PUNCTUALITY on South Western Railway (SWR) services is set to improve, say rail bosses, after the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station re-opened permanently on December 10.
Statistics published last Friday show that in the last month just 70 per cent of SWR services ran on time, equating to more than 500 late trains, after the operator was hit by regular infrastructure failures - the responsibility of Network Rail - and strike action by RMT rail guards.
Three more 24-hour walkouts have been ordered for this Saturday (December 22), Thursday, December 27, and Monday, December 31 – adding to commuters’ woe ahead of a 3.2 per cent average fare hike, the biggest in six years, in January.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, according to SWR managing director Andy Mellors, after regular services resumed at platforms 20 to 22 at Britain’s busiest railway station for the first time since international services moved to St Pancras in 2007.
Mr Mellors said: “The reopening of platforms at the former Waterloo International Terminal means more flexibility for our train services and will help to improve punctuality, especially during peak times.
“Between now and May next year, we will be providing over 6,000 extra seats into our fleet to deliver more capacity for customers. This is in addition to the 15,000 extra seats already provided into and from Waterloo since the franchise began last summer.”
The re-opening of the former Eurostar terminal comes as part of an £800m project to increase capacity on the SWR network and major routes to and from the West - including the closure of Waterloo during August last year.
It also follows work to extend platforms at Waterloo, and nine other stations along the route, making room for longer trains, with more than 15,000 more seats provided for passengers over the last year.
Platforms 23 and 24 are set to come into use in May next year as part of the next timetable change. By December 2020, South Western Railway will have provided 52,000 extra peak time seats into and out of Waterloo.
Andy Thomas, managing director for Network Rail’s Wessex route, added: “We are putting passengers at the heart of our approach to running the railway, and this incredible piece of engineering is all about giving better journeys to the many millions of people who travel on this route every year.
“Thousands of our engineers and track staff have worked tirelessly over the last three years, rebuilding this iconic terminal from top to bottom. It has been an enormous job and I’m delighted to be reopening on time, helping us support economic growth by better connecting businesses and communities.”
The new terminal provides more concourse waiting space, moving people away from the main station, extra ticket barriers to reduce queueing elsewhere and new customer information screens, helping people find the train they need faster. There will also be direct access to London Underground for quicker connections in early 2019.
The developer LCR will begin work next year to fit a new retail, leisure and cultural destination underneath platforms 20 to 24. Set to open in 2021, the scheme will offer a progressive mix of independent, high street and national stores, complemented with exciting new food and drink outlets.
The Waterloo International station was the home of Eurostar journeys to mainland Europe from 1994 until November 2007.
? It comes just months after South Western Railway also unveiled plans to invest £90m to improve station facilities - including at Farnham and Alton – to mark the first annual National Stations Day on October 15.
In both Farnham and Alton, planned improvements include improved car parking signs, bay sensors “ensuring customers can tell if spaces are available before they set out from home” and ticketless parking.
Both stations will also receive new customer information screens displaying real-time information from incoming trains about where vacant seats are available and where facilities can be found on the train, and LED lighting as part of a significant sustainability investment. Farnham will also benefit from solar panels, as well as new benches.
The operator did confirm, however, that neither station is currently “on the list” to receive ticket barriers - but has also vowed to improve wi-fi coverage on trains.
A spokesman confirmed SWR is still finalising its plans for the roll-out of the investment programme, so was unable to provide any timelines.
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