Thameslink is complete, a new fleet of eight and 12 car trains will operate through the Canal Tunnels on the route between Cambridge and Peterborough, central London, Kent and Brighton as well as to Gatwick and Luton airports and Bedford.
The first stage of connecting the tunnels to the network - which will include track work on the East Coast main line near the tunnels’ entrance - will take place over the weekend of 14 and 15 September and will impact train services into King’s Cross. Network Rail is working closely with all train operators affected by the Thameslink programme to minimise disruption and provide information to passengers.
Further work will be needed in the future to connect the tunnels to the Thameslink route and East Coast main line. Work which will impact services will be advertised and passengers should check www.nationalrail.co.uk or www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk.
Notes to editors
Services provided by First Capital Connect, East Coast, Grand Central and First Hull Trains may all be affected by Thameslink work as the Thameslink programme progresses. Passengers should check with their train operator for the latest information.
About Network Rail
Network Rail owns, manages and develops Britain’s railway – the 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations (the largest of which we also run). In partnership with train operators we help people take more than 1.5bn journeys by rail every year; an increase of 50% in a decade. We’re investing £38bn in the railway by 2019 to deliver more frequent, more reliable, safer services and brighter and better stations.