Uh oh: Here's how crowded London Waterloo is set to get over the next 10 years


The level of passenger growth will mean regular closures of Waterloo's Underground station (Source: Getty)

Passengers coming into the capital’s busiest station are set to face regular closures and chronic overcrowding, with more than a quarter of passengers standing on train services over the next decade.

Analysis by Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail has found by 2031 the South West main line (SWML) from Waterloo to Weymouth, which spans many London suburbs, will record standing levels not seen on any main line National Rail service on the network today.

Between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of passengers will be forced to stand during the peak hour on so-called outer services. And the SWML already has the most crowded services in the country in terms of numbers and proportion of passengers standing.

Read more: The top 10 busiest stations in London (and Britain) last year

The forecast suggests there will be a 65 per cent rise in demand on SWML services into Waterloo by 2031, and given the large number of people then changing onto the Tube, the growth will lead to regular closures at Waterloo Underground station too, in order to deal with crowding.

The new figures, released under a Freedom of Information request filed by Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, has shed more light on the strain facing London’s transport network in the coming years. They also form part of TfL’s case for pressing ahead with Crossrail 2.

Waterloo by 2031...
  • 25-35 per cent of passengers will be standing in the peak hour on SWML services
  • 65 per cent growth in demand on SWML services into Waterloo
  • Regular closures at Waterloo Underground to deal with significant crowding

The case for Crossrail 2

The £31bn rail project serving stations across the South East would relieve congestion on the line by providing extra tracks for suburban services to run on, boosting capacity by around 60 per cent.

TfL said it expects Crossrail 2 to reduce the number of standing passengers on SWML suburban services by 44 per cent compared with today, and eliminate the need for planned station control measures at Waterloo Underground station in the 2030s and 2040s.

It will also help relieve crowding and congestion at the likes of Clapham Junction, Vauxhall and Wimbledon, all of which are forecast to be “critically overcrowded” by the 2030s.

Pidgeon noted previous figures had shown 17 Tube stations in total will be forced to deal with chronic overcrowding if Crossrail 2 isn’t built.

“In addition to these stark warnings we now have detailed information that train users on the SWML will also face chronic overcrowding as well,” she said.

“If Crossrail 2 does not go ahead the grim reality for thousands of people will be standing literally everyday on very overcrowded trains for the whole length of their journeys into Waterloo.”

Annual passenger numbers reached over 99m for Waterloo last year. Last month, Network Rail carried out extensive upgrade work to lengthen the platforms and boost capacity at the station by 30 per cent.

In July, London mayor Sadiq Khan and transport secretary Chris Grayling set out the next steps for Crossrail 2, with TfL needing to show how London can foot half the bill during construction.

The transport body is in the process of finalising the proposals with an aim to getting the green light for them later this autumn.

Read more: Crossrail 2 delays could end up costing £18bn, London business leaders warn