Kent Rail

Waterloo International


Boring of the Channel Tunnel commenced on 15th December 1987, but previously, in 1985, the specification for a new international passenger terminus in the capital was finalised. The new station had to meet the following criteria:


·        Be close to Central London

·        Have the capacity to handle a total of four international train paths every hour (outbound and inbound combined)

·        Have such length that its platforms could accommodate trains comprising twenty-vehicles

·        Have first-rate public transport links


One existing site that met most of the above requirements was the country’s largest terminus, Waterloo. As a result of a rebuild completed by the London & South Western Railway in March 1922, the station was formed of two distinct sections which essentially housed standalone operations. On the north western side of the terminus were those platforms dedicated to Windsor services, Nos. 16 to 21. These were housed within a ridge-and-furrow extension added to the original Waterloo station during 1884/1885, and this was the only remnant of the pre-1922 site. All other services used platform Nos. 1 to 20 underneath the main overall roof, the latter comprising dimensions of 540-feet by 520-feet. Proposals outlined wholly abolishing platforms 16 to 21, replacing these with four new platform surfaces within the ‘’main line’’ part of the station, and re-signalling the track layout to feed the Windsor lines into the 1922 trainshed. Demolition works would be extensive and involve the following:


·        Obliteration of a multitude of brick arches along the station’s north western perimeter. Many of these had been let-out to businesses, which were now required to relocate.

·        Abolition of Waterloo signal box. This had been commissioned by the Southern Railway on 18th October 1936, and originally comprised 309 miniature levers.

·        Removal of the electrically-operated Armstrong Lift on the northern side of the station, used to convey railway vehicles to and from the underground caverns of the Waterloo & City line. Early on in the design stage, consideration had been given for its possible retention.

·        Removal of the 1885 trainshed.

·        Removal of the cab road in-between platform Nos. 11 and 12.

·        Abolition of the ‘’Village’’ block. This was a two-storey-high structure, separating ‘’Windsor’’ and ‘’Main Line’’ platforms, but built within the scope of the 1922 trainshed. When commissioned by the LSWR, it housed staff rooms, the Station Master’s quarters, and the lost property office.

·        Widening of the railway viaduct south of the station and the building of a double-track link between Waterloo and ‘’Chatham’’ lines (Nine Elms Flyover).


Work began in 1989, first by the demolition of the aforementioned cab road and the insertion of an additional pair of platform faces serving a double-track. At the southern end of the cab road had also existed a loading dock served by a pair of short sidings. These modifications required completion before the total closure of the ‘’Windsor’’ platforms, to provide the ‘’Main Line’’ station with enough capacity to deal with the transferred services. By July 1990, the ''Windsor'' platforms had been boarded off from the rest of Waterloo station. On 30th September of the same year, Waterloo signal box closed, and control was passed to a temporary panel. Dismantling of the 1885 trainshed and demolition of the supporting brick arches formally began when the then Transport Minister, Roger Freeman, ceremonially used a pneumatic drill on that side of the station on 11th December 1990. Demolition of the ‘’Village’’ block permitted the insertion of a further two platform faces underneath the extent of the main trainshed.


The project was priced at £100 million and essentially, the new terminal structure would consist of four levels: platforms; departures / arrivals; customs and immigration; car park (basement). The platforms would be protected by a distorted curved roof designed by architects ''Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners'', measuring a width of 55-metres at its widest point, reduced to 35-metres after narrowing at the ''country end''. By British standards, the international trains to be accommodated here were incredibly long, comprising no less than twenty vehicles (including power cars), thus the platform lengths were impressive:


·         Platform 20: 396 metres

·         Platform 21: 402 metres

·         Platform 22: 411 metres

·         Platform 23: 421 metres

·         Platform 24: 428 metres


Foundations of the terminal were deemed complete by July 1991. In the meantime, construction of trainshed roof components was taking place in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, by appointed manufacturers ‘’Westbury Tubular Structures Ltd’’. Assembly of the metal framework was subcontracted to ‘’Bovis Construction Ltd’’, and the trainshed was to be clad with 20,000 square metres of glass.

