Canal Tunnels open up new north-south London connections for the first time
The Thameslink Programme moved another step closer to completion on Monday 26 February when trains ran through the Canal Tunnels between St Pancras station and Finsbury Park for the first time.
The introduction of the Canal Tunnels into service is an important step forward in improving north-south London connections, with Thameslink through-services between Brighton and Cambridge, and Horsham and Peterborough, now able to operate for the first time.
The two Canal Tunnels link the low-level platforms at St Pancras International on the Thameslink core section with Belle Isle Junction near Finsbury Park station on the East Coast Main Line. Trains travelling through the Canal Tunnels will provide up to eight of the possible 24 services an hour which will travel through central London when the Thameslink Programme is completed.
The Thameslink Programme’s work in connecting the Canal Tunnels to Thameslink services – by installing track, power, signalling and safety systems in the tunnels – is a vital part of delivering capacity improvements in and around London. The connection comprises a 100m-long cut-and-cover tunnel outside St Pancras and a 600m-long twin-bore tunnel, which carries the line beneath the Regents Canal. The Tunnels were built at the same time as the redevelopment of St Pancras station between 2004 and 2006.
Initially the new services will consist of six off-peak services a day, before the introduction of new timetables in May. They will eventually connect passengers directly from 80 more stations in southern England through central London stations such as St Pancras International, Farringdon and Blackfriars. The new services replace existing Thameslink services south of London and Great Northern services from King’s Cross.
Simon Blanchflower, Network Rail’s Thameslink Programme Director, said: “Opening the tunnels for passenger trains between the East Coast Mainline and Thameslink at St Pancras International is a great achievement. It marks the final major infrastructure piece in the jigsaw that opens up the full future Thameslink network and its north south travel opportunities across London.”
The Thameslink Programme is improving connections through London, giving passengers better travel options to more destinations. It 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 a cornerstone of the Thameslink Programme and is now nearing completion.