Network Rail boss vows to finish Waterloo works in three weeks

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Network Rail boss Mark Carne today put his reputation on the line and pledged massive engineering work at Waterloo station would be finished on schedule in three weeks’ time. 

Tens of thousands of commuters suffered packed and cancelled trains as the closure of half of the UK’s busiest station — which handles 100 million passengers a year — caused disruption across the South of England. 

Mr Carne, the £675,000-a-year NR chief executive, said the £400 million upgrade work had been planned with “military precision”.

It is due to be completed on Monday August 28 but there are fears that any delays will lead to work over-running, causing chaos in September as people return from their holidays. 

Ten platforms — half the station — will be closed for one of the biggest single projects ever on the railways. 

Mr Carne said: “This is a job we have planned with military precision. 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.” He added: “The vast majority of NR engineering jobs do run on time… 99.8 per cent or so do run on time.” 

For many passengers it was the “Great Stayaway” today as commuters avoided Waterloo station — either using other routes into the capital, taking holiday or working from home.  

Getting home tonight, though, was being viewed as the real test when the peak period is more closely concentrated.

Commuters at the station today complained of crowded trains, delays and lack of information. Zara Hall, 34, said: “All the train timetables have moved a few minutes earlier, so I missed my train to Sudbury.”

Network Rail is giving free ice creams to passengers to help drive home its message of changes to the August timetable. They will be handed out at Victoria tomorrow, and at London Bridge and Euston on Thursday.

There was huge disruption at Paddington during the morning peak today after a major signal failure at Hayes and Harlington.

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