A first look at the new London Bridge

The new Southeastern part of London Bridge opened yesterday morning, and most of the trains to and from Charing Cross are now stopping there. So what have £6.2 billion and years of disruption given us?

Good points

100_2415The new island platforms are wide – very wide in places – and there is sufficient space even alongside the “pit” that the escalators go down. That’s in contrast to the old island platforms, where you were not even allowed to stand on the sections by the footbridge. This generous width may of course been needed if there are lift or escalator problems – see below.

 

 

100_2426The undercroft is very spacious, both inside and outside the gated area. There is also a spacious walk-through to the Southern platforms within the gated area, a big improvement on the previous dismal overbridge. On a warm summer’s day it had a pleasant, airy, feel; it remains to be seen how it is in winter.

 

 

100_2425There are two sets of (long) up and down escalators, two sets of stairs and a lift from the undercroft to the platform level of each island. Although previous pictures from Network Rail had suggested that this was an exceptionally long escalator, in reality it does not feel worryingly so. The stairs have two lanes, a number of landings, and a central handrail; again they should be acceptable to most people.

The work on the station is largely finished: yesterday morning there was only minor snagging going on.

 

 

100_2416Platforms had a new, larger, design of information display, with information not only about the next train but the two following.

 

 

 

 

 

Less good

100_2454There are only two up and two down escalators to each island. That’s not many, given that platforms 8 & 9 will inherit the reputation of the old platform 6 as the busiest platform in Great Britain – and in fact more trains will be stopping there in the morning as all Charing Cross trains will now stop at London Bridge. It’s even more worrying given the propensity of escalators to be out of action for months (as regularly seen on the tube). If one escalator is out of action for maintenance then it could be difficult to clear the platform between trains. It’s a pity that some of the space used for stairs had not been used for a third escalator that could be operated on a ‘tidal’ basis during the peak and switched off to save energy in the off-peak, and that would have given more contingency. Even more worrying is that there is only one lift to each island – even though there is plenty of room for two (and, actually, for four). Given there is some inherent unreliability in lifts, plus the need for periodic prolonged maintenance, this could be a major accessibility issue. Only one lift will also encourage people to take heavy luggage onto the escalators, which can be dangerous. Perhaps the number of lifts and escalators has been kept to a minimum because of costs; but from a budget of £6.2 billion we would have expected there to be ample provision, including forward planning for routine maintenance and unplanned faults.

100_2432

The direct route to the tube station is only open during peak hours (and has permanent signing to this effect). The alternative route – and the only route off-peak – is to go out to the south of the station, towards the Shard, and then through a dog leg corridor to Joiner Street. Although there are signs in the station itself, the signage is very poor once one leaves the station.

 

In the milling area underneath platforms 7 and 8+9 it is very difficult to see the “next train” display for both platforms at the same time. At some times of the day – certainly in the evening peak, and possibly during the middle of the day (as yesterday) some South East London and Kent trains leave from platform 7 and some from platform 8 (yesterday Dartford trains were leaving from platform 8 and mainline trains from platform 7, a reverse of the way platforms 4 & 5 used to operate). Since it is a long way to go down to the undercroft and up to the other platform people will want to be able to see in good time which platform they should be on. (Southeastern tell us that they have given firm instructions to the signallers not to change platforms at short notice, as frequently happens at Waterloo East.)

100_2436There are only four ticket machines in the undercroft and even on a quiet Bank Holiday Monday there was a queue at the adjacent ticket office. There are actually five additional machines still at the entrance to the old Southeastern section – which is now closed and where no-one now goes). Why haven’t these machines been moved to the new station: there’s plenty of room.

Update 5 Sep: Southeastern point out that there are still two ticket machines in Joiner Street near the tube station and the old escalators to Platforms 1-6. These are a long way from the new gate-line, especially since the direct walking route is not open for most of the day. They need to be moved to the new main concourse. Southeastern also say that there are two more machines elsewhere, but we have yet to find them!

 

100_2428There is a surprising lack of retail space in the undercroft, and none of it is yet operational. There were two small refreshment carts instead, but they were having problems keeping up with demand at a quiet period. Unlike the old station there is no retail space at platform level.

There are no toilets (except for the disabled, but even those not working yet) on the new island platforms – unlike the platforms that they replace. Indeed there are no toilets within the gated area at all.

Passenger information still needs work. Signage still needs some attention, and there seemed to be no maps or other aids to let people understand where they were and how to get where they wanted to go. There is also no A-Z display of the time and platform of the next train to each destination; there is one still outside the old entrance to the Southeastern platforms.

