Above: Artist’s impression of the new station concourse. The platform level will remain but passengers will leave via long escalators. This will mean that the new concourse level will be ‘brought down’ to ground level, with entrances from Tooley Street and St Thomas Street. The above image shows the new long ‘tunnel’ between the two streets with escalators up to platform level. As well as escalators, all platforms will be served by lifts, also visible in the image.
Until the time of the recent rebuilding and re-alignment of all platforms (from 2013 until 2018) London Bridge Station has only ever had one entrance. That should probably read ‘one set of entrances’. We have become so used to entering the station concourse from where the buses stand or going to the left of that entrance and walking up slopes to Platforms 1-6 that for most of us that is the ‘ground level’ of the station.
In fact ‘ground level’ is the roadway and pavements of Tooley Street and St Thomas Street. The present concourse of London Bridge Station (and also where the buses stand) is a roadway layout and pavements on brick arches. Nothing related to the entrance to the concourse is at ground level. When you walk into the stain, with the Shard of Glass on your right, you are walking past a building whose ‘ground floor’ is 20 or 30 feet below you.
Does it really matter that we have not realised where ‘ground level ? No, it does not matter at the moment but we are all about to get quite a shock when a ‘second’ concourse comes into use during 2016. Under the present concourse, the platforms and the railway tracks are acres of brick arches. London Bridge Station had to be built like it is because all the railway tracks – from New Cross, Lewisham, Deptford, New Cross Gate and South Bermondsey – all approach the railway terminus on brick arches at a similar height. Underneath the station, the brick arches have been used for many purposes over the decades. Many of the arches were used for storage of cheese and wine in until the 1970s. The museum space of the London Dungeon was underneath, with its entrance in Tooley Street. Skinkers Wine Bar used space in the brick arches, also with its entrance in Tooley Street. On the St Thomas Street side there was a fitness centre and even a night club.
Everything has been closed and the vast space is about to become the new main concourse for London Bridge Station. It will be the largest concourse on any station in Britain and it will partially open towards the end of this year (2016). A large channel is being created under the platforms, with the brick arches being removed to allow lifts and escalators to convey passengers up to each platform on London Bridge Station. Access to the original concourse will still be possible from where the buses stand but the ‘main’ concourse will have new entrances off Tooley Street and off St Thomas Street.
Above: Artist’s impression of the arches forming the retail area (Copyright Grimshaw Architects).
In addition, the area that still retains the original brick arches will become a new retail zone within the rebuilt terminus.
During 2012, a modern entrance to a restructured original concourse was opened, incorporating part of the northern side of the Shard of Glass which was also completed in that year. The old Grade II listed train shed was removed along with the old unsightly staircases and walkways linking the high numbered platforms to platforms 1-6.
As many of us know to our cost, Thameslink trains and those bound for Cannons Street Station and Charing Cross Station have either been re-routed or they pass straight through London Bridge Station as modernisation work and platforms are rebuilt and re-aligned. The last platforms to be worked on are platforms 1-3 which will also affect road traffic in Tooley Street.
Until 2012 there were nine platforms serving trains terminating at London Bridge Station and six platforms for ‘through’ trains. When completed, the station will have just six platforms for terminating trains and nine platforms for through trains. To facilitate the new station layout, a new bridge carrying two additional railway lines has been erected across Borough High Street. It opened early in 2016. This will increase track capacity across Borough High Street from four to six lines, resulting in much less train congestion.
Interesting Facts about London Bridge Station:
• It is London’s oldest railway terminus. It opened in 1836 with just two platforms.
• When completed, the station will have the UK’s largest concourse.
• When completed, the number of trains stopping at the station will increase from 70 to 88 per hour.
• It is currently used by 55 million people. When completed, passenger capacity will rise by 50%.
• It is Britain’s fourth busiest station (after London Waterloo with 99 million passengers per year; London Victoria with 85 million; and London Liverpool Street with 63 million).
• The section of track leading west from London Bridge Station (to Blackfriars Station, Charing Cross Station and Cannon Street Station) is the busiest piece of railway track in the world.