By Neil Roth
Featured in the FTL Newsletter, May 2022
Before rebuilding, London Bridge National Rail station had waiting rooms, snack bars, information about departures from other platforms and toilets on some of its six ‘through’ platforms but, as rebuilt with nine ‘through’ platforms, none has any of these facilities at platform level. Why?
The photograph in the May 2022 Newsletter shows the Thameslink platforms (4 and 5) during a Friday off peak period. As you will see, the distance between the tracks is substantial. However, much of the width of this typical ‘through’ platform (except at its ends) is taken up by the stairs, escalators, and lifts. So, the space available for passengers waiting to board a train in the middle section of the long platforms is very limited and risks dangerous overcrowding if, for example, there is serious disruption during peak hours.
The old through platforms had ramps at the ‘London’ end and an interchange footbridge served only by stairs about halfway along
More passengers are likely to wait nearer the middle of London Bridge’s long new platforms, built to serve 12-carriage, 240 metre trains (unlike the short old platforms through which longer trains went nonstop), because shorter trains don’t reach the platform ends. Some Thameslink services, for example, are only 8 carriages long and stop alongside the middle of the platform, the very section where limited standing space is available. Anyone waiting at the far end of the platform would face a 40-metre walk to board an 8-carriage train.
That explains why the new London Bridge was designed with a massive concourse below all 15 new platforms with numerous waiting areas, retail units, toilets, and comprehensive train indicators. Arriving passengers have no reason to linger at platform level and are intended to descend to the concourse as soon as possible. Departing passengers have little reason to leave the concourse facilities until shortly before their train is due.
Given all the circumstances, a wider station or fewer platforms were never options.