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Railtrack reveals £1bn office plan

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Railtrack stepped up its programme of major station redesigns last week when it unveiled detailed plans for a £400 million overhaul of London Bridge's mainline and Thameslink station.

The station- and track-operator wants to recast the commuter hub as a shopping and office complex and its

TP Bennett-design features an eight-storey office tower and a trebling of the station's retail space to 7500m 2.

The plans were received by Southwark Council planners last week and are part of a billion-pound redevelopment of Railtrack's 14 stations.

'The rail regulator expects us to tease out the potential for all our sites now,' said Railtrack asset development manager, Robin Lovell. 'Retail is what customers expect.'

Other recent developments in Railtrack's redesign programme include the appointment of Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners to study options for a new 80,000m

2 office building at Paddington Station, a John McAslan & Partners plan to extend the concourse at King's Cross and plans for a new office tower at Waterloo station. Four architects - HOK, Grimshaw, SMC Group and Gensler - were shortlisted for this last project (AJ 10.02.00).

'In the past we've been used to dealing with draughty Victorian sheds, but now we're creating world class stations,' Lovell said.

The London Bridge designs will involve the demolition of a Grade II-listed train shed.

London Bridge's office tower sits on a raft across the station platforms and reaches 67m above street level. It will be clad with a layered glass and brise-soleil system.Chris Bennie, partner at TP Bennett, played down the height of the building.

'We've designed it to be a discreet landmark for the station because it forms part of the background view to St Paul's,' he said.

The scheme will also bring the concourse down to street level and treble its size. New entrances will be built on Tooley Street and St Thomas Street.

The office block will cost £150 million and £250 million will be spent on station improvements.

The expansion is dependent on government permission for the Thameslink 2000 project which will increase capacity on the commuter line which passes through London Bridge. If the go-ahead for the Thameslink expansion follows a public inquiry this summer, passenger numbers using London Bridge will increase by 10 million. Currently, 75,000 use the station each day.

If the TP Bennett scheme is awarded planning permission, separate plans by Terry Farrell & Partners for a new Thameslink station (AJ 20.01.00) are likely to be ditched.

Southwark Council's planning department has begun consultation with English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment was set to consider the proposals at a meeting this week.

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