The Duke of Cambridge’s paternity leave came to an end as he reopened a flagship London station following a billion-pound redevelopment project.
William left his wife and infant son Prince Louis at home to launch London Bridge Station following a five-year rebuild which has created a huge concourse for passengers and other new facilities for the 21st century transport hub.
He was given a present for his growing family – Prince George, Princess Charlotte and the newborn – a book about Southwark Cathedral’s cat and laughed when the head of Network Rail joked Louis might one day have a career on the railways.
The duke arrived by train from Blackfriars Station on a new Class 700 Thameslink service, taken from a depot to carry the royal, and was greeted on platform four by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail which carried out the redevelopment, began by mentioning the birth of Louis on St George’s Day – April 23.
He said: “On behalf of everyone on Britain’s railways I’d like to congratulate you and the Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of Prince Louis.
“I know that the royal family have always been tremendous supporters and users of the railway and I hope that Prince Louis will perhaps have a flourishing career as a railway engineer.
“I am immensely proud that we brought this wonderful station into service on the very day we said we would, more than five years ago.
“This station has been rebuilt from the Victorian foundations upwards, the team of engineers that achieved this had to carry out this huge project whilst still providing a service for 48 million people who use this station every
During the project a major track upgrade was carried out, platforms were widened and extended and a new underpass built.
In October the Department for Transport (DfT) decided to delay the full introduction of new Thameslink services at London Bridge from December 2018 to December 2019.
This reduced the risk of disruption but meant passengers in some locations would not receive the full benefits of the programme for up to a year later than scheduled.
The Duke unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of London Bridge Station - the stationâs new street level concourse is the UK's largest, and is roughly the size of the pitch at Wembley Stadium #LBGreopens pic.twitter.com/GIOHvOHHft— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) May 9, 2018
The Transport Secretary remained upbeat at the launch, saying the redevelopment was a “fantastic project” that was going to make a “huge difference to commuting in and around London”.
Thameslink services are running at 18 trains per hour and will increase to 20 in December, with the full increase to 24 not reached until December next year.
A modernisation scheme named Thameslink 2000 was first discussed in 1991 but did not begin until 2006 due to privatisation of the railways and complex planning inquiries.
After William unveiled a plaque to mark the opening, the Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun and the Dean of Southwark Cathedral Andrew Nunn, whose cathedral is nearby, presented the duke with a book, Doorkins The Cathedral Cat – based on their pet cat.
Bishop Chessun said: “We do hope that he reads it to his children George, Charlotte and Louis. He expressed delight and pleasure when he received the book.
“When he heard that the Queen features in the book, he laughed and said he’d mention it to his grandmother.
The Duke met architects involved in the project at London Bridge Station, which has created two-thirds more space for passengers, enabling almost twice as many passengers to use Britainâs fourth busiest station every day #LBGreopens 🚄 pic.twitter.com/hEyFEXOc2R— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) May 9, 2018
“The book is based on a true story, when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh came to Southwark Cathedral in 2013.
“She came to look at the Diamond Jubilee window and Doorkins the cathedral cat was curled up asleep underneath it.
“The dean said, ‘This is one of your subjects Ma’am, who is not particularly impressed by your visit’, which made her laugh.
“Doorkins is a real favourite, so much so that some people call her Magnificat.”