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Passengers are set to face major delays and disruption this summer as over half of London Waterloo station closes for major improvement work. Transport Focus will be monitoring the impact on passengers.

The works at the UK’s busiest station is set to extend platforms for longer trains, making room for more seats and creating extra space for passengers.

From 5 to 28 August 2017, platforms 1-10 will be closed in order to extend platforms 1-4. This will lead to a temporary reduction in capacity and an amended reduced timetable will operate. Passengers are advised to check their journeys on the National Rail website as early as possible.

What we are doing

Transport Focus is monitoring the situation on the ground to feedback to the industry the human side of any disruption. We know even a few minutes of delay can impact passengers so we want to monitor the situation to ensure it all stays on track.

We will be regularly capturing the passenger experience on this page. Below you can find the latest updates.

Today's update

Since the improvement works started on 5 August at Waterloo, Transport Focus has been monitoring the impact on passengers: directly gathering their views on the disruption. Entering the third week of engineering works, passenger disruption has been minimal, with plenty of staff on hand to help at Waterloo and other stations. However, two key issues have been raised by passengers following recent announcements:

  • how can they claim the compensation announced last week?
  • what is the impact from an earlier than expect reduction in services from London Waterloo? Services will be reduced a day earlier than planned on Thursday 24 August.


Compensation

The announcement last week by South West Trains that annual season ticket holders will have two weeks free travel is welcome news for passengers inconvenienced during these works. However, through our monitoring, passengers have indicated they are unclear how to make a claim.

Transport Focus has asked South Western Railway to make information clearer and simpler for passengers to claim compensation, and, asked how the train operator is alerting passengers about the compensation on offer.

August Bank Holiday – additional platforms will be closed

Planned additional engineering work at Waterloo will see platforms 11 to 14 close on Thursday 24 August, a day earlier than originally planned. This means passengers will have to make significant changes to their journeys sooner than expected.

Through our direct insight from passengers, we know they have a low awareness of the disruption to services caused by the earlier-than-planned reduction in train services. A half of passengers were aware of the reduction in services over the bank holiday weekend, but not on Friday 25 August.

Click here to download a PDF version of the survey findings.

Passengers have been frustrated that the revised timetable for Thursday is not available yet and South Western Railways are advising them to check their journey against the uploaded revised timetable for Friday. Failure to communicate these changes early enough reduces passengers’ confidence in the service and creates uncertainty in planning ahead for this Thursday.

Transport Focus has asked South Western Railway when the revised timetable will be available and how passengers will be altered to this critical change. Passengers need to know how they will be impacted. We have challenged Network Rail and South Western Railway to increase the availability of information so passengers can be prepared.

So are they making clear announcements at stations and on trains? Below is an update from the Network Rail website and a tweet from South West Trains.

Tuesday 22 August

This morning’s observations from passengers’ comments through our online monitoring shows trains are running either on time or early with few delays. However, passengers have expressed frustration with smart cards not working correctly which is causing inconvenience in leaving the platform.

Passengers are still concerned that the revised timetable for Thursday has not been made available. The only response from South Western Trains is that Thursday’s timetable is the same as for Friday.

 

Since the improvement works started on 5 August at Waterloo, Transport Focus has been monitoring the impact on passengers. This included gathering views from passengers directly affected by the disruption. In the first week they told us they were fairly content, however after Tuesday’s derailment it is no surprise to see a change in sentiment this week with more passengers relaying frustration and anger.

You can see what passengers have said in our latest survey below.

Click here to download a PDF version of the survey findings.

Compensation

We welcome the announcement that South West Trains monthly and annual season ticket holders will have two weeks free travel in compensation for inconvenience during the Waterloo works. We have continually urged the industry to do the right thing – it’s good that, at last, they’ve listened. You can read our response here.
This will address some of the frustration passengers have expressed to us, such as:
“I’ve had to leave for work earlier every day since the works started with no reduction to my travel fare.”

“Please tell season ticket holders that they will get compensation, don’t hide behind regulation.”

“The customers are being treated appallingly…free parking or refunds should be given because we are having to pay where we wouldn’t normally because they don’t run any trains.”

Information for passengers

How did the industry fare in informing passengers during the first major test of how to communicate major disruption on top of the engineering work?

We asked passengers through our passenger panel if they were affected by the disruption on 15 August. Over a quarter said they did not travel with 68 per cent saying their journey was disrupted.

When asked directly about the information needed to help them decide their best journey option over half of passengers (54 per cent) said they did not receive the information needed.

