Rail chiefs say £400m Waterloo rebuilding work is vital ahead of month-long passenger chaos

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At 1am on Saturday, five minutes before the last train — the 01.05 to Southampton — has even left, an army of 1,000 Network Rail engineers will begin more than £400 million of major rebuilding work at Waterloo.

Nearly half the mainline station — the UK’s busiest, used by 100 million passengers a year — will close from Saturday with engineers working round the clock in the race to reopen again by Tuesday 29 August when most commuters return to work from their annual holidays. 

NR admits tens of thousands of passengers face severe disruption — with warnings of queuing systems and delays of up to an hour at intermediate stations — but say the work must be done for the future benefit of the railways and August is the best time to do it, when most people are away.

But the chaos began early for thousands of commuters using Waterloo today, as power supply problems knocked out two platforms throughout the morning peak. Crowded trains stacked up through Vauxhall and Clapham Junction as they were delayed getting into London.

Season ticket holders have already been told they will not get refunds or ticket extensions despite the reduced service and Anthony Smith, the chief executive of Transport Focus, the national rail watchdog, today called on the Government to step in and order repayments or compensation.

Network Rail says it is “confident” work relaying track, lengthening platforms to take longer 10-carriage trains and signalling will be completed on time. But the schedule is so tight that if anything goes wrong then the finish date will be delayed, causing havoc for those returning after the summer. There will be further weekend closures.

The plan is to provide 30 per cent more space at Waterloo, used by 100,000 commuters a day during the 7am to 10am peak, by December 2018.

During the work, disruption will be huge across the south-west area of Greater London and throughout Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Devon and Somerset.

Mark Carne, NR chief executive, said: “We know there is never a good time to disrupt services to get this work done but it does make sense to do so when fewer people are travelling.”

Where the disruption will hit:

The following stations across the South West Trains network will be closed from August 5-28:

Earlsfield: Only off-peak services will operate.

No service at Norbiton, Queenstown Road, Chessington South, Chessington North, Tolworth or Malden Manor.

Other stations could also close or have opening times changed at short notice.

During the work passengers are advised to try to avoid changing  trains at Vauxhall or Clapham Junction, and instead come into central London to make connections for onward journeys.

Average waiting time at Clapham Junction will be 45 minutes. At Waterloo, Vauxhall and Wimbledon it will be 30 minutes with waits of  20 minutes forecast for Kingston, Motspur Park, New Malden, Raynes Park, Surbiton, Putney and Wandsworth Town.

On top of the work going on at Waterloo, an unprecedented £133 million will be spent this month and at the start of September upgrading the national rail network.

Passengers using London Bridge, Euston, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Cannon Street, Charing Cross and Blackfriars will also be affected.

Blackfriars and Cannon Street: August 26 and 27, no Southeastern trains to or from Cannon Street;  Aug 28 to Sept 2, no Southeastern service to or from Blackfriars.

Euston: Closed August 26 and 27.

Liverpool Street: Major disruption August 27 and 28 to Shenfield, Ingatestone and Billericay services. Some replacement buses.

London Bridge, Charing Cross and Waterloo East: No Southeastern services August 26 to September 2. A reduced Southern service will operate to and from London Bridge on August 26 and 27.

Paddington: reduced service to Cardiff Central and Swansea between August 19 and September 15.

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