London Waterloo Chaos: Storm in a Teacup?

As the second weekday of the ‘month of hell’ at London Waterloo commences, reports are flooding in to give eye-witness accounts of just how bad things are at the affected stations.

The UK’s busiest station is undergoing a hefty upgrade in the platform department, with platforms 1 to 9 closed from August 5 to August 28. The planned engineering work will see the platforms extended, meaning longer trains and ultimately more space for commuters during peak times.

South West Trains had warned of potential major disruption with a handful of stations (including Norbiton and Queenstown Road) closed, whilst many other services will be reduced or axed. A queuing system was also said to be being put in place, with queue times set to hit 45 minutes at Waterloo and around 20 minutes at Kingston.

Among a flurry of conflicting reports, we took to the tracks and headed to Waterloo station for ourselves to see whether or not the chaotic scenes would unfold before our eyes…

Across the first weekday morning (7 August), the disruption appeared to be minimal – besides, that is, the usual delayed services that we’ve unfortunately come to expect, with signal failures occurring on several occasions. It’s a massive irritant, that’s for sure, yet sadly not something out of the ordinary. Many reported clearer platforms at stations such as Teddington, Wimbledon and Twickenham, whilst many commuter services were seen to be less busy. It appeared that the Brit’s stubborn attitude had been forcibly shifted and alternate travel arrangements had been made. Shocker!

The second morning (8 August) appeared a little more hectic with, you guessed it, more signal failures. It was a certainly overcrowded, stressful and exhausting experience, although these are three factors that the average London Waterloo commuter is beyond used to. Despite further delays and signalling issues, by 8:30am London Waterloo seemed to be in standard working order (for a short while, anyway) – even the line at Starbucks was barely spilling out the door.

Waterloo hectic due to the upgrades. #london #commute #waterloo #trains #swt

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The first evening (7 August), on the other hand, appeared to be a slightly different story. Further signalling problems combined with an influx of commuters desperate to get home as quickly as possible spelled chaos for the Monday evening Waterloo rush hour, with the station crammed with people in a display described by some as “shambolic”.

Queues formed as people attempted to get out from the London Underground whilst several delays left the main body of the station jam-packed with commuters.With an estimated 270,000 journeys passing through London Waterloo every day, it’s no surprise that the suspension of such a great chunk of the services is having a mighty affect.

That said, once we’d managed to bag ourselves a seat, the trains remained relatively quiet. Public transport – it’s a funny old world.

Arriving back in Kingston at 18:45pm, the dust seemed to have settled for the most part, with the platforms practically completely clear.

It’s evident that the upgrade works are certainly uprooting the smoothness of all London Waterloo-based journeys, but ask yourself – was it really ever that smooth in the first place?

Based on our experiences thus far, we’d suggest allowing for an extra thirty minutes of disruption during peak times.

Fingers crossed all works out well (or as well as possible…) tonight.