London Waterloo station

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Template:Redirect Template:Use dmy dates Template:Use British English Template:Infobox London station London Waterloo station is a central London railway terminus and London Underground station complex in the London Borough of Lambeth.<ref name=network_rail>Template:Cite web</ref> It is one of 17 stations in Britain managed and operated by Network Rail, and is located near the South Bank of the River Thames, in fare zone 1. A railway station on this site first came into being in 1848; the present structure was inaugurated in 1922. Part of the station is a Grade II listed building.

With over 94 million passenger entries and exits between April 2011 and March 2012, Waterloo is Britain's busiest railway station by passenger usage. The Waterloo complex is one of the busiest passenger terminals in Europe, and the 91st busiest railway station in the world. It has more platforms and a greater floor area than any other station in the United Kingdom (though Clapham Junction, just under Template:Convert down the line, has the largest number of trains). The station is the terminus for services from Chessington South, Hampton Court, Wimbledon, Epsom, Dorking, Guildford, Woking, Basingstoke, Salisbury, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Weymouth and Exeter.

Much of Waterloo's traffic is local or suburban. All regular services are operated by South West Trains. Adjacent is London Waterloo East railway station, which is managed and branded separately.

The station was the London terminus for Eurostar international trains from 1994 until 2007, when it was transferred to St Pancras International.


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Aiming at the City

The London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) opened the station on 11 July 1848 as 'Waterloo Bridge Station' (from the nearby crossing over the Thames) when its main line was extended from Nine Elms. The station, designed by William Tite, was raised above marshy ground on a series of arches.<ref name="Survey">'York Road', Survey of London: volume 23: Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall (1951), pp. 40-44. </ref> The unfulfilled intention was for a through station with services to the City of London. In 1886, it officially became "Waterloo Station", reflecting long-standing common usage, even in some L&SWR timetables.


The L&SWR's aim throughout much of the 19th century was to extend its main line eastward beyond Waterloo into the City of London. Given this, it was reluctant to construct a dedicated grand terminus at Waterloo. However traffic and passenger usage continued to grow and the company expanded the station at regular intervals, with additions being made in 1854, 1860, 1869, 1875, 1878 and 1885. In each case the long-term plan was that the expansion was 'temporary' until Waterloo became through-station, and therefore these additions were simply added alongside and around the existing structure rather than as part of an overall architectural plan.

This resulted in the station becoming increasingly ramshackle. The original 1848 station became known as the 'Central Station' as other platforms were added. The new platform sets were known by nicknames - the two platforms added for suburban services in 1878 were the 'Cyprus Station', whilst the six built in 1885 for use by trains on the Windsor line became the 'Khartoum Station'. Each of these stations-within-a-station had its own booking office, taxi stand and public entrances from the street, as well as often poorly marked and confusing access to the rest of the station.

By 1899 Waterloo had 16 platform roads but only 10 platform numbers due to platforms in different sections of the station or on different levels sometimes duplicating the number of a platform elsewhere.<ref name="Biddle, 1973">Template:Cite book</ref> A little-used railway line even crossed the main concourse on the level and passed through an archway in the station building to connect to the South Eastern Railway's smaller station, now Waterloo East, whose tracks lie almost perpendicular to those of Waterloo. Passengers were, not surprisingly, confused by the layout and by the two adjacent stations called 'Waterloo'.

From 1897 there had also been the adjacent Necropolis Company station.<ref name="Marsden 1981 2,3">Template:Cite book</ref>

This complexity and confusion became the butt of jokes by writers and music hall comics for many years in the late 19th century, including Jerome K. Jerome in Three Men in a Boat (see below).


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A pair of Class 421 units at Waterloo in 1979; behind them is a Class 487 Driving Motor car, on the site eventually used for Waterloo International
By the late 1890s the L&SWR accepted that main-line access to the City was impossible. In 1898 the company opened the Waterloo & City line, a 'tube' underground railway that ran directly between Waterloo and the City. This gave the company the direct commuter service it had long desired (albeit with the need to change from surface to underground lines at Waterloo). With Waterloo now destined to remain a terminus station, and with the old station becoming a source of increasingly bad will and publicity amongst the travelling public, the L&SWR decided on total rebuilding.

