Is the end nigh for Waterloo East?

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.

 


Comments

Is the end nigh for Waterloo East? — 4 Comments

  1. Closure of Waterloo East would certainly be a retrograde step. It is a well used station and useful for Southwark station and quick and easy access to the underground network. Many commuters work in the vicinity and certainly losing this facility would mean much longer and more inconvenient journeys.

  2. A ‘Charing Cross Bridge’ station would be the worst of all words. Not only would there be a much longer walk to Waterloo Main Line station, the Old Vic, the Young Vic etc, the Strand would also be much further away from the trains and passengers would no doubt have to battle their way through a vast shopping mall where the platforms used to be.

    If it’s anything like Blackfriars it would be very disappointing. Access between Blackfriars Road and the ‘Third Class, South of The River’ end of Blackfriars station is surprisingly awkward, especially as it’s supposed to be a shiny new flagship. There are no escalators so it’s a long and awkward trudge up or down and a long walk along the lengthy platforms. It’s less hassle to continue on the road bridge and use the escalators at the ‘First Class, North of The River’ end, especially if you have a case.

    The benefits of building a cross-river station and closing Waterloo East would accrue only to penny pinching TOCs and greedy property developers, not to the passengers. Instead, what passengers really need is a fully accessible connection between Waterloo East and Hatfields / Greet Street, together with a full time and fully accessible connection between Charing Cross Mainline and Embankment Underground.

  3. I use Waterloo East on a daily basis. Whilst Waterloo East does offer access to the south bank, Waterloo station and Southwark Jubilee line station none of the access routes are user friendly. It is likely that the gradient of the ramps at the north end of Waterloo East would be too steep to comply with current disabled access regulations.
    If Waterloo East was to be sacrificed due to Charing Cross being redeveloped across the Thames and this was to provide additional capacity, more platforms and all platforms long enough to accommodate twelve coach trains, it might be beneficial overall. However, as part of the redevelopment could a Charing Cross to Waterloo and Southwark dedicated shuttle rail line be included; running every five/ten minutes depending on the time of day and free to use for anybody with a rail ticket to Waterloo or Charing Cross or Travelcard. Another essential requirement of the Charing Cross redevelopment if it is to take place would be for escalators between the platforms and ground level on the south side of the Thames. The lifts on the south side of Blackfriars do not offer enough capacity.

  4. I regularly use Waterloo East, to head over the Waterloo and get the Waterloo and City line into the City, which I find easier than changing to the Northern Line at London Bridge. I also frequently go to Teddington or down to Devon, both from Waterloo mainline, and coming into Waterloo East is quick and easy, not least as you can pull a wheeled case all the way; I would guess the new plans would make that more of an obstacle course.
    It of course important that Waterloo East should be more accessible but it is a very useful station and removing it would probably not help travellers for all the reasons you state.

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