This direct passenger insight and our own monitoring showed that information was not sufficiently clear and detailed to allow individual decisions to be made.

Passengers told us in our survey:

“If more indication had been given before Clapham of the delays onwards into Waterloo then I could have made a choice to switch to Victoria train earlier from there and continue via a detour.”

“The 0630 fast service was cancelled. I got the 0630 stopping service. A short way into the journey the guard announced that the train would terminate at Surbiton due to a “Code Black” incident. No explanation given as to what this was.”

“We were not advised what to do and in the end I just got on the first train that stopped at Waterloo and hoped that was my best option for the day. I had no idea if I would have been better off going back to Petersfield somehow and no one seemed to know.”

The fact it took two and a half hours before the railway acknowledged that there had been a derailment – mostly using the phrase ‘operational incident’ – was bizarre. It was a fact that the train had derailed, so it’s difficult to understand what was to be gained by not saying so.

Staff at Waterloo were insufficiently briefed on how to advise passengers about alternative journey options.

Thankfully disruption earlier in the week has now been cleared.

We have raised a number of concerns with South West Trains and made suggestions about how information could be better. We will follow this up with the new operator next week.

Clapham Junction one-way system

Passengers have been complaining about the one-way system at Clapham Junction on Twitter, so Phil from Transport Focus spent time there on Monday during the peak period in the morning to review the crowd control systems.

His main observation was that the one-way system seemed unnecessary with the level of traffic that particular morning. He reported there was no significant crowding anywhere – quieter than he believes it normally is in the morning peak. There were scores of extra staff everywhere who were generally very helpful.

South West Trains responded to say that having reviewed the crowd control measures at Clapham the one way system within the station is being relaxed during the off peaks meaning passengers are free to use the subway or the override to change platforms.

New operator set to take over

We will continue to monitor the impact on passengers, quality of information and raise any concerns on behalf of passengers with the new operator First/MTR who take over the franchise on Sunday. Let’s see what next week brings.

Today (15 August) passengers experienced severe disruption following a derailment outside Waterloo station at 5.40am this morning. Thankfully there were no serious injuries to passengers or staff. The service was further impacted by a points failure.

As a result an additional three platforms have been closed – on top of the 10 platforms which were already closed. As a result there is an even more limited service running to and from Waterloo than usual. This incident has affected the entire South West Trains network with disruption predicted to continue until the end of service tomorrow (Wednesday 16 August).

Information for passengers

Passengers on Twitter were frustrated by the lack of clear information, the initial use of the terms ‘additional issue’ and ‘operational incident’ did not provide them with sufficient information to make informed decisions about their morning commute. It is disappointing that it took around two and a half hours for the rail industry to use the word ‘derailment’. The long-standing message from passengers “tell it as it is” was – unfortunately – forgotten.


Transport Focus will be following this up with South West Trains.

The information on the South West Trains and National Rail Enquiries websites – in particular the text explaining what is going on – hasn’t been as good as it should have been. It’s disappointing that the railway didn’t score well on the first major test of how to communicate major disruption on top of the engineering work. Transport Focus will continue to press South West Trains to improve the information on its website so that passenger are better informed for the rest of today and tomorrow.

Transport Focus will continue to monitor the situation both at the station and online.

So how has the first week gone for South West Trains passengers during Waterloo station improvement works?

You can see what passengers have said in our latest survey below.

Click here to download a PDF version of the survey findings.

By and large passengers say they are content with their journeys. This appears to be as a result of good pre-works communications by the rail industry. We know from our research that that 90 per cent of passengers were aware of the works before it started.

It appears many passengers have taken on board advice and changed their journey times, used alternatives or simply not travelled.

Transport Focus daily monitoring on the ground at Waterloo backed this up as during many visits it was obvious that the station was less busy than previously expected.

Staff on the ground

Passengers tell us that during disruption they like to see plenty of staff on hand to help. South West Trains promised more staff on the ground and they have certainly delivered. We observed them proactively assisting passengers and were friendly and helpful.

Crowd management – a sensible response

We know from South West Trains that they have not so far needed to implement the higher level crowd management and queueing systems that were prepared.

However, some of the systems in place earlier in the week frustrated passengers. They felt they were unnecessary as stations were less crowded than expected.

We noted for instance that passengers at Waterloo were very annoyed as were not allowed to turn right out of Waterloo East at mezzanine level with stairs closed for downward access. It appeared, certainly in the morning peak to be an unnecessary constraint.

