Posted 5th February 2013 | 21 Comments

Waterloo International plans hit setback

Waterloo International, escalators at lower level

The subsurface layout was designed for one-way flows, and had not changed when this picture was taken in October 2012

PLANS to use the former international platforms at London Waterloo for domestic train services have hit a setback, the Government has admitted. In a Parliamentary answer, transport minister Simon Burns said only one platform can be used in the foreseeable future.

It had been hoped to reopen all the old international platforms at Waterloo for South West Trains, but the scheme has dragged its feet since the last Eurostars departed in 2007.

In answer to a question from Labour's shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle, Mr Burns said the Government was "committed to bringing the former International platforms at Waterloo station into domestic use, commencing with platform 20 being brought back into use by 2014 to assist South West Trains in delivering additional capacity into this busy station".

Work on the roof has been underway for some time to prepare for this, but the problem with the international platforms is that the subsurface layout was designed for one-way flows. These are essential for international arrivals and departures with their associated customs and immigration control points, but not suitable for day-to-day domestic commuter traffic.

Mr Burns continued: "With regard to the other four former international platforms, previous plans to bring these back into use have now been subject to detailed evaluation which has shown them to be too short-term in respect of the efficient overall expansion of Waterloo station. A more comprehensive and longer term plan is required."

Last year's High Level Output Specification included provision for major works at Waterloo, and this was followed up by a £300 million budget for the station in Network Rail's Strategic Business Plan for Control Period 5, which covers 2014-2019.

Mr Burns added: "The SBP proposes a £300 million investment to increase capacity into London Waterloo in CP5 as part of a longer term enhancement programme that will deliver significant capacity improvements into CP6 and beyond. During CP5, improvements will focus on suburban routes into London with platform extensions to accommodate longer 10 car trains and the integration of the former Waterloo International Terminal and its platforms to increase capacity within the station. The independent Office of Rail Regulation will review the SBP during the spring and publish its draft findings for public consultation in June."

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Lutz, London

    @Mark, Reading
    Sorry, but the platforms and the egress are too restricted to cope with peak arrivals on adjacent platforms. This has been known for sometime.

    To realistically meet the anticipated passenger numbers, the platforms would need to be demolished and constructed fit for purpose. This was part of at least one option considered. The work would have been partially funded by the commercial redevelopment of part of the station site and existing adjacent sites.

    @Paul Scott, Southampton
    The brining into service of platform 20 was only an interim solution; the capacity problem at Waterloo and possible solutions are (or were until recently) still being investigated. However the proposal recommending that Crossrail 2 be taken forward brings the scope redevelopment into question again.

    @Maurice Hopper, Exeter
    I think the poor re-usability of the structure demonstrates its poor design, though that is slightly unfair given that its function was more akin to an airport terminal than a rail station. Really it was only ever a one trick pony.

  • John Harper, Edinburgh

    With HS2 and all the rebuilding at Euston perhaps rushing Waterloo International into domestic use is not so wise. I would divert the sleepers into Waterloo from Paddington and Euston, with additional day use by VSOE and other charter trains. This would use 3 platforms and would need little rebuilding as foot flows would be one way and limted in numbers. The current plan for converting a platform for SWT could go ahead. This would also not stress the access routes to Waterloo . For sleeper passengers Waterloo would be ideal with easy access to Canary Wharf, the City and Westminster.

  • Maurice Hopper, Exeter

    £130 million to build. 13 years working life. £27,000 per day while it was open. What a waste.
    Probably one of the best station designs this country will ever have.... heaps better then the shoe-box stuck on the front of St Pancras.
    With all the space for border control underneath surely it has a life for Airtrack to both Heathrow and Gatwick.....
    But let's do something ... quickly.

  • Miles, London

    Ok, I have officially lost all faith in Britain to run its rail railways.

    You would of thought they'd notice such an obvious issue in 2007? Well future Crossrails and Thameslink projects should help the situaution. Besides, St. Pancas hasn't that many international platforms, Waterloo may one day be needed again for services to Spain or Amsterdam if capacity is too scarce at St. Pancras.

    (Very unlikely indeed, since all international rolling stock other than the first-generation Eurostars will be out of gauge anywhere on the present domestic network, and also in the case of Waterloo incompatible with the traction current.—Editor.)

  • Chris, Ryde

    The problem is, and remains, a simple one - they are on the wrong side of the station to where longer platforms are needed, are accessed by a single lead junction, and need expensive alterations to the concourse which can only be justified if they are all in regular use.

    That can't happen until there's been a complete reorganisation of the Waterloo approach lines - needless to say that will be a massively expensive and disruptive project and can only be justified as part of a long term capacity relief scheme.

  • Paul Scott, Southampton

    Never mind the details, I can't really see what the 'news' is. If anyone had been following the CP4 enhancement plan updates/revisions, published every quarter for the last few years, it is quite clear that DfT relaxed the project aims to 'Platform 20 only' quite some time ago, probably a year or more.

    The parliamentary answer hasn't really provided anything new that wasn't already obvious.

    (The fact of the Parliamentary answer is the story here.—Editor.)

  • Mark, Reading

    .... And of course the site would work very well as a new office block recevopment opportunity ....
    Platforms too narrow? They're wider than most of the others already
    This "setback" is just an excuse for another agenda maybe?
    Common sense cries out for the platforms to be put back to use immediately

  • Keith Ashington, Milton Keynes

    In the interim, use the station for the Sleeper service.

