Commuters heed warnings to avoid Waterloo as major works begin

Passengers passing through Waterloo are reported to have been 'pleasantly surprised' by a lack of major disruption as it appears many have taken Network Rail's advice to avoid the station this month.

Monday morning this week was the first peak travel period during three weeks of major works at Britain's normally busiest railway station. Platforms 1-10 are out of action until 29 August for contractors to reconstruct platforms and reconfigure track as part of the £800m Waterloo and South West Upgrade. Rail services into Waterloo are substantially reduced with eight other stations on South West routes closed or partially closed during August. Network Rail has been warning passengers to be ready for major disruption, going as far as urging them to consider holidays or working at home during the month while the work is carried out.

By Monday it appeared many had taken the advice as Waterloo was reported as unusually quiet, despite signalling failures causing delays on the route early in the morning. BBC London reported that expected queues at Wimbledon and Clapham stations had not materialised and that passengers spoken to had said they were "pleasantly surprised" by a lack of disruption. Network Rail's planning and warnings appear to have paid off. Last month the passenger watchdog Transport Focus said that 84% of people surveyed at the station were aware of the Waterloo upgrade works and planning to avoid the station during August, either by working from home or taking annual leave

The Waterloo and South West Upgrade is being delivered by an alliance arrangement between Network Rail and a consortium of Skanska, AECOM, Mott MacDonald and Colas Rail. Work at the station represents roughly one half of the £800m scheme which also involves platform alterations and improvements at seven other stations on the South West Trains network, plus introduction of a new fleet of longer trains.

The alterations at Waterloo will add five new platforms, partly by bringing the former Eurostar platforms back into use, as well as reconfiguring track and signalling technology and the main concourse area at London's busiest station. About 30% more capacity will be added – equivalent to an additional 45,000 passengers during peak times, Network Rail says.

Network Rail's Wessex route managing director, Becky Lumlock, said: "We are closing as few platforms as possible and are doing this work as quickly as we can, but these works will be highly disruptive and will make it uncomfortable for passengers. I want to thank them for their patience. This three week upgrade will transform journeys for millions of people in the years ahead."