Britain’s busiest station became swamped by a sea of fed up commuters this evening after engineering works saw half of the platforms closed causing widespread delays.
Thousands of passengers were seen staring longingly up at departure boards as they tried to make their way home from London Waterloo.
Today marked the first day of at least three weeks of disruption at the station which is extending its platforms to accommodate longer, modern trains.
Crowds of fed-up commuters stare longingly at departure boards at London Waterloo stations which has seen nearly half its platforms closed for at least three weeks
The station’s concourse began to fill up at about 4pm this afternoon. There were soon thousands of people waiting around
Passengers were forced to battle to get on trains which were only running every hour to some destinations
Passengers were advised to consider taking a holiday, working from home or travelling earlier or later than normal while the project is underway
Some trains were much shorter in length than usual, while others took less carriages to their final destinations
Rail chiefs had been prepared for chaos and put out warnings months ago.
Passengers were advised to consider taking a holiday, working from home or travelling earlier or later than normal while the project is underway.
As the day began, it appeared that many commuters had taken their advice with some morning passengers posting pictures of surprisingly empty trains on social media.
But as the evening rush-hour began, at around 4pm, Waterloo’s concourse began to get busier and it was not long before passengers were forced to battle to get on trains which were only running every hour to some destinations and with limited carriages.
Sarah McAteer, 34, who was travelling from Waterloo to Basingstoke at around 5pm, said: ‘The station is starting to get a lot busier and it’s really hot.
‘There seems to be a lot less trains running and they are shorter, but they are on time at the moment.
‘There also seems to be a lot of queues to get on the trains, so hopefully they won’t be too busy once we get on.’
Network Rail boss Mark Carne has pledged that the £400million upgrade work will be completed by August 28
Business bosses have warned that the disruption could cause permanent damage to small companies
A transport police officer watches from the mezzanine as the crowds hit their peak at around 6pm on Monday
Rail chiefs had been prepared for chaos and put out warnings months ago. Extra staff have been put on during the works to help ease the congestion
Rail staff even handed out free ice cream for passengers to help them get through the delays
An average of 270,000 journeys are normally made to or from Waterloo every day, with South West trains serving 200 stations as far away as Exeter
Rail chiefs put extra staff on to cope with the expected crowds and were handing out bottles of water.
South West Trains even laid on free ice cream for commuters to help them get through the rush-hour period with queues for confectionery almost as big as those for trains.
Passenger Dominic Bridge, 32, who was trying to get to Reading, said: ‘It’s chaos trying to get through the turnstiles, there’s so many people trying to get on every train.
‘There’s only one train every hour and that next one is still delayed. I’m not going to get back until very late.
‘I hope it isn’t going to be like this every day during the works.’
Ten of the station’s 21 platforms have been closed, although the old Eurostar platforms have been brought back into use during the works.
South West Trains warned there could be delays of 15 to 20 minutes due to a signalling failure this evening, leading a congestion of the service.
Some services between Waterloo and Clapham Junction were cancelled altogether.
Kelly Smith, 28, from Guildford, Surrey, said: ‘They shut the main gate so no-one can get in.
‘Inside it’s absolute madness, total chaos, there’s no organisation and no one knows what’s going on. The staff don’t have any information and you get directed in the wrong direction.
‘There’s not enough trains and the ones that are runny are delayed.’
Other passengers complained there was dangerous overcrowding as they tried to make their way from the underground to the main station.
Paul Mason, 41, from Surbiton, south west London, said: ‘The worst part is the crowd control on the underground.
‘It’s pretty dangerous actually. People coming from the Jubilee line are being taken on a one way system then through onto the closed platforms to get to the main station.
‘There’s a really dangerous situation with overcrowding down there.’
Adrian Hunter, 26, who was travelling to Hounslow, west London, added: ‘There’s a lot of people trying to come up from the underground and they just can’t, there’s too many people.
‘I don’t know why they aren’t letting people up.’
Passengers squeeze in to a busy carriage at the station, which has shut ten of its platforms for the duration of the project
Commuters will not be entitled to any special compensation, despite in many cases paying thousands of pounds for a season ticket
Passengers will only be eligible for a pay out if a train on the reduced timetable is more than sixty minutes late
Network Rail boss Mark Carne today pledged that the works would be completed by August 28 and that the £400million upgrade had been planned with ‘military precision’.
He told the London Evening Standard: ‘We have a fantastic team of people, 1,000 people working night and day over the next three weeks and I am very confident this job is going to go well.
‘The vast majority of NR engineering jobs do run on time… 99.8 per cent or so do run on time.’
An average of 270,000 journeys are normally made to or from Waterloo every day, with South West trains serving 200 stations as far away as Exeter.
Almost 100 million passengers pass through the station each year.
The evening scenes were much different from the morning with one picture showing the station looking virtually empty.
The morning commuters who did take their usual services were left questioning whether people had chosen to work from home instead.
Morning commuters who did take their usual services were left questioning whether people had chosen to work from home instead
Abi Lavelle posted a video of her empty platform on Twitter and wrote: ‘ermmmmm I guess everyone else is working from home? #WaterlooUpgrade’
Christopher O’Dell tweeted a picture of his lonely carriage. He said: ‘Looks like everyone took SWT Waterloo warnings to heart. My normally packed Monday morning train. #swt #ghosttrain’
Katie Simmons uploaded a picture of her logging in to her laptop in front of her fireplace. She added: ‘My view for the next couple of weeks. #waterlooupgrade’
Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: ‘It’s gone very well this morning. So far, so good.
‘This is the start of a three-week campaign and there will be some difficult days I’m quite sure.
‘But passengers I think understand that this is a necessary evil to achieve a fantastic improvement in the services that they are going to enjoy for decades ahead.’