The one way system has now been removed on the mezzanine during the morning peak period.

The industry is listening

South West Trains and Network Rail have reacted positively to input from Transport Focus and passengers with improvements already implemented in the following areas:

• lack of bus information – staff at Waterloo are now better briefed
• queuing systems have been reviewed
• passengers who travel on trains always departing from platforms 20 to 24 now know to wait in this area
• there is now more signage to the underground from platforms 20 to 24.

So how punctual have services been?

Our survey with passengers travelling this week indicates that 64 per cent were delayed by 5 to 20 minutes. We know that there have been some infrastructure problems and that Network Rail has provided extra staff to fix problems as soon as possible, but there is no doubt that reliability has been impacted and passengers have noticed.

It is crucial that Network Rail and South West Trains continue their efforts on service reliability.

Getting a seat

On social media passengers have even been praising that they are able to get a seat more than usual.

Compensation for passengers affected

Transport Focus has been calling for compensation above that currently offered in the South West Trains passenger charter, particularly for season ticket holders.

First/MTR are taking over this franchise on Sunday 20 August and will be eventually introducing delay repay compensation when passengers are delayed by 15 minutes or more. We heard this week of the new franchise award in West Midlands where the 15 minute threshold will also be implemented. This is fair, and recognised as the right thing to do by the industry. So, why is it not the right thing to do for passengers affected daily by these works?

If over the period of the works at Waterloo lots of passengers are delayed by 15 minutes or more on a regular basis, providing no compensation* for season ticket holders will be untenable.

*the only compensation available under the South West Trains passenger charter would arise if a ‘void day’ were to be declared or in the unlikely event that season ticket renewal discounts were triggered.

The weather yesterday did not lend a helping hand on services already impacted by the Waterloo works which caused multiple delays across the network.

There were also a number of other incidents on the routes to and from Waterloo and at the station meaning delayed trains. Incidents included:

  • overrunning engineering work at Clapham Junction
  • a points failure between Surbiton and Esher
  • an operational incident at Vauxhall
  • signalling problem affecting platforms 11, 12 and 13.

Cathie and Keith reported that the station was fairly quiet during evening peak.

Keith had a slow but comfortable journey home to Basingstoke reporting that all passengers had a seat with some to spare.

The service departed late and then sat outside Vauxhall for a while and lost further time to Woking.

Toilets at Waterloo

It is a really sensible decision to allow passengers to use the toilets at Waterloo for free. This was not obvious though for the first few days. However, signs have now been put up to inform passengers.

Better signage to platforms

The signage alerting passengers to wait by platforms 20 to 24 seems to be working with more people waiting for their train in that area. Sensible signage is also now in place telling passengers coming up from Jubilee line to go there.

What are passengers saying?

On Twitter some passengers have reported helpful staff at Surbiton station.

Boarding trains at Waterloo

On Twitter some passengers were unhappy with being made to board carriages at the front of the train by marshals at Waterloo. For some it seems this meant it was at the expense of getting a seat. There didn’t seem to be any explanation provided to passengers as to why this was being done in this particular way.

Transport Focus are following this up with South West Trains.

Transport Focus has been monitoring the impact on passengers since the start of the works on Saturday. We have raised some issues with South West Trains, which have been affecting commuters, and are pleased to report that many of these issue have quickly been responded to.

Platforms 20 to 24 – Windsor Line services

Far too many passengers using these services were waiting in front of the screens by platforms 11 to 19 as it was not clear enough that their services would depart from platforms 20 to 24. This resulted in them needing to rush across the concourse to catch trains once announced.

South West Trains action

There is now increased signage to inform passengers which services are leaving from platforms 20 to 24 and also increased manual announcements to mirror these messages. South West Trains are also equipping station staff with megaphones in the peak evening period to assist with any crowd management.

There are lots of these screens throughout the station now showing this information.

The screens are already having impact as more passengers are waiting by platforms 20 to 24.

One way system on balcony

We noted passengers were very annoyed at not being allowed to turn right out of Waterloo East at the mezzanine level with the stairs closed for downward access. In the peak morning period this appeared to be an unnecessary constraint.

South West Trains action

The one way system has now been removed on the balcony during the peak morning period. For now South West Trains are keeping the one way system in place for the evening peak in the event that the area becomes overcrowded but have agreed to review this over the next couple of evenings.

