Friday, 11 August 2023

Waterloo 175th Celebrations

Railway colleagues from Network Rail and South Western Railway (SWR) came together in a cross-industry event to celebrate London’s busiest station.

It is 175 years since London Waterloo station first opened its doors to the hustle and bustle of daily London life.

A view of the station taken in the 1960's

To mark the special occasion, 50 guests from across the rail industry including Rail Minister, Huw Merriman MP; Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s Chief Executive; Peter Lord Hendy, Network Rail Chair and Claire Mann, SWR Managing Director, joined in with the celebrations at the station.

Network Rail and SWR staff formed a joint choir to greet guests with a unique ensemble of some iconic ‘Waterloo’ songs including ABBA’s Waterloo and The Kinks; Waterloo Sunset.

The day involved several speeches, a plaque unveiling and an exciting visit from one of SWR’s brand-new Arterio trains which made its way to platform 19 for attendees to have a sneak preview.

Prior to the event, a ‘behind the scenes’ tour was given to look at the secret passageways that lie beneath the station - deserted shooting ranges, an old snooker table and even a bathtub where railway workers would wash off after a long day on the railway were some of the hidden finds.

The history of London Waterloo station

Originally opening to customers on 11 July 1848 as ‘Waterloo Bridge’ it replaced the nearby Nine Elms station which had opened 10 years prior.

Nowadays, London Waterloo is the country’s busiest station with 24 platforms and is a key transport hub to the heart of the capital and the south west, helping leisure travellers, commuters and London lovers get across the city.

In recent months the station played a key role in supporting the Coronation of The King and The Queen Consort by welcoming the arrival of more than 5,000 Armed Forces personnel who had travelled to London by train before leading two processions accompanying Their Majesties to and from Westminster Abbey for the Coronation service.

During its 175-year history, Waterloo has undergone a lot of change and expansion. Through the remainder of the 19th century, Waterloo was extended to cope with the increase in demand and by 1885 when the ‘north station’ opened the platform numbers had already increased to 18 platforms.

In 1899, London & South Western Railway sought permission to completely rebuild and expand the station. Over the following 20 years, the big spacious concourse was formed which included a total of 21 platforms.

Waterloo remained largely unchanged until the early 1990s when the Eurostar temporarily opened and following on from that the first-floor balcony was created with escalators and lifts in July 2012 – to help reduce congestion and provide step-free access to its neighbouring Waterloo East station.

Trains at the Waterloo Eurostar section of the station before
Eurostar was moved to St Pancras

Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex route director, said: “I’m delighted to have come together with our rail industry partners to celebrate the 175th birthday of London Waterloo station which serves millions of customers and welcomes them to the heart of the capital on a yearly basis.

“The station holds a lot of history and is a key transport hub for many and will continue to be for years to come which is why it’s important for us to carry out a series of refurbishments to continue improving the customer experience and futureproof it for generations to come.”

Claire Mann, South Western Railway’s managing director, said: “At South Western Railway we’re proud to serve London Waterloo, Britain’s busiest railway station and a place that many of our colleagues call home.

“We’re pleased to mark this very special milestone alongside our industry colleagues today. It’s a reminder that while so much has changed over the life of this wonderful station, the sense of camaraderie and friendship that the railway family feels for each other remains the same.

“While we’re celebrating the first 175 years of Waterloo’s history, we’re also looking forward to serving our customers here for many more years to come.”

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “For the past 175 years, Waterloo has been a stalwart for the people of London, bookending millions of great adventures and bearing witness to some of the most historic moments for Britain - from the early years of steam power trains to becoming a lifeline for soldiers, evacuees, and those seeking refuge in the World Wars.

"None of this would have been possible without the generations of fantastic staff who have worked to make this invaluable station what it is today and I look forward to it continuing to serve Britain's rail passengers for generations to come."

Video interview with station manager Cem Davis here