The international station was formally completed on 17th May 1993, but international passenger services did not commence operation until 14th November 1994. The building cost of the station had since risen to £130 million and when ''Eurostar'' services first began, the station accounted for just eight pathways in and out of Waterloo station as a whole, split between trains to and from Paris and Brussels - this later rocketed to fifty international pathways to and from the terminus. The international station was subsequently transferred to London & Continental Railways in 1996 during privatisation, with a book value of £136 million; the domestic station had become part of Railtrack on 1st April 1994, the latter organisation being floated on the London Stock Exchange on 20th May 1996.

With the confirmed relocation of international trains to north of the Thames, at St Pancras, consideration was at first given to keeping the present Waterloo International station active, operating approximately a third of Eurostar trains out of there. However, the cost of maintaining two station hubs was deemed too great, and Waterloo was scheduled to cease serving Eurostar services on 13th November 2007. It was announced that the station would transfer from London & Continental Railways to Government ownership, in exchange for the new maintenance depot at Temple Mills. Since the initial announcement outlining the closure of Waterloo International, two schemes in particular came to the forefront of deciding what to do with the structure: that of either converting it into a shopping centre, or allowing domestic services to make use of much needed platform capacity. The latter option was eventually settled on.

In November 2007, the Government confirmed that it would be over a year until the first domestic services could use the vacated international station platforms. The works required for the conversion operation were stated at the time to be extensive, and included the demolition of the Nine Elms Flyover, which linked the station with the ''Chatham'' main line. A Department for Transport report concluded that sufficient capacity to run scheduled services over this connection was not available, since the double-track viaduct could only accommodate an absolute maximum of eight trains every hour. The lengthy station platforms also required heightening, since they had been constructed to the lower European profile.

Eurostar gutted much of the security equipment from Waterloo International for reuse at Ebbsfleet International, the latter being scheduled to open five days later than the rest of the CTRL's ''Section 2''. The ''domestication'' of Waterloo International formed part of a three-stage strategy created by Network Rail, involving a comprehensive redevelopment of the whole Waterloo station site. The project was enshrined within the infrastructure company's business plan stretching between 2009 and 2014, and at that time included moving the entire station concourse down to a lower level, to link in with a new City Square development planned around the adjacent Waterloo Road.

Limited domestic services using the former international site were originally scheduled to commence in December 2008, at the start of the National Winter Timetable. It was envisaged that only platform 20 would be in use by this time; since it was effectively the other half of domestic platform 19, it could easily be accessed from the main concourse. Conversely, platforms 21 to 24 could only be reached by means of the ''low-level'' international concourse, via escalators and lifts, thus required greater modification to make them available.

South West Trains ran the first test train into platform 20 of the former international station on 4th June 2008, marking the start of driver training. In spite of this, no regular services were forthcoming, but a special one-off service from Woking was routed into platform 20 on Monday 29th April 2013, to indicate the intention of using the defunct terminal for domestic trains. This was followed on 22nd October of the following year by the start of limited services using platform 22, access to this part of the station having been afforded by the construction of a flight of stairs over the "low-level" concourse.


London Waterloo: Domestic & International


2005 track layout, complete with international station platforms. Click on the above image for a full-size version. David Glasspool




The distorted curved roof is seen to good effect in this view of Class 373 half set No. 3206, pairing with No. 3205, at platform 23. Note the short platform for train crew on the far left. © David Glasspool Collection




The curved trainshed is constituted of steel structural members, with weather protection provided in the form of strengthened glass. A pleasing aspect of the design criteria was to make the station as light and airy as possible, which always helps to create a pleasant environment. In this 1995 view, the entrance can be seen below - it is linked to the platforms above by both lifts and escalators. © Mike Glasspool


14th March 2004


A large canvas cuboid-shaped banner was once in evidence above the lower concourse area, suspended from a roof in desperate need of restoration. © David Glasspool



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