London commuters, stop moaning - Waterloo works are for your own good

Waterloo upgrade begins - but what will it mean for commuters once complete?

Improvement works have started at Waterloo station (Stock image)

Monday, August 7, 2017

If, like us in talkRADIO towers, you work in and around the Waterloo area, you'll no doubt have seen, or been caught up in, the transport chaos around the commuter hub this morning.

Work has started to upgrade Waterloo station and the immediate effect is that many services are severely disrupted, with South West trains particularly badly affected. Waterloo can be pretty hairy at the best of times, and this disruption has tipped it over the edge into full pandemonium territory.

And it's not just Waterloo. At least 23 stations will be running “significantly fewer trains" as the work takes place, and it's set to last throughout the month of August.

But if you've had a rotten commute this morning and are feeling a bit down in the dumps about it, there's no need to moan - because this work is for your own good.

The works are the key part of the £800 million Waterloo and South West Upgrade, which is designed to make the platforms at Waterloo longer, allowing for longer trains to be used. If you've ever tried to get on a train on the route from the South West into Waterloo at peak time, or seen the chaos at stations on the approach, you'll know why this project is so important.

Work on the upgrade began last year, and the planners reckon there'll eventually be up to 30 new trains on the route, with up to 150 extra carriages in use. By the end of 2018 there'll be 30% more capacity during the busiest part of the day.

The current tranche of works will lengthen platforms 1-4 to allow longer, 10-carriage trains to run on suburban routes for the first time. At the moment there's only space for eight-carriage trains, and those extra two carriages could make all the difference if you're trying to squeeze on at Vauxhall or Clapham Junction at 8.30 in the morning.

Technology is also being installed which is said to make trains more efficient and should ensure that they are on time more often (although we'll believe that when we see it, thanks very much). Due to the increased number of trains, the maintenance facilities and depots are also to be improved.

Roughly 270,000 people use Waterloo daily and this includes around 130,000 people in the morning rush hour. This vast figure is expected to increase by 40% by 2043, so it's vital that services are upgraded now.

And, when you think about it, August is the most logical time to carry out the works. With the schools closed and thousands of families flying south to catch a glimpse of the sun, Network Rail claims there are 50% less passengers using services around this time, which is why they've chosen this time to complete the improvements. But more than 1,000 extra staff are being put in place at stations affected to help customers.

The work is expected to be completed by September, there will then be a second phase of work implemented on platforms 20 to 24 to improve the concourse. This area was previously the Waterloo International Terminal, and it should be much less disruptive.

So, if you've been having a good ol' moan about the horror commute this morning, think on. By the time winter comes round and you're queuing for a train on a cold and dark morning, you may well be glad of the work that's being done now.