Legal powers to carry out the work were granted in 1899, and extensive groundwork and slum clearance were carried out until 1904, when construction on the terminus proper began. The new station was opened in stages, the first five new platforms opening in 1910. Construction continued sporadically throughout the First World War, and the new station finally opened in 1922 with 21 platforms and a concourse nearly Template:Convert long. The new station included a large stained glass window depicting the L&SWR's company crest over the main road entrance, surrounded by a frieze listing the counties served by the railway (the latter still survives today). These features were retained in the design despite the fact that by the time the station opened the 1921 Railway Act had been passed which spelt the end of the L&SWR as an independent concern.<ref name="Marsden 1981 2,3"/> The main pedestrian entrance, the Victory Arch (known as Exit 5), is a memorial to company staff who were killed during the two world wars. Damage to the station in World War II required considerable repair but entailed no significant changes of layout.

A past curiosity of Waterloo was that a spur led to the adjoining dedicated London Necropolis railway station of the London Necropolis Company, from which funeral trains, at one time daily, ran to Brookwood Cemetery bearing coffins at 2/6 each. This station was destroyed during World War II.

Ownership of Waterloo underwent a succession, broadly typical of many British stations. Under the 1923 Grouping it passed to the Southern Railway (SR), then in the 1948 nationalisation to British Railways. Following the privatisation of British Rail, ownership and management passed to Railtrack in April 1994 and finally in 2002 to Network Rail.


Platforms 20 and 21 were lost to the Waterloo International railway station site, which from November 1994 to November 2007 was the London terminus of Eurostar international trains to Paris and Brussels. Construction necessitated the removal of decorative masonry forming two arches from that side of the station, bearing the legend "Southern Railway". This was re-erected at the private Fawley Hill Museum of Sir William McAlpine, whose company built Waterloo International. Waterloo International closed when the Eurostar service transferred to the new St Pancras railway station with the opening of the second phase of "HS1", High Speed route 1, also known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link or CTRL. Ownership of the former Waterloo International terminal then passed to BRB (Residuary) Ltd.

Station facilities

The major transport interchange at Waterloo comprises London Waterloo, Waterloo East, the Underground station (which includes the Waterloo and City line to Bank, known informally as 'The Drain'), and several bus stops. There are over 130 automated ticket gates on the station concourse, plus another 27 in the subway below.

Waterloo station connects to Waterloo East railway station, across Waterloo Road, by a high-level walkway, constructed mostly above the previous walkway which used the bridge of the former connecting curve.

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Waterloo station clock
River services operate from nearby London Eye Pier and Festival Pier.

A large four-faced clock hangs in the middle of the main concourse. Meeting "under the clock at Waterloo" is a traditional rendezvous.

Retail balcony

Network Rail has constructed a balcony along almost the whole width of the concourse at the first-floor level. The project's aims were to provide 18 new retail spaces and a champagne bar, reduce congestion on the concourse, and improve access to Waterloo East station by providing additional escalators leading to the high-level walkway between Waterloo and Waterloo East. Retail and catering outlets have been removed from the concourse to make more circulation space. First-floor offices have been converted into replacement and additional retail and catering spaces. Work was completed in July 2012, at a cost of £25 million.

Police station

For many years there was a British Transport Police police station at Waterloo by the Victory Arch, with a custody suite of three cells. Although it was relatively cramped, until the late 1990s over 40 police officers operated from it. Following the closure of the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo, the police station closed in February 2009, and the railway station is now policed from a new Inner London Police Station a few yards from Waterloo at Holmes Terrace. Until July 2010, the Neighbourhood Policing Team for Waterloo consisted of an Inspector, a Sergeant, two Constables, Special Constables, and 13 PCSOs - this establishment was significantly increased by the introduction of the 'Neighbourhood Hub Team' at Waterloo, involving police officers responsible for policing London Underground.

