The Monday morning rush hour has turned into another nightmare for commuters using Britain’s busiest railway station.
London Waterloo is at a near-standstill because of overrunning engineering work by Network Rail. The work was due to finish at 4.30am, but the closure continued right through the morning peak.
Passengers who would normally travel on South Western Railway were initially urged not to travel. They are now being asked to delay their journey.
They can use other operators – including Southern, Great Western Railway and the London Underground – but for the vast majority of passengers these are not viable options.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise for the disruption to passengers’ journeys on South Western this morning. This is due to overrunning engineering works in the Hampton Court area.
“Currently all four lines are blocked and no trains are able to run between Surbiton and Waterloo. Network Rail workers are on site and hope to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
“Passengers are urged to check before they travel via National Rail Enquiries or with their train operator.”
Even when the work at Hampton Court is completed and lines handed back to the train operator, passengers are warned of “Major disruption to and from London Waterloo for the rest of the day.”
Completion of the work was delayed by a damaged rail. The Independent is trying to find out when the problem was identified.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “While engineering and improvement works need to be done, such late notice of the fundamental problems on the approaches to Waterloo this morning is unacceptable.
“A quick, thorough review of the problems uncovered in the engineering works and the passenger information put out should be carried out and published so that lessons can be learned. In the meantime, passengers should claim for compensation and make sure their voice is heard.”
The 4.25am from Portsmouth, due in at 6.29am, is still showing as “Delayed,” three hours after it was expected to arrive at Waterloo.
Trains on the line from Reading, which takes a different route, have been disrupted by a signalling fault near Earley.
Even though the line closure and signalling fault were the responsibility of Network Rail, the state-run infrastructure provider, many commuters took to Twitter to criticise South Western Railway.
Paul Saunders tweeted: “You are not fit for purpose. It’s time this franchise is severely punished for not being capable to run a train network.”
As a result of the chaos at Waterloo, tens of thousands of passengers elsewhere on the line are experiencing delayed and cancelled trains – notably on the corridor from Winchester to Bournemouth via Southampton.
The fiasco follows severe disruption to and from London Waterloo on Saturday because of a strike by members of the RMT union.
Across at London Victoria, passengers are warned: “Trains across the whole Southern and Thameslink network may be delayed, cancelled or revised this morning, this is due to overrunning engineering work at various locations.”
One cause appears to be a freight train which was running towards the southwest route but whose path was blocked by the Network Rail closure at Hampton Court. It is currently blocking one of the lines from London Victoria.
Travellers have been told: “Your journey time will be significantly longer this morning.”
Epsom station, serving the constituency of the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, is on both the Southern and South Western networks. Of the 11 trains due to depart between 9am and 10am, most were cancelled and the rest were delayed.
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