Waterloo sunrise? The battle begins

04 August 2017

Great investment is being made at London Waterloo to untangle the tracks, bring the disused international terminal back into use and lengthen platforms so that longer trains can carry more passengers in relative comfort. Much of this work has been put off for years but now the nettle is being grasped. Passengers want and need this work done. But how it is done is a key element in retaining trust and keeping passengers on board.

We have developed a methodology which assesses passenger knowledge and understanding of projects before during and after such engineering works. Piloted with Great Western Railway and Network Rail it was put to good use during work at Bath, Reading and others places.

South West Trains and Network Rail’s Wessex Route have used it at Waterloo. We have also monitored how awareness of the forthcoming disruption has built since last December, speaking to over 1000 passengers in three waves of research.

The good news? Over nine out of ten passengers are now aware of what is going on and knowledge of the reasons for the work has gone up and information (there has been quite a lot!) is seen as good.

Our research suggests that while half of passengers will continue to use the train during the main disruption (5-28 August), over a third will work at home or other places some days. Sensibly perhaps, nearly a quarter are taking leave at some point during this time and nearly a fifth using a different route (where one is available).

The not so good news? Passengers want more information about how all this will affect their journey. SWT have responded with journey planner information being available 12 weeks before August (but little publicity of this fact) but the printed timetables were not ready until three weeks before. There are also some calls for compensation which we support. Also a slight unease that passengers may think it’s all done by the end of August: there is further work to come and new, longer trains won’t arrive for some time.

We will be on the ground during the works monitoring the impact on passengers, you can find out more about this here.

So, hold your breath. It’s going to be tight. There are bound to be some bad days. Visible, engaged, informed staff will be key during this period. It would be good to survey after the main works are over. We are now talking to the new franchise owner (First/MTR) who take over in the middle of the works (not a great piece of planning in its own right by Government).

ABBA summed it up well:
‘Waterloo – Couldn’t escape if I wanted to
Waterloo – Knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo – Finally facing my Waterloo’

The Kinks possibly even better:
‘Waterloo sunset’s fine’

Euston next anyone? Work is starting on getting the station ready for HS2 this August Bank Holiday but there are many parties involved… I hope they put passengers first.

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