Visitors to the South Bank caught a glimpse of history this weekend, as work began to reinstall renovated railway cartouches at Blackfriars station.
Two 16-tonne cartouches – giant iron plates bearing the insignia of the London, Dover & Chatham Railway that once served Blackfriars – were removed in 2011 to allow for the construction of a new southern entrance for Blackfriars station. The cartouches have been dismantled, restored and this weekend work began to reassemble them on site.
Network Rail is rebuilding Blackfriars station to span the river Thames, making way for longer trains and more frequent services on the Thameslink route from Bedford to Brighton, through central London. A new entrance on the south bank of the river, the first to be built here for 120 years, makes cultural attractions such as Tate Modern, the National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe directly accessible from Blackfriars.
Laurence Whitbourn, Network Rail project director for Blackfriars, said: “We’ve had to consider Blackfriars’ history and heritage at every step of the way as we’ve transformed a Victorian railway bridge into a station that spans the River Thames.
“At Blackfriars we’re building a contemporary station designed to provide a better train service for growing numbers of passengers. But we’re not forgetting the station’s heritage. It’s great to see the historic cartouches restored to their former glory and back in place. They’re a testament to the Victorian engineering that has stood Blackfriars in good stead for the past 120 years.”
The new south entrance to Blackfriars station was opened to the public on 5 December 2011 and quickly became popular with passengers, accounting for 40% of people entering or exiting the station. The reinstallation of the cartouches represents another milestone for the Blackfriars project, the coming months will see the installation of lifts providing step-free access to all platforms and the full reopening of the Thames Path under Blackfriars rail bridge which is currently closed at night.
The south station entrance is just one part of a complete rebuild of Blackfriars station which is seeing platforms extended over the River Thames to make way for longer trains; a new Underground station and entrance hall on the north bank of the river; and 4,400 solar panels installed on the station roof, creating London’s largest solar array.