    1) All passengers flow to the station in the evening and away in the morning.
    2) No rush to get the Sleeper out of platforms - they could arrive early, allowing passengers to deposit luggage then go and look around london before departure (also applies and after arrival)
    3) Platform long enough for Caledonian sleeper, even if they replace the life expireed Mark II seated coaches with MK III.
    4) Extra platform capacity at Paddington and Euston for commuter services
    5) Trains would depart via clapham and the West London Line to either the GWML or the WCML (extra journey time immaterial, more time to sleep)
    6) theoretically, the coaches could be services in Waterloo, allowing them to stay there all day (like a proper hotel train)

  • Alex, Konstanz

    I feel utilisation of these platforms should be implemented in conjunction with the proposed Airtrack scheme, which would be a cost effective way of linking South London to Heathrow (Terminal 5).

    The main problem with Airtrack was that the extra trains would could road traffic chaos due to the large numbers of level crossings between Putney and Staines. The solution would be to run longer trains (12 or even 16 carriage trains - depending on how feasible platform extension at other stations is), and split them at Staines for Heathrow and Reading. Same number of trains - double the number of carriages.

    Waterloo International's platforms, with under platform access, could work well for this. Departures and Arrivals, and hence delays, would need to be carefully controlled to enusre safe passenger flows.

  • Lee, Manchester

    Not a very good headline to be broadcast across the web, especially as we are now embroiled in HS2! It makes me cringe that we invented the intercity railway, we invented 'high speed' rail, exported railway technology around the world and now have issues like this to deal with, along with the West Coast franchise debarcle, import everything from Europe, Canada, the states and generally everywhere else in the world and will take 20+ years to deliver one railway line. I think the Wescoast and Eastcoast mainlines, Great Western mainline and Great Central routes were all largely completed in less time, though I conceded I might be wrong on this point.

  • Michael Pantlin, Sutton, Surrey, ENGLAND

    Does anyone know whether the disused international platforms are required as a back up diversionary terminus should the regular terminal at St. Pancras become unusable for some contingency?

    (Yes we do know, and the answer is no. The traction systems are no longer compatible, for one thing (Eurostars were stripped of their conductor shoes and associated DC equipment after the move to St P.) The fallback London terminus is Stratford International, I believe -- because Stratford was designed to handle international passenger flows, even though it doesn't normally see any.—Editor.)


    Why not actually do a planned and controlled test during the morning peak and evening peak on one day to test the conditions that could be experienced, computer models etc don't work, only a real live test would work, using services from Reading/Windsor/Weybridge.

  • Tim, Devon

    Apparently the platforms are the wrong height for domestic trains. Also the rail network outside the station couldn't cope with more than 8 trains per hour.
    Still I think it would be worth it. It's better to have them in use for only a few services every hour than have them stand empty whilst the rest of the main station is crowded.

  • Philip Russell, Carlisle

    Im sure we have some of the UKs finest engineers developing our railways future, but in reality we dont always have the time or money to implement their gold plated ideas straight away.In the past BR knew this and was very good at getting things done quickly on a tight budget and recently we have seen the rapid completion of the paisley canal electrification, its a shame similar willpower cannot be applied to this project.

  • Lorentz, London

    This was to be expected, and has been anticipated since 2007 as far as I recall. The platforms are too narrow for commuter traffic, and it would be difficult to meet safety requirements around passenger flows with the current layout, and would effectively prevent simultaneous arrivals on adjacent platforms. Pretty much what has now been admitted.

    There is also the other consideration, that any major re-work of Waterloo International may only see a few years service before it too is made redundant, this time by the proposed Crossrail 2.

    Once again the Ministry have messed up on this and it should have been left to the private sector to resolve.

  • Jamie, Sheffield (formerly of Farnborough)

    How hard can it be to knock a few walls through?

  • Chris Neville-Smith, Durham, England

    Oh dear. Some serious questions need asking over why this was never thought of back in 1994, when plans for HS1 were well underway. Still, this was back in the day when the government thought the WCML upgrade was a good idea, so maybe we should keep it in context.

    How much would it cost to link platforms 20-24 straight to the station concourse without having to go up and down the stairs? Surely it can't cost more than that mezzanine they've just opened?

  • Hugh Collins, Cheltenham

    What a pathetic line of reasoning! Use the transport resources we have - now - please

  • Tim, Devon

    I too am amazed that they can't sort something out. Why does everything have to be so complicated? Stick in a few more escalators and replace the ticket barriers. What other problems are there?

  • Mark Savage, Feltham, Middlesex

    The big question has to be, surely, why has it apparently taken the powers that be so long to work out this "setback"? Surely it should have been evident from the start that the very different former needs of Waterloo International might cause some challenges for a return to domestic operation?

    But, from the account that Railnews has given here at least, I cannot really see where the problem lies. Indeed, potentially having a "one way flow" could actually enhance passenger flow, surely? I'm no expert, but for most trains arriving at Waterloo there will be two pedestrian flows- one of passengers leaving the train, the other of waiting to board. Why cannot the arriving passengers be directed along the "exit" route, i.e. the one through which arriving passengers would normally have walked to clear immigration and customs, while departing passengers wanting to catch the same service on its next journey out use the "outbound" lane to get back to the platforms?

    At present, the neighbouring Platform 19- which carries most of the busy Reading line services originally displaced from Platforms 20-24 when Waterloo International was built (the other Windsor Line services also used this platform group) is often very congested at the gateline, with arriving passengers conflicting with departing passengers, even though of course the layout at Waterloo "domestic" now allows access to all platforms through any gate. An innovative "one way" system on the former Waterloo International platforms could surely be used as a way to speed up both boarding and leaving of commuter trains?

    Unless, of course, somebody can explain the problem better for me...?

  • Melvyn Windebank, Canvey Island, Essex

    Think about it commuters are also one way flows with passengers arriving in the morning and departing in the evening so their must be a way to sorte
    Waterloo International out!