One of the most significant and complex engineering projects at Waterloo Station in the last century began last night, as 10 of the station’s platforms were shut for three-and-a-half weeks to make room for the work.
As the last of Friday night’s trains left London Waterloo, hundreds of Network Rail’s orange army were already busy at work on the £800 million upgrade to passengers’ services.
Over the next 24 days, 1,000 engineers and track-side staff will be working shifts 24 hours-a-day to build extensions onto platforms 1-4, and to modify platforms 5-8, so that longer, modern trains can run from December 2017.
Almost 100 million passengers pass through Waterloo each year. During the morning peak more than 600 passengers arrive each minute, equivalent to a full double-decker bus arriving into the station every eight seconds for three hours.
The work in August is all part of the £800 million Waterloo & South West Upgrade which will ultimately provide space for 45,000 extra passengers every morning and every evening – equivalent to the capacity of the Oval and the O2 Arena combined – to and from Waterloo.
Passengers are being warned of significant disruptions to journeys with queues of up to an hour at Waterloo and key stations along the route.
Becky Lumlock, route managing director at Network Rail, said:
“This is an important day for the rail network as we reach a crucial stage in one of the most complex and significant engineering projects ever delivered at Waterloo, our nation’s busiest station.
“From the end of this year our passengers will be able to enjoy a much more comfortable journey into this station, with longer, modern trains. And by the end of next year we will have made space for another 45,000 people at peak times as we turn the old Waterloo International into a high frequency commuter terminal fit for the 21st century.
“But before we arrive there, passengers travelling into Waterloo will face severe disruption over the next three and a half weeks – we are doing all we can to manage the impact on our passengers, and we thank them for their patience during this time.”
During the works the under-construction former Waterloo International Terminal will be temporarily reopened to ease pressure on the main station, giving passengers an early look at the work there.
In a recent survey of passengers carried out by Transport Focus, the independent transport watchdog, it was found that 91% of all passengers are aware of the work taking place at Waterloo during August, and 48% of passengers are planning to change their journeys, either by travelling at different times of day, working from home or taking holiday for at least some of the time.
Becky Lumlock continued:
“This is going to have a significant impact on services so, as we’ve been doing since last summer, I’d like to remind all passengers to plan ahead by considering travelling at different times of day, working from home or taking holiday where possible.”
Margaret Kay, managing director for South West Trains, added:
“Today marks the culmination of months and months of careful planning by South West Trains and Network Rail in preparation for the biggest and most important capacity improvement scheme Waterloo station has ever seen.
“However, today does mark the start of a period of major disruption for many of our passengers and we again want to remind people to plan ahead, allow extra time for their journeys and to check our extensive advice on alternative travel as well as what stations to avoid and when.
“We’ll continue to work closely with Network Rail to keep our customers informed on their travel over the coming weeks whilst this work takes place. We’ll also be doing everything we can to help reduce the impact on passengers, including providing longer trains throughout the day and having extra staff on hand to help.”