Work on extending platforms at Waterloo station starts tonight - spelling weeks of hold-ups on the main Portsmouth-London line.
Network Rail and South West Trains are advising passengers in Hampshire to expect waiting times of up to 30 minutes at some stations during the busiest parts of the day.
From tonight until August 28, platforms 1-10 at Waterloo will close to allow Network Rail’s engineers to extend platforms 1-4 to accommodate longer, 10-car trains, and to modify platforms 5-8.
The company says that during this period, significantly fewer trains will be running across the South West Railway.
As a result, stations across the network will be much busier than normal and passengers will need to wait longer for their trains. Network Rail and South West Trains estimate waiting times of up to 20 minutes at Winchester, 30 minutes at London Waterloo, and queues at other stations across the network during the busiest times of day.
Becky Lumlock, route managing director at Network Rail, said: “This August we’re carrying out the single largest package of investment at Waterloo for decades as part of our £800 million Waterloo & South West Upgrade. This will ultimately lead to space for 45,000 extra passengers during the busiest times of day, equivalent to more than the capacity of the Oval and the O2 Arena combined.
“Doing major improvement work is always disruptive, so we’re providing these estimates on waiting times to make sure that passengers have everything they need to plan ahead. At the same time, we’re also continuing to advise passengers to travel earlier or later than normal to avoid the busiest times of day, or to consider working from home where possible.”
“I fully appreciate there’s never a good time to close any section of the railway, but we’ll be doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible, and passengers will see extra staff at stations who will be on hand to provide information and advice.”
Adam Piddington, customer service director at South West Trains, added: “Asking passengers to queue outside stations is never a decision we take lightly but we do expect these works to cause some temporary inconvenience for our passengers and we want to be as honest as possible.
“We have carried out an extensive 12 month campaign to raise awareness of the works taking place and we ask passengers for their patience while these works are carried out which will provide extra capacity for the growing numbers of passengers who use this railway.”
Network Rail says independent research carried out by Transport Focus, the independent transport watchdog, shows that 84% of passengers are already aware of the Waterloo upgrade, and around half are planning to work from home, use another office or take annual leave during the part-closure.
Passengers are advised to check how their journey will be impacted by visiting southwesttrains.co.uk/wswupgrade, and to avoid travelling at the busiest times of day or consider working from home.