Bus information

Transport Focus spoke to a number of staff at Waterloo about where they could catch buses now that bus stops have been relocated. We found a real lack of knowledge about this with staff unable to quickly locate the information themselves.

South West Trains action

South West Trains responded to say it is in the process of re-briefing its agency staff and volunteers regarding bus information. Bus stops are highlighted on wayfinding maps which are now available and being issued to staff and passengers.

Signage to London underground from platforms 20 to 24

There is no signage as passengers leave platforms 20 to 24 to let them know to turn right to the underground. We observed a number of passengers confused as to which way to go.

South West Trains action

South West Trains has agreed to put signage up in this area to help passengers over the next few days.

8 August – morning peak

Initially it was all working well this morning but we are now (1pm) aware of delays up to 45 minutes due to a points failure and disruption is expected to last until mid-afternoon. Let’s hope this situation recovers before the evening peak when we will be out monitoring again.

This morning Linda was at Waterloo while Keith travelled into the station from Basingstoke. At 7am it appeared to be busier this morning than yesterday, but still not overcrowded, and no train delays showing on screens. There were very clear announcements of departing platforms this morning.

However, as the morning progressed some delays emerged, initially of around 3 minutes and then more than 10 minutes. It was disappointing that there were no announcements linked to delays. Services just appeared as delayed on the screens but no verbal information was available for passengers.

So for instance the 8.48 to Reading, Linda stood at the screens by platforms 11 to 19 with many other passengers. At 8.50 there were still no platform or any announcements – just showing as delayed. At 8.54 the screen showed platform 20, in the interim there were no announcements or apologies.

Suddenly about 50 passengers started making their way to platforms 20 to 24, many a bit flustered and running as of course the information screen is still showing it as leaving at 8.48. Linda got to the barriers at around 8.57 and saw passengers still running for the platform at 8.59. The train left at 9am but unfortunately a handful of them missed it, and were quite angry. We saw a family who had suitcases and just did not make it on time from the other side of the concourse.

We have raised this with South West Trains suggesting it could be proactive in letting passengers know to wait by platforms 20-24 for trains that will always depart from there. South West Trains has said it is looking into it.

Linda received a report from another colleague at Brookwood station praising good communications, obviously fewer passengers than usual on her train which was a 12 car train rather than the usual 9. Good to see extra carriages being deployed as promised.

Keith travelled into Waterloo station this morning. There were plenty of seats, but slow access into Waterloo with train early but appearing slow to passengers. He observed that the platforms at Clapham Junction seemed to be looking okay.

At platforms 20 to 24 at Waterloo there were plenty of passengers coming through. All seemed fine as this area is still much quieter than the main concourse.

Passengers exiting from Waterloo East

Passengers exiting Waterloo East are not allowed to turn right and exit down the usual escalator but need to turn left and walk to the end of the mezzanine and then walk back up to concourse if they want to go to the underground or exit the station. Linda observed a number of annoyed passengers questioning this restriction as the area is really not that busy.

We have raised this point with South West Trains who have agreed to look into it and review the situation. 

The passenger view online

This morning we spent time monitoring what passengers had to say online. There is a lot of variation in passenger experience with some reporting they were comfortable and getting a seat and having better journeys than usual. Others were saying services were slow and painful.

South West Trains were having some information problems which, according to social media, have affected customer information screens at stations.

A couple of passengers mentioned some issues at Barnes station.

There were also some issues with the trainline app. Information appears to be incorrect. Quite a few queries on social media wondering if a train is cancelled, as shown on trainline app, with South West Trains saying it isn’t.

Elsewhere some passengers felt the Clapham Junction queueing system is too ‘over the top’.

7 August – evening peak

Yesterday evening Linda, Cathy and Keith observed that the concourse was much busier than the morning, not surprising as the peak period for commuters travelling home was beginning to emerge. All appears to be going well so far with few train delays, good crowd management through the barriers onto platform and trains. Plenty of staff were on concourse and free bottles of water was available for passengers.
Lots of passengers were standing by the customer information screens waiting for their platform. Keith, who travels regularly from Waterloo, said the difference this evening compared to his usual experience, is that normally passengers do not tend to stand checking the screens, but rather go through barriers to their usual platforms.

There were no announcements being made at this point, we have been told that there are issues with the system that are being resolved.

Platforms 20 to 24

We have been advised that the Windsor Line services will always depart from these platforms, yet there were far too many passengers waiting in the main concourse, and then rushing over to platforms 20 to 24 once announced on the customer information screens. We fed this back to both South West Trains and Network Rail staff suggesting that they make more proactive announcements telling passengers for these services to wait in that area. It was pleasing to hear an announcement to this affect later on.