Transport links

London bus routes 1, 4, 26, 59, 68, 76, 77, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 211, 243, 341, 381, 507, 521, RV1, X68 and night buses N1, N68, N76, N171, N343 and N381. Some buses call at stops by the side of the station on Waterloo Road, others at Tenison Way, a short distance from the Victory Arch. These stops replace a former bus station at the lower (Waterloo Road) level where there are now retail outlets and an expanded entrance to the Underground.


Waterloo Main

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The Waterloo concourse in June 2013, with retail balcony
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Looking at the information screens from the retail balcony, October 2012

The main part of the railway station complex is known as "Waterloo Main" or simply Waterloo. This is the London terminus for services towards the south coast and the south-west of England. Waterloo has 19 terminal platforms in use, making it the joint biggest station in the UK in terms of platform numbers with Template:Stnlnk. The intention is to bring platform 20 of the former International Station into use as part of Waterloo Main early in 2014. The station is managed by Network Rail, and all regular trains are operated by South West Trains.

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Waterloo International

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Farewell message from Eurostar to the erstwhile International station, viewed from western side of main concourse, December 2007

Template:Main Waterloo International was the terminus for Eurostar international trains from 1994 until 2007, when they transferred to new international platforms at Template:Stnlnk. Waterloo International's five platforms were numbered 20 to 24.

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Waterloo East


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The entrance to Waterloo East from the main station at Waterloo

Adjacent to the main station is a through station called "Waterloo East", the last stop on the South Eastern Main Line towards London before the terminus at Charing Cross. This has four platforms, known as A to D to avoid confusion with the numbered platforms in the main station. Waterloo East is managed and branded separately from the main station. Trains go to southeast London, Kent and parts of East Sussex. All regular services are operated by Southeastern.

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Waterloo Underground station

Template:Main Waterloo is served by the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern (Charing Cross branch) and Waterloo & City lines. It is one of only two London terminals without a close connection to the Circle Line, the other being London Bridge.

The Waterloo and City Line is open Mondays to Saturdays only as it is intended almost exclusively for commuters who work in the City of London. Template:Clear Template:S-start Template:S-rail Template:S-line Template:S-line Template:S-line Template:S-line Template:End


Platform lengthening project

In order to increase capacity on South West Trains' overcrowded suburban services into Waterloo, there have for several years been plans to increase train lengths from 8 cars to 10. This would require the lengthening of platforms and in particular platforms 1 to 4, which will be a technically complex operation as it will entail a substantial repositioning of track-work and points. SWT also says it would need to have access to at least three of the currently disused international platforms 20 to 24 (see below). Further progress depends on decisions by the Government, and SWT says that until then it cannot proceed with ordering longer trains.<ref name="balance">Template:Cite news</ref>

Former international platforms

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The disused Grimshaw-designed shed of the former Waterloo International can be seen nearer to camera, with the older train shed behind. In the foreground are the Shell Centre (left) and County Hall (right).

Since the transfer of Eurostar services from Waterloo, the former Eurostar platforms 20-24 of Waterloo International have remained unused. Waterloo suffers significant capacity problems, and there are proposals to convert the former international station to domestic use. In December 2008 preparatory work was carried out to enable platform 20 to be used by South West Trains suburban services, including the removal of equipment such as customs control facilities, at an estimated cost of between £50,000 and £100,000.<ref name="LondonSE1-1">Template:Cite news</ref> However, the conversion of the remaining platforms has been delayed as it would require further alterations to the station infrastructure. It is now intended to reuse the international platforms for Windsor services. The cost of maintaining the disused platforms up to late 2010 was found via a Freedom of Information request to have been £4.1 million.<ref name="balance"/>

The project has been criticised for its delayed completion date;<ref name="LondonSE1-2">Template:Cite news</ref> in 2009 the Department for Transport confirmed that Network Rail was developing High Level Output Specification options for the station, with an estimated date for the re-opening of the platforms of 2014, seven years after their closure.<ref name="standard-2014">Template:Cite news</ref>

In December 2011, South West Trains confirmed that platform 20 will be brought back into use in 2014, hosting certain services to and from Reading, Windsor, Staines and Hounslow. These will be 10-car trains newly formed from refurbished SWT and former Gatwick Express rolling stock.

