Network Rail apologises for fresh delays at Waterloo as passengers voice anger
Signalling problems closed platforms during the early morning rush hour.
Network Rail has apologised to passengers after fresh delays hit the UK’s busiest railway station on the day that long-running engineering works were completed.
Chief executive Mark Carne said London Waterloo was fully reopened “a little bit later than planned” following a signalling problem that closed platforms during the early morning rush hour.
Speaking from Waterloo via a video message, Mr Carne said the “amazing” project to increase capacity by 30% would make a “huge difference” in the long run.
But passengers voiced their anger at the new delays, with some asking how Mr Carne had managed to get to Waterloo to deliver his message.
Rail-users faced delays and cancellations as nearly a month’s worth of disruption caused by an £800 million overhaul continued into Tuesday.
Some stations on routes to Waterloo were closed this morning, disruption continued until the afternoon, 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 was fully reopened after one of the “largest and most complex” upgrades in the station’s history, adding that safety-critical work to test the signalling had taken slightly longer than planned.
A 1,000-strong team of engineers and trackside staff have been working 24 hours a day for the past three-and-a-half weeks to complete the work, part of an £800 million upgrade which will 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. We’ll be working behind the scenes so that we can, by the end of next year, permanently bring the five extra platforms back into use for what will become a modern, high-frequency commuter terminal fit for the 21st century.”
Andy Mellors, managing director for South Western Railway, said: “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.”
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said the financial beneficiaries of the upgrade will be the new operators of the South Western franchise – a consortium of the First Group and Hong Kong- based MTR.
The union is seeking assurances about the role of guards as the company embarks on a programme of new and refurbished trains.
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 learned 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.”