It’s easy to lose count of the years when so much is happening in rail, but it has been ten since Blackfriars station was rebuilt.
Rail Minister Wendy Morton has described it as a “prime example” of London’s rail success, and recently a passenger photography competition saw scores of images being judged by the director of the Tate Modern to mark decade’s passing.
The station is for many an essential part of London travel, being home to services from Thameslink and Southeastern. It’s the only station that has platforms spanning the Thames and is hooked up to the London Underground’s District and Circle lines.
But the station was once very different from what we have today. First of all, it was called St Paul’s when it was established by London, Chatham and Dover Railway in 1886, itself taking the place of the Blackfriars Bridge station. Of course, it can be confusing to have one underground station called St Paul’s and another above ground. As a result, the overground station swapped its moniker to the one we use today.
Its current name comes from the Black Friar monks (or Dominicans), named as such because of the long back mantles over their white robes. Their priory was later demolished when James Burbage bought much of the land to build the Blackfriars theatre.
The rebuild passengers enjoyed in 2012 was not the first, however. In the 1970s, it underwent major changes, with offices added as well as the closure of its railway bridge – which was demolished in 1985.
But it was 2012, with the Olympics on the horizon, that bosses saw the need for greater capacity – accommodating longer Thameslink trains in the process. Platforms were extended, and there was a new station entrance built on the South Bank; the underground station was also refurbished. As part of the rebuild, it was stressed the site must not block the sight of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The rebuild also created the world’s largest solar-powered bridge. Boasting an impressive 4,400 solar panels, spanning the entire roof (about 23 tennis courts in size), it generates around half the station’s electricity. At almost 900,000 kWh a year, this is enough to make 30 million cups of tea per annum and reduces CO2 emissions by around 513 tonnes.
A stunning visual celebration
The top 10 photos from the 10 year celebratory competition are on display at Blackfriars (north bank ticket hall) until 31 May, while the winning image, taken on an iPhone 6 by Barbara Hough, a finance manager from Tulse Hill, is now in pride of place at the south entrance of the station.
Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern said: “Over the past 10 years, Blackfriars has brought hundreds of thousands of Thameslink passengers to our home on the south bank of the Thames, and the station’s platform over the river has provided some incredible new views of Tate Modern. It was a real honour to be a judge for the 10th anniversary photo competition.”
Network Rail route director for Sussex Katie Frost said: “The rebuilding of Blackfriars didn’t just create a beautiful and more sustainable station but also built a crucial part of what was effectively a new railway. It was a massive undertaking and a shining example of how engineering ingenuity and creativity can create something both stunning and functional.”
Rail Minister Wendy Morton said: “For the last decade Blackfriars has been a stunning addition to central London. Idyllically situated astride the Thames it is a prime example of the success of rail in London, giving passengers easy, green and comfortable journeys every day, something this Government is delivering to passengers all across the UK.”