All departures were pretty much running to time from Waterloo at around 5pm.

Passengers did however comment on the poor quality of the PA system in the old Eurostar platforms.


Elsewhere on Twitter there was praise for the helpful of staff at Waterloo during the evening peak.


Bus interchange information

It was disappointing that staff seem to have a complete lack of knowledge of where passengers need to go to catch relevant buses. We asked over ten different staff members where we could catch a bus to Victoria and were sent in all different directions, resulting in a much longer walk than needed.

Moving from the underground to main concourse

We have received feedback that crowding in the underground to access the main concourse between platforms 1 to 19 and 20 to 24 was extremely uncomfortable with no directional assistance or support from staff.

Feedback to South West Trains and Network Rail

We have fed back these issues and have been told they are being followed up.

It’s the first morning of commuters travelling into London Waterloo station during the planned disruption and Cathrine, Keith and Hazel have been out and about to understand the passenger impact.

At Waterloo all appeared to be moving briskly with the ‘blue brigade’ on hand to guide and help. It appears that many people have heeded the advice to work from home or have travelled in earlier than normal. Passengers were being guided as they came from Waterloo East to the mezzanine. Few people were however spotted hanging around between platforms 1 and 10.

View of closed platforms 1-10 with the Network Rail ‘orange army’ behind.

Most services into Waterloo early in the morning were on time or even early. A signalling problem affected trains entering three of the operational platforms at Waterloo, leading to delays of up to 20 minutes.

On social media lots of passengers reported having good journeys. The real test will be if this can continue over the next three weeks.


While it was good to see queuing systems in place at Clapham Junction station there appeared to be some teething issues causing delays with some passengers reporting the system causing them delays despite it being quiet.

Old Eurostar platforms in action

Lots of people were around by the new spacious area at the old Eurostar platforms, 20 to 24. The new departure boards there were also a good improvement.

However the signage to the underground could be better from these platforms, which we have already informed South West Trains about.

Passengers using platforms 20 to 24.

Information for passengers on altered bus stops

What was disappointing was that the information about alternative bus stops seemed to be non-existent. You could walk out to catch a 211 or 507, say, without knowing anything was affected. The ‘blue brigade’ of station staff were there to help but on asking, two out of three didn’t know where to go! Out on the street a Transport for London staff member by York Road stops wasn’t properly adequately briefed and indicated he wasn’t really aware what was happening.

We will be raising this issue with Network Rail and South West Trains to ensure that there is better information for passengers.

One of the ‘blue brigade’ on hand to help.

Closed bus stops on the approach to the station.

Over the weekend

Transport Focus staff were also out and about this weekend at Waterloo and other stations to get a feel for how well prepared they were for the impact of this large scale improvement programme during the first morning peak.

Linda was at Waterloo Station on Saturday morning, 5 August, the day the works started. Staff were seen to be proactively assisting passengers at the station.

Station staff on hand to help passengers.

Platforms 20 to 24.

The station was fairly busy with obvious changes to where passengers could catch trains, platforms 1-10 clearly not in use and 20-24 obviously open. It was great to see lots of visible staff who were proactively talking to and assisting passengers.

Platforms 20 to 24 is bright and spacious, again with plenty of visible staff by the barriers where large clear information screens displayed services. Walking back into the main concourse we observed that there could be better signage on whether passengers should turn left or right for the underground as they leave these platforms onto the main concourse.

Also there were no staff at this part of the station on two occasions so we sought one out back by the barriers, who introduced herself as a South West Train team supervisor. She agreed about the need for clearer signage and noted this as an action. She assured us that there should be staff at all key parts of the station so agreed to follow that up.

We were a bit surprised at how many passengers, including families with lots of cases, were standing by screens at platforms 1-10. The platforms were obviously not in use with a number of staff just standing at the barriers but did not proactively liaise with these passengers unlike colleagues elsewhere in the station.

On Sunday Keith visited various suburban stations looking at preparedness. There were lots of staff, and crowd control barriers at the ready.

However Surbiton could do with checking their posters. Last weekend’s engineering works poster were still up in two places.

Vauxhall station had lots of signage for passengers telling them about the disruption.

Plenty of barriers and clear signage at Clapham Junction.

There were plenty of staff at Surbiton making sure passengers were aware of the changes.

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