Extensive monitoring for track and ground movements at Blackfriars Station

Extensive monitoring was needed to ensure the groundworks and construction activities did no damage to buildings and other tunnels

  • 13 automated total stations
  • 800 survey prisms
  • 20 Electro-level beams
  • 14 Vibrating-wire strain gauges
  • 20 crack/joint meters
  • 10 tri-axis velocity meters
  • Gas leak detection system
  • 80 manual levelling points
  • Local units process data and transmit by mobile phone data signal
  • All data handled and coordinated in a central database
  • Internet based user display

JF Strainstall provided an extensive monitoring system for the Blackfriars Station Redevelopment project in London, for Jacobs Engineering UK. The scheme is part of the Thameslink project to double passenger capacity on the Bedford to Brighton line.

The underground part of the station was demolished (main picture) and excavation of the site completed before construction of a brand new station for both the underground and the mainline railway station could begin.


The demolition of the surrounding structures caused ground movements, initially heaving and eventually settling down again when the new buildings had been constructed. This ground movement could have caused damage to nearby listed buildings and affect the underground tunnels and railway tracks by reducing the clearance between the trains and the tunnel linings creating an unsafe condition.

The mainline railway and nearby underground lines remained in service during the project. To ensure they operated safely, 10 main areas were monitored including neighbouring listed buildings, service tunnels (containing power, telecoms and gas services), the station area itself, the London Underground District and Circle subsurface tunnels and the Waterloo and City deep tunnels.

The main components of the system included 13 automated total stations (resolution of half arc-second), approximately 800 prisms, vibration monitoring systems, Geokon electro-level beams, displacement & crack monitoring, strain gauges and gas leak detection. The vibration systems monitored at 1000 readings/sec. Summary data was presented routinely and any events exceeding alert levels recorded as separate event files in full detail.


The monitoring systems supplied by JF Strainstall constantly checked for movements and changes and alerted the project management team to any potential problems so that remedial action could be taken. Real-time data presented on a bespoke display enabled the contractor to watch during critical and high-risk activities.

Data collected from the local data acquisition systems was sent to a remove server. For the Waterloo & City deep tunnels, due to space limitations the instruments deep in the tunnel were controlled remotely more than 1km away.


The data processed in a central database was made visible the client in an internet browser, with alert level e-mails and SMS sent to individuals where required on key assets. Manual levelling and surveying data was also added onto the system, with backup audit surveys to compliment the automated systems where required.

By combining multiple monitoring techniques the contractor could build a wholistic picture of the movements occurring and the effects of groundworks activities.