From 4 July 2010 to 2 January 2011, two of the disused platforms hosted a theatrical performance of The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. The audience is seated either side of the actual railway track. The show included the use of a steam locomotive coupled to one of the original carriages from the 1970s film (propelled by a diesel locomotive). The performance moved to London after two acclaimed summer runs at the National Railway Museum in York.

Heathrow Airport links

Waterloo station was to be the central London terminus for the proposed Heathrow Airtrack rail service. This project, promoted by BAA, envisaged the construction of a spur from Template:Stnlnk on the Waterloo to Reading Line to Heathrow Airport, creating direct rail links from the airport to Waterloo, Template:Stnlnk and Guildford. Airtrack was planned to open in 2015, but was abandoned by BAA during 2011.<ref name="airtrack">Template:Cite web</ref> However in October 2011 Wandsworth Council proposed a revised plan called Airtrack-Lite, which would provide trains from Waterloo to Heathrow via the same proposed spur from Staines to Heathrow, but by diverting or splitting current services the frequency of trains over the existing level crossings would not increase. BAA's earlier plan had controversially proposed more trains over the level crossings, leading to concerns that they would be closed to motorists and pedestrians for too long.

Crossrail 3

Crossrail 3, backed by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and incumbent Boris Johnson would include a Template:Convert underground section in new tunnels connecting London Euston station and Waterloo, connecting the West Coast Main Line corridor with services to the south. However, Crossrail 3 is an unofficial proposal and not within the remit of Cross London Rail Links Ltd (and is not safeguarded as Crossrail 2 is).

Cultural references

The area took its name from the Battle of Waterloo.

In the 1990s, after Waterloo station was chosen as the British terminus for the Eurostar train service, Florent Longuepée, a municipal councillor in Paris, wrote to the British Prime Minister requesting that the station be renamed because he said it was upsetting for the French to be reminded of Napoleon's defeat when they arrived in London by Eurostar. There is a name counterpart in Paris: the Gare d'Austerlitz is named after the Battle of Austerlitz, one of Napoleon's greatest victories (over the Russians and Austrians).


  • The opening scene of the 1943 film Miss London Ltd. features Anne Shelton as a singing track announcer who works for the Southern Railway at Waterloo station.
  • Several scenes in the film Waterloo Road were filmed at Waterloo in 1945.
  • The station is the subject of John Schlesinger's 1961 documentary film Terminus.
  • The 1970 British Transport film Rush Hour includes several scenes filmed in the station.
  • Several scenes in The Bourne Ultimatum, starring Matt Damon, were filmed with British actor Paddy Considine at Waterloo between October 2006 and April 2007.
  • Bollywood film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom was filmed extensively within Waterloo and the storyline was set around two people awaiting passengers arriving at the station.
  • Scenes for Incendiary were filmed at the station during April and May 2007.
  • The station has been used to shoot scenes for films including London to Brighton, The Russian Dolls, Franklyn, Breaking and Entering and Outlaw.


Waterloo has frequently appeared in television productions, including Waking the Dead, The Commander, Spooks, The Apprentice, The Bill, Top Gear, and Only Fools and Horses.


Two of the most famous images of the station are the two Southern Railway posters "Waterloo Station - War" and "Waterloo Station - Peace", painted by Helen McKie for the 1948 centenary of the station. The two pictures show hundreds of busy travellers all in exactly the same positions and poses, but with altered clothing and roles. The preparatory sketches for these were drawn between 1939 and 1942.

The statue of Terence Cuneo by Philip Jackson at Waterloo

Other famous paintings of the station include the huge 1967 work by Terence Cuneo, in the collection of the National Railway Museum. A statue of Terence Cuneo by Philip Jackson was installed on the concourse in 2004.

