Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Jenny, you asked, so here’s an answer (of sorts)

Posted in Customer service, Great Britain, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 29 August 2012

Usually, at the end of a night out in the West End, which may have been a trip to the theatre, or just a night at the “local” (so called because it isn’t local to either of us, and just seems to be the pub we’ve chosen), my mate and I will make our way to Waterloo, which is the most convenient point for us to get to our respective bits of London. Now, I’m guessing that it may be my influence, but she seems to have developed a passing interest in the railways as, while walking across the concourse, passing the old international platforms, she’ll often ask me what is being done with them. And, use as a theatre besides, I have to always tell her that there is nothing being done. I’ve mentioned the ambition to have the long distance trains to the South West use them, but of course this would require a monumental (not to mention monumentally expensive) remodelling of the station throat. So, beyond the upcoming recommissioning of Platform 20 to cater for the planned longer trains on the Windsor and Reading routes, Waterloo International remains abandoned. Imagine my surprise then when, while recently reading the Wikipedia article, I came across a reference to an article from the February 2012 issue of Modern Railways, which apparently stated that Waterloo International was potentially being looked at as a terminus for the sleepers. The rationale is that, when the work begins at Euston (currently the terminus of the Caledonian Sleeper) for High Speed 2, there will be restricted capacity, and the sleeper is probably the lowest priority. Additionally, the Caledonian Sleeper currently uses a mix of Mark 2 and Mark 3 coaches, but is looking to upgrade its rolling stock (likely to an all Mark 3 fleet) that, with a 16-car train starting from London would be too long for the platforms at Euston to accomodate. Given that the platforms at Waterloo International were designed for Class 373 trains that are 394m long, with the shortest being Platform 20 at 396m, then Platforms 21-24 should comfortably be able to accomodate even an all Mark 3 sleeper train.

Additionally, one of the major difficulties with recommissioning the international platforms is the way they (and the building) has been designed to segregate passengers from the rest of the station, a necessity given the international nature of the services that used to operate there. The undercroft that used to be used for international passengers could potentially be converted to provide some degree of temporary, hotel-like accomodation (for example shower facilities) for passengers arriving on the sleeper. The segregation from the rest of Waterloo means that sleeper passengers would not have to be rushed out into the hustle and bustle of the UK’s busiest station at rush hour having to all intents and purposes just gotten out of bed.

Further, the international platforms are ideally located to allow the existing sleeper services to reach their current destinations, thanks to the fact that Eurostar’s old depot was at North Pole on the Great Western Main Line, which they reached by using the West London Line – this short commuter route gives access not just to the GWML, but also to the West Coast Main Line, which just happen to be the routes of the two current sleeper services, the Caledonian Sleeper and the Night Riviera, which means that the sleepers could be concentrated in one location. The fact that the Scottish Government plans to create a separate franchise for the Caledonian Sleeper suggests that it may be worth amalgamating the Night Riviera into this (rather than having it as part fo the Great Western franchise as it is now), and basing the whole operation at Waterloo, allowing it to achieve some degree of its former potential at what could well be a fraction of the cost of some other of its mooted uses.

Waterloo to be new sleeper train hub?
Sleepers to use Waterloo International

The contrast in platform lengths between Waterloo Main and Waterloo International can be clearly seen – the extra long former international platforms would be ideal for accomodating long sleeper trains

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