The £3.5bn transformation of London’s Thameslink rail network has been granted planning permission

The Department for Transport and the Department for Communities & Local Government have approved the project and agreed to give legal powers to Network Rail to rebuild the route.

The Thameslink project will more than double passenger capacity on one of Europe’s busiest stretches of railway. It also aims to reduce overcrowding, ease congestion on the Northern and Victoria lines and significantly improve access at the Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge stations.

It will increase the number of stations used by direct north/south services by over 200% from the present 51 to 172 and increase the possible length of trains from the present eight carriages to 12.

Network Rail says it is also possible that up to 24 trains per hour could run.

The future of the project now rests on a funding decision. Network Rail says an early decision would enable the company to deliver "substantial passenger benefits before 2012".