What do you think about the new station? Please let us know here.


Comments

A first look at the new London Bridge — 27 Comments

  1. A fleeting visit this morning but I could not work out how to get to the old footbridge above Tooley St that makes access to London Bridge quick and easy for walking to the city.

  2. @Charles Thanks. From platforms 8 & 9 you need to down to the undercroft, through the gates, up to the main (Southern) station, out towards the bus station, keep right down the bus station approach and there is an low archway under the tracks that leads to the bridge over Tooley Street and the arcade of shops on the way to London Bridge. Is it clearly signed? – of course not!

  3. Well this morning I noticed that TM Lewin of all companies was trading in the concourse. Because if there’s anything a commuter needs, it’s a spare clean shirt.

    The station map shows that there are plenty of new retail areas that should come into use over the next few months. Boots, WHSmiths, Leon, etc. No pub that I can see.

    At least it is far better than what was there before.

    I note that not all platforms in the Southern area have lifts, and only one escalator. OTOH most Southern customers will likely arrive via the Southern high-level concourse.

  4. Very pretty platforms but…

    – Why only two sets of stairs/escalators from such a massive platform? With one escalator already out of service, getting off the platform is taking quite a while and could get dangerous.
    – 4 ticket machines in the massive new entrance hall. Nowhere near enough and they’re in a rather odd position.
    – Not enough exit gates.
    – Clearer signage is needed but I guess commuters will learn where to go soon enough.
    – Closing the cut through between the underground and the new platforms after the morning rush seems daft. It’s a long diversion in the evening rush past the Shard and into the midst of the Southern commuters!
    – Why are they not using Platform 7 in the morning rush for London bound trains? I’ve been 11 and 20 minutes late so far this week, with the delays only occurring just outside London Bridge. I’m assuming that we’ve been waiting for a platform? Hopefully this will improve next week once Cannon St re-opens.
    – Changing at Orpington to get the 07:57 (from the 07:40 from Dunton) could be rather ‘fun’ if/when the Sevenoaks stopper is running late. It’s just a matter of time until we see a problem there.

  5. @skyobee. After sitting on a boiling hot, overcrowded train that’s been delayed for unknown reasons, I think a clean shirt would be a key necessity for most of us! 🙂

    That or some free ice coffees..

  6. @paul Thanks for this – good points.

    On use of the platforms, we thought that the model was to use platforms 8 & 9 for Charing Cross-bound trains and platform 7 without stopping for out-bound trains in the morning peak, and to use platform 9 without stopping for Charing Cross-bound trains and platforms 7 & 8 for out-bound trains in the evening peak. Is that not happening?

  7. So today I had the pleasure of using LBG. Well I say pleasure. Off peak you have to walk a convoluted route, cleverly past all the shops and concessions, which is three times as long to access the tube or tooley street or London Bridge itself which lets face it is most people’s direction of travel. This is marvellous for those of limited mobility to get their exercise levels up. Of course one of the escalators from the platform was shut for engineering work from the platform so a half full off peak train was squeezed like toothpaste from a tube down the stairs. Later in the day I returned from tooley street to get the train to Charing Cross. Having walked all the way round the shard for the second time that day I then found there were no trains to CHX. The pleasant hi vis customer service chap suggested I get the tube. Feeling a bit mischievous I asked him what route I would need and guess what Southeastern hadn’t even provided him with a tube map. But to his credit he got his own phone out and showed me what he thought would work best.

    As I came back through LBG tonight I notice the escalator still hasn’t been repaired.

    As previously mentioned its light and airey and the fake wood covering the bottom of the tracks is pleasant. Clearly IKEA provided more than the walking route design, but the signage is poor, the lack of platform facilities shocking ( given how much time we spend waiting for delayed trains) and overall it has a feeling of style over substance. For ease of use, facilities such as toilets etc Cannon Street remains the best station in london by far.

  8. All of the above comments tonight have proved to be correct;

    Access to the platforms was chaotically and inconsistently managed with some escalators allowed access to – others not (aggressive security controlling them)

    Serious platform swapping undertaken and 7,8 and 9 used for coast bound trains – chaos when coupled with platform swapping

    Impossible at under croft level to track next trains

    Why is Route C Tooley St not open in evenings

    Yes, there had been signal issues today and CST is closed but it was chaos and Railtrack and Southeastern need to explain in cold light of day what they are doing.

    It’s a mess !

