We’re working hard on our response to Network Rail’s Kent Route Study. Buried in that document are long-term plans for the redevelopment of Charing Cross station over the river in the style of the new Blackfriars. It then says: “A new link to Waterloo from a southern entrance to Charing Cross may supersede Waterloo East allowing the station area to be used for additional track capacity”.
In other words, Waterloo East station could be demolished.
Waterloo East has certainly seen better days. The only accessible entrance route is via a lift to Waterloo main station. And, as we have pointed out previously, there’s no direct street-level access at all at the eastern end.
Moreover from a railway point of view it is expensive to operate, with busy curved platforms requiring station staff to assist with train despatch and with three gate-lines to be staffed as well.
Against this, Waterloo East gives rail travellers some unique advantages, including:
- the walk between Waterloo East and Waterloo is a trudge over the footbridge, but it is much quicker than a walk from the southern end of Hungerford Bridge (think Royal Festival Hall) would be. The walk from Hungerford Bridge also now requires crossing the busy York Road since the footbridge by the old Shell Centre has been removed.
- it gives an interchange to the Jubilee Line via Southwark – which spreads the load that would otherwise all be concentrated at London Bridge.
- via Southwark Station there are good bus services across Blackfriars Bridge to the western part of the City.
- an alternative to Charing Cross and to London Bridge for some travellers, reducing congestion at those other heavily congested stations.
The rail industry may claim that the removal of Waterloo East would improve headline journey times to and from Charing Cross by a couple of minutes. (Of course, they may just use this to allow further padding of the timetable to meet performance targets.) But for customers one would have to add back longer walking times back to Waterloo Station, more congestion at London Bridge and longer end-to-end journey times to the western part of the City. That means that the overall effect on the times that matter to real people might even be negative.
What’s more, Network Rail themselves say that removing the bottleneck of capacity at Charing Cross will only “then move the bottleneck to other locations on the route, including North Kent East Junction, Lewisham, Parks Bridge Junction and the two track section between Orpington and Sevenoaks.” So in practice there could be no additional capacity from a massive investment in Charing Cross rebuilding.
What do you think? Please let us know here.