Anger over Waterloo station reopening delays ‘mess’

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South Western Railway said there would be delays of at least 10 minutes

Train delays at the UK’s busiest railway station are expected to last until the end of the day following its reopening after engineering works.

Ten of London’s Waterloo station’s platforms were shut for almost a month for an £800m project to boost capacity.

The platforms came back into use on Tuesday morning but testing on the upgrade work identified a problem with the signalling equipment.

South Western Railway said there would be delays of at least 10 minutes.

Buses are replacing trains on the Shepperton, Hampton Court and Chessington South branches and between Weybridge and Virginia Water.

Compensation and other questions

Some stations on routes to Waterloo were closed this morning and there were more problems caused by a broken-down freight train between Eastleigh and Southampton, while a broken-down train between Leatherhead and Effingham Junction in Surrey blocked lines.

Network Rail said Waterloo had fully reopened following one of the “largest and most complex” upgrades in the station’s history.

A spokeswoman said a 1,000-strong team of engineers and trackside staff had been working 24 hours a day for the past three-and-a-half weeks to complete the work, which would boost capacity at the station by 30% by December 2018, providing space for another 45,000 passengers at morning and evening peaks.

Becky Lumlock, route managing director at Network Rail, said: “The work we have completed in three-and-a-half weeks this August will benefit passengers for decades to come. The longer platforms will create space for longer trains, making journeys more comfortable for passengers, particularly at the busiest times of day.

“Over the next 16 months, we’ll turn our attention to the final stages of the redevelopment of the former international terminal.”

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The £800m station upgrade is to accommodate longer trains and provide space for 30% extra passengers

Passengers have taken to social media to express their frustration at the problems:

Jasper Johns said his journey from Kingston was delayed by up to 40 minutes.

The 35-year-old said: “There was an expectation or doubt that it would be ready, because they’re pretty poor when they do these works anyway.

“But you’ve kind of had enough. Say 10 minutes more in the morning, then another 20 minutes perhaps in the evening, you take that over a week – it’s an extra hour or so you spend commuting. Over three weeks.

“I’ve certainly felt more tired. I’m reasonably young and healthy, but my wife is seven months pregnant, and there’s obviously older and younger people who commute as well, it’s not as easy on them either.”

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Passengers were told in an email that services running across the whole South Western Railway network may be cancelled, delayed or revised.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers will be disappointed that, after all the promises, communications and planning, the Waterloo upgrade slipped. Passengers booked tickets and made travel plans based on the promises made by the industry.

“Clearly the priority is to get things moving again: it is crucial that information is clear and plenty of staff are on hand to help. Then this must be reviewed to make sure the lessons of today are learnt and built into future events.

“In the meantime, every single passenger affected should claim compensation. Send a clear message to the industry and make sure your voice is heard.”

Andy Mellors, managing director for South Western Railway, added: “I’d like to thank our passengers for their patience over the past few weeks.

“It’s clearly been a challenging time but these improvement works will help us deliver the increased capacity needed for the future.”

London Waterloo

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  • It has 19 platforms
  • An average of 270,000 journeys are normally made to and from Waterloo every day
  • More than 99 million passenger journeys were made from Waterloo in 2016
  • South Western Railway operates 1,600 trains a day, carrying 651,000 passengers, making it the busiest commuter operator in Europe

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