  9. I used the new platforms for the first time during the problems of the 31st so my comments may not be unbiased. It all looks nice but I agree about the lack of any facilities retail/convenience on the platforms. Given the long distance down into the undercroft this is particularly inconvenient, especially when services are disrupted.

    The signage is not brilliant, especially when trying to get to the underground off peak. Why do they make you walk so far to make the connection to the underground?

    I agree with comments about the lifts and escalators. How will service be maintained during servicing periods?

    I suppose the retail outlets will come in due time?

    I did not need to use a convenience but could not see where they were located. Are they really the wrong side of the ticket barrier. What happens when all goes wrong? (As it did Wednesday.)

  10. Awful. Why is it Kent commuters that are always disadvantaged? The new London Bridge helps Southern commuters from the South & South West, as will Crossrail 2. I am yet to experience any benefit on my commute from Sevenoaks (where we have one of the highest fares).

    – Very long convoluted walk to get to platforms 7, 8 & 9 from all entrances – why? Feel like Southeastern are 2nd class to Southern here commuters here

    – Only a handful of ticket barriers to platforms 7, 8 & 9, yet there is plenty of space for more – so there is serious queueing at peak hours

    – No toilets, conveniences, even a copy of the Evening Standard once through the gated area – given the train delays you can’t tell when a train is actually due to arrive so can’t chance the long walk back to the main area

    – No clue whether trains going from platform 7 or 9 and takes a long time to get between the two given the trek down and back up the one escalator

    – Every train so far as been delayed. An advertised “25 min” journey from Sevenoaks to London Bridge is definitely on average more about 40 mins

    – Staff at the station on hand to help are pleasant, but have not been given any useful information!

    – Southeastern’s Twitter service remains equally as dismal, more often than not they ignore your tweets – who else exactly are we meant to ask?

    I could go on, but I fear Southeastern services won’t improve, nor will the Government build any new infrastructure that actually helps Kent!

  11. @sarah Thanks. I’d add lack of retail and lack of seats in the gated area too.

    Southern customers had a lot of misery due to London Bridge and we’re not sure what the new station really does for them either.

  12. I’m afraid that the work isn’t anywhere complete, and you’ll have to live with it for another year or thereabouts. This is what it has been like being a Southern customer for the past two years using the station. It’ll take six months for the points and signalling to settle down after each new platform is reopened.

    It feels like people expected it to be complete when it was opened. Obviously the retail will open up over time. Obviously the unfinished routes through the station will be finished and opened full time in the end. Obviously the concourse will be opened up through to the north side once the new platforms are in.

    “The new London Bridge helps Southern commuters from the South & South West, as will Crossrail 2”

    This station does nothing for Southern customers apart from look better. People in the South West use South West trains to Waterloo. There are fewer terminating platforms for a start. What will help them is the opening of the Bermondsey Diveunder next year. Be thankful that Thameslink will be servicing Sevenoaks after all this work is done, the reason that the work is being done – to advantage people living further away in Kent and the South Coast. And be glad that the concourse is so much larger than the old overbridge, a place where hope went to die.

  13. I have to say I take issue with all this talk from both the government and others about this “new” franchise thameslink serving sevenoaks. Thameslink had been serving sevenoaks into Blackfriars and City Thameslink all the way through to Luton for years. It isn’t a new service, just a new colour scheme for a load of old rolling stock that departs platform 1 at sevenoaks every day.

  14. @james We agree in respect of the Thameslink service to Bat & Ball and Sevenoaks (although in the past few months there has been a great variety of rolling stock). However the announcement of a potential Maidstone East to Cambridge Thameslink service will be a new benefit to the area as a whole, and could benefit Sevenoaks station users themselves indirectly by reducing the incentive for Borough Green and Otford people (and some from further afield) to ‘railhead’ from Sevenoaks.

  15. I actually think the new LB is great. Though my view may reflect the fact I avoided until Thursday and used Blackfriars instead as I thought there might be teething issues. And both trains I caught ran spot on time – it really is a quick journey when it does (24 mins). Keep the pressure on the entrance thing though – it is mad. Worth remembering Oyster would ease ticket gate and ticket machine issues – paper tickets really are antiquated and the sooner it’s sorted the better.

    On the Thameslink I’m sure the new proposed service through Otford etc. will reduce usage of the Sevenoaks service. A lot of people, including myself, from around Otford cycle, take the train or drive to Sevenoaks currently and if it’s fast enough a lot of them will switch to the new direct city service.

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