In 1981, Shell UK commissioned a work of art to be exhibited above the Shell exit on a poster site which had been acquired from Esso, Shell’s great rival. The massive canvas measured 26 ft long x10 ft high. The artist commissioned to paint the mural was Jane Boyd, a recent graduate from Camberwell College of Arts. The work, entitled The Generation of Alternatives, was selected by a panel of judges comprising artists David Gentleman, John Piper and Gillian Ayres and it was viewed during execution and for a further six months by the quarter of a million people who passed through London Waterloo Station everyday – including several thousand Shell UK staff, bound for Shell Centre and Shell Mex House through what was known as the Shell Exit. One important element of the project was said by commission organiser John Collyer to be "the pleasure and interest enjoyed by Waterloo commuters as the painting was created before their eyes. Having acquired the site we wanted a project to intrigue and entertain. A mural being painted above travellers’ head seem to fit the bill”.


In Jerome K Jerome's 1889 comic novel, Three Men in a Boat, the protagonists spend some time in the station, trying to find their train to Kingston upon Thames:

We got to Waterloo at eleven, and asked where the eleven-five started from. Of course nobody knew; nobody at Waterloo ever does know where a train is going to start from, or where a train when it does start is going to, or anything about it. The porter who took our things thought it would go from number two platform, while another porter, with whom he discussed the question, had heard a rumour that it would go from number one. The station-master, on the other hand, was convinced it would start from the local.

After being given contradictory information by every railway employee they speak to, they eventually bribe a train driver to take his train to their destination.

In Robert Louis Stevenson & Lloyd Osbourne's novel The Wrong Box, much of the farcical plot revolves around the misdelivery of two boxes at Waterloo station, and the attempts by the various protagonists to retrieve them. This description of the station on Sunday is from the novel:

About twenty minutes after two, on this eventful day, the vast and gloomy shed of Waterloo lay, like the temple of a dead religion, silent and deserted. Here and there at one of the platforms, a train lay becalmed; here and there a wandering footfall echoed; the cab-horses outside stamped with startling reverberations on the stones; or from the neighbouring wilderness of railway an engine snorted forth a whistle. The main-line departure platform slumbered like the rest; the booking-hutches closed; the backs of Mr Haggard's novels, with which upon a weekday the bookstall shines emblazoned, discreetly hidden behind dingy shutters; the rare officials, undisguisedly somnambulant; and the customary loiterers, even to the middle-aged woman with the ulster and the handbag, fled to more congenial scenes. As in the inmost dells of some small tropic island the throbbing of the ocean lingers, so here a faint pervading hum and trepidation told in every corner of surrounding London.


  • Waterloo and Waterloo Underground are the setting for the Kinks' song "Waterloo Sunset", written by Ray Davies and recorded in 1967. Its lyric describes two people (Terry and Julie, sometimes taken to refer to sixties icons Terence Stamp and Julie Christie.) meeting at Waterloo Station and crossing the river. The song has been recorded by Cathy Dennis and Def Leppard: other acts, such as David Bowie and Elliott Smith, have covered the song in live performances.
  • Carl Barat's band Dirty Pretty Things' debut album is called Waterloo to Anywhere.
  • The booklet accompanying The Who's album Quadrophenia includes a photo of the album's protagonist on the steps of Waterloo, depicting a moment from the song 5:15
  • The music video to 'West End Girls' by the Pet Shop Boys was part filmed at Waterloo in the mid-1980s.
  • Abba held a press photo shoot at Waterloo on 11 April 1974, the day after their first appearance on Top of the Pops, in celebration of their 'Waterloo' winning the Eurovision Song Contest five days before.


See also

  • Waterloo tube station
  • London Waterloo East station
  • Waterloo International railway station
  • South West Trains, the operator of all regular services
  • Shinjuku Station, the busiest railway station in the Eastern Hemisphere.
  • Paris Gare du Nord, the busiest railway station in Europe.



External links

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