Student Elia Hristova, 24, travelled from Clapham Junction around 7am, and said she was ‘expecting much worse’.
She said: ‘It wasn’t too bad, I was expecting it to be much worse.
‘I travelled about 20 minutes earlier than I would have normally but it wasn’t much busier.
‘I’m a lot more worried about this evening, I think that is when it will be busier.
‘There’s not a good time to do this work, they should’ve done it in phases.’
Commuters were expected to face major disruption today with half the station platforms closed at Waterloo
Waterloo station (pictured today) is undergoing a major upgrade which will last several weeks
Timetable boards at London Waterloo this morning which show heavy delays to many trains as result of the construction work taking place at the station
Alex, 29, took his usual train from Guildford, arriving at 8:45, and said it was ‘absolutely fine’.
He said: ‘It took about ten minutes longer but it wasn’t delayed, it was absolutely fine.
‘I was expecting it to be bad but I think most people have worked from home or taken alternative routes. I’m hoping it’s the same this evening.’
But some people were badly affected by the disruption at Waterloo – claiming their journeys were still disrupted.
Despite South West Trains’ best efforts, there were still delays, with trains entering Waterloo from Clapham Junction at ‘walking pace’ and disruption caused by signalling failures.
Empty trains and deserted platforms surprised many commuters today heading to and from Waterloo in London, as huge queues and packed carriages were expected. Pictured is Guildford station this morning
Passengers across the South of England face a hard slog to get to work from this morning
Nearly half of the platforms at London Waterloo train station will be closed until August 28
Claire, 25, was heading home to Surbiton or Kingston, but was struggling to get a train
Eloise White, 24, travelled from Surbiton and said although the train was emptier than usual, it took three times as long.
She said: ‘It took so much longer, the trains are really messed up now.
‘It took me 45 minutes when it’s meant to take 15 so I had to get an earlier train.
‘It wasn’t as busy as I thought but it took so much longer – I managed to get a seat because it wasn’t really packed.
‘I think it will be horrendous this evening though because there are far less trains.’
Crowds gathered eagerly around departure boards in Waterloo in the hope their trains would leave on time.
Claire, 25, was heading home to Surbiton or Kingston, but was struggling to get a train.
She said: ‘I’ve been waiting about ten minutes but I don’t know when I’ll be leaving because they’re all just delayed.
Commuters this morning at London Waterloo as construction work takes place at the station which has left platforms one to ten shut, resulting in heavy delays
Engineering work continues at Waterloo Station in London in a major overhaul of the travel hub
The project to extend the station’s platforms will allow longer trains to operate on suburban routes from December and provide space for 30 per cent more passengers at peak times, Network Rail said
‘I was expecting problems, it’s alright so far thought. I think it will take longer than usual, maybe twice as long. It’s normally fine though.’
Customers reported packed trains from further south, with services slashed from stations including Woking.
James Randall tweeted: ‘A whole month of standing from Woking to Waterloo and no compensation offered? #southwesttrains #delayed #poorservice #terrible’
Fiona Kay added: ‘Hands up if you’re dealing with the Waterloo nightmare #trainpain’
However some commuters said their journey had been less painful than expected.
Work began at London Waterloo on Saturday meaning there will be fewer South West Trains services from popular commuter locations such as Woking, Guildford and Surbiton.
Some stations, including Earlsfield and Norbiton station are closed and others will be much busier than normal over the course of the project.
Those living in the Kingston upon Thames area will have to take a bus replacement service to Worcester Park to get into Waterloo as the Chessington branch line has been shut.
South West is receiving compensation from Network Rail for lost ticket sales due to the disruption.
This will also compensate it for the 1,000 extra staff it has hired at stations during the engineering works.
But commuters will not be entitled to any special compensation, despite in many cases paying thousands of pounds for a ticket.
They will only be eligible for a pay out if a train on the reduced timetable is more than sixty minutes late.
South West Trains says it will only offer compensation on days when there has been ‘severe disruption’ and ‘no alternative transport’, as per its passengers’ charter.
This will be galling for many commuters, with a year’s season ticket between Southampton and London Waterloo costing £5,424 – the equivalent of £452 a month.
Robert Flello, an independent transport consultant and former Labour MP said: ‘It would no harm for Network Rail or South West trains to reward loyal customers who have had to put up with disruption through thick and thin.
‘This could come in the form of giving them a hefty discount when they renew their season ticket.’
There will be fewer South West Trains services from popular locations for London commuters
An average of 270,000 journeys are normally made to or from London Waterloo every day
South West Trains services serve 200 stations on the train network as far away as Exeter
Almost 100 million passengers pass through London Waterloo station each year
Business bosses have also warned that the disruption could cause permanent damage to small companies.
A spokesperson for the Federation of Small Businesses said: ‘Many restaurants, hotels and shops will experience cancelled bookings and lost sales that will not be recovered.’
The Waterloo work will culminate over the August bank holiday weekend, when it will be one of a number of large projects being carried out.
Passengers hoping to take a leisure trip on the final public holiday before Christmas will find major changes to services out of London Bridge, London Euston, London Liverpool Street and London Paddington.
Ice-cream will also be handed out to passengers at London Victoria, London Bridge and Euston this week as part of a promotional campaign to remind people to plan their journeys in advance.
Business bosses have warned the disruption could cause permanent damage to small firms
First Group and Hong Kong-based MTR will take over the South West Trains franchise from Stagecoach on August 20.
A South West Trains spokesman said: ‘Well-established arrangements are in place to ensure train operators are no better or worse off financially as a result of disruptive work required to be carried out by Network Rail.
‘This takes account not only of lost passenger revenue, but additional costs incurred by operators, such as making alternative travel arrangements for passengers, for example replacement buses, and providing extra staff at stations to help customers.’