Hundreds of thousands of commuters will benefit today from reduced congestion at Britain’s busiest railway station as the first stage of a £10m improvement project at Waterloo nears completion.
From today, commuters passing between Waterloo and Waterloo East stations will be able to use four new escalators connected to a 220-metre balcony which runs almost the full width of the station. This new access route between the two busy stations, which are used by a combined 300,000 passengers a day, removes the previous bottleneck and forms part of a wider plan to provide more space for passengers at concourse level.
The scheme is also creating 20,000 sq ft of new retail space at first floor level, accessed by the balcony. When complete, passengers will benefit from a wider choice of places to eat and shop. Ten new brands including Carluccio’s, Corney & Barrow and Thomas Pink will be opening in July, in time for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The work at the station, which started in April 2011, has already seen the removal of a number of retail units from the main concourse, further helping to relieve congestion for people using the station.
The balcony is part of Network Rail’s on-going programme of investment at stations to boost capacity, improve passenger flow and providing better customer information by installing a new announcing system.
Tim Shoveller, managing director of the Network Rail and South West Trains alliance, said: “Waterloo is the busiest station in Britain with more than 90m passengers a year. As the number of people using the station continues to rise, we need a radical solution to provide the space and facilities that passengers need. The new balcony will help ease congestion and improve the journeys of millions of people each year.”
David Biggs, director of property at Network Rail, said: “Following the successful launch of the new western concourse at King’s Cross earlier this year, we are continuing to invest in our stations to improve the facilities, layout and retail environment for passengers.
“The Waterloo balcony project is part of Network Rail’s wider retail strategy to create destination stations for both rail passengers and non-travelling customers, providing a sustainable source of income which can be re-invested directly into the rail network.”
Waterloo station is a major transport hub for the UK connecting London to popular destinations such as Bournemouth, Poole, Southampton, Portsmouth, Reading and Windsor.
A team of 150 specialist builders are working round the clock to complete the project on schedule.
It’s the first step in the expansion of Waterloo to improve station capacity with future aspirations to integrate the former Eurostar platforms in order to utilise all existing space available at the station.
The station – parts of which are grade two listed – opened in 1848 and this represents the first major investment at Waterloo in almost a century.