London Bridge station to be disrupted until 2018 for refurbishment
Commuters using London Bridge station will face years of disruption when the refurbishment work begins as part of the Thameslink upgrade next year.
The station will get new platforms, the UK's largest concourse, new lifts, escalators and entrances on Tooley Street and St Thomas Street.
Work will begin in May 2013, affecting Southern, Thameslink and Southeastern services until 2018, Network Rail said.
London's oldest station, which opened in 1836, is used by 55 million people.
The station will remain open during the redevelopment work, which is part of the £6bn project to upgrade Thameslink.
Passenger watchdog London TravelWatch said disruption was inevitable for big projects but it urged train operators to keep passengers updated about the changes.'Ambitious redevelopment'
This phase will see upgrade work on seven miles of track and signalling equipment in south-east London around London Bridge station and rebuilding of several bridges.
Southern's south London line services between Victoria and London Bridge via Denmark Hill will be withdrawn from 9 December, but Network Rail said people in Denmark Hill and Peckham Rye could instead use the London Overground extension connecting Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays.
From May 2013 three platforms - 14, 15 and 16 - will be closed to the public and Southern trains will be diverted to other platforms resulting in changes to train timings.
Between December 2014 and 2018 Thameslink trains will be diverted away from the station.
Southeastern trains to Charing Cross will not call at London Bridge for a year from 2015 while services to Canon Street will also cease to use the station between 2016 until late 2017.
Network Rail said the upgrade work will make the station more accessible, reduce congestion and increase the number of trains stopping at the station from 70 to 88 per hour. Passenger capacity will also rise by 50%.
Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations at the rail company, said: "This will be the most ambitious redevelopment of any London station in a generation."
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "Passenger numbers have risen on an unprecedented scale in recent years and are now at their highest since the 1920s.
"Train passengers will be the biggest winners from this investment as London Bridge station is transformed from one of the capital's most congested stations into one of the most modern, accessible and passenger-friendly transport hubs in the UK."
In a joint statement, train operators First Capital Connect, Southeastern and Southern said: "This project will mean more trains and better journeys for passengers. We thank passengers for their understanding and patience whilst these essential improvement works are being delivered."
A spokeswoman for London TravelWatch said: "We support the rebuilding of London Bridge because essential improvements for passengers that cannot be properly delivered without works of this scale, however, we realise that it is going to cause significant disruption to passengers over a long period.
"Regular and reliable information, which clearly spells out any alternative travel options is essential and, where necessary, additional services or stops should be provided e.g. extra services into Victoria."