Tag Archives: Thameslink

Untangling the tracks: Communicating change

By Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

Transport for London and its predecessor companies have a long history of producing posters to keep passengers informed about upgrades to the network. Communicating alterations and disruption to passengers, as well as celebrating successful projects, is an important job for train operating companies. Whilst social media is often used today to keep customers informed, the traditional practice of using eye-catching posters is still an effective method.

Upgrading a working railway usually requires weekend closures, which can catch people out. TfL commissioned this popular series of poster designs which use the iconography of the Tube lines to grab the attention of passengers.

‘Going to the match this weekend?’ Artist unknown, 2010 (L)
‘Going shopping this weekend?’ Rachel Thomas of The Milton Agency, 2010 (R)

Recently,  Thameslink has also actively used posters to engage with customers. Some of these posters are explored in our Untangling the Tracks exhibition, which examines the Thameslink Programme, a major project to increase capacity, improve connections and provide greater reliability on the Thameslink route. During the programme, two major line closures over August bank holiday and Christmas 2017 affected hundreds of thousands of passengers. The iconography of the railway – specifically the ‘railway no entry’ icon – was used to add a festive touch to the poster campaign informing passengers.

Christmas line closures, 23 Red agency, 2017

For railway companies celebrating success at the end of a big project is also useful to remind passengers that the disruption was worthwhile.

What today is part of the Bank branch of the Northern line, started out as the City and South London Railway. It was the world’s first deep-level electric railway, opening in 1890. Being the pioneer, its tunnels were built on a smaller scale than subsequent Tube lines. When the time came to merge the line with the Hampstead Tube, the tunnels had to be closed to allow widening work to take place. This poster celebrates the reopening of the line in 1924, emphasising the new modern trains.

From Euston to Clapham Common the transformation is complete, Richard T Cooper, 1924

The redevelopment work at London Bridge station was a major element of the Thameslink Programme. Starting in 2013 the station was completely rebuilt, unifying what had essentially been two separate stations, yet remained open throughout. The architects, Grimshaw, also had to work carefully around its listed features, and many historical elements were kept and incorporated into the new building. The redeveloped station was officially opened by HRH the Duke of Cambridge in 2018. This poster was commissioned to thank the 50 million passengers who use the station every year for their patience during the disruption.

Welcome to your new station concourse, Magnet Harlequin/WMH Agency, 2018

Visit Untangling the Tracks to explore how historic London Transport posters and their modern Thameslink equivalents help to communicate important updates to passengers.

The exhibition is open until Spring 2020.

Thameslink: a history through the city

By Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

Our latest exhibition Untangling the Tracks takes a closer look at the Thameslink Programme, a major project to increase capacity, improve connections and provide greater reliability on the Thameslink route. Work started in 2007 and stations were rebuilt, new infrastructure developed, tracks and signalling replaced, and 115 new trains were ordered.

But what is the history behind the only north-south mainline railway to cross London?

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Engraving depicting the construction of the junction of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway and Metropolitan Railway, circa 1866

The origins of the Thameslink route date back to 1866 with the opening of the London, Chatham & Dover Railway’s (LC&DR) extension over the River Thames. This was despite a Royal Commission ruling in 1846 that railways should terminate at the edge of the city, as it was believed this would help alleviate congestion on the city’s busy streets.

The LC&DR extension travelled north along a viaduct and through the new Snow Hill tunnel to Farringdon, where it could connect with the Metropolitan Railway, and onwards to King’s Cross and St Pancras.

The construction of the extension through the crowded city caused huge disruption, as is clear from an engraving from the time. It is possible to see here how the course of the line changes from viaduct to tunnel.

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Print showing the construction of the Snow Hill tunnel, 1861-62

The Ludgate Hill viaduct was famously depicted by Gustav Doré in London: A Pilgrimage. Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street are shown heaving with people and traffic while a train billows smoke from the viaduct above.

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Ludgate Hill, from London: A Pilgrimage, 1972

Along the line stations were built at Snow Hill, Holborn Viaduct and Ludgate Hill. Snow Hill station opened in 1874, but passenger services through the tunnel stopped in 1916 (the station had been renamed Holborn Viaduct Low Level in 1912), terminating at Holborn Viaduct station instead. Ludgate Hill station closed in 1929, and only freight services operated through the tunnel until 1969.

In 1986 work began to bring the north-south route through the city back. New Thameslink services started in 1988. Although Thameslink trains follow the same route today as the original LC&DR trains, the viaduct at Ludgate Hill was demolished in 1990 and replaced by a tunnel. Holborn Viaduct station was also closed in 1990, replaced by the nearby City Thameslink station.

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Ludgate Viaduct just prior to demolition, 1990

The new Thameslink services were busy with commuters, and soon overcrowding on the line had become an issue as passenger numbers in London and the South East increased. The recent Thameslink Programme has revitalised the route, adding greater capacity, and trains now serve destinations from Sussex and Kent to Bedford, Peterborough and Cambridge.

Our Untangling the Tracks exhibition is open until May 2020. Visit to discover how the Thameslink Programme transformed one of the oldest railway networks in the world, through interactive displays and games, mixed media and miniature station models.