“ Waterloo is the UK's largest station, covering an area of 24.5 acres. One of its most notable features is the Victory Arch, built of Portland Stone. This commemorates the London and South Western and the Southern Railway men who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. „
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Living near and working in central London, I often find myself having to travel either to, from or through Waterloo station. Although it's probably not the most used station for commuters, it is the largest station in the UK and one of the best in central London.
The building is absolutely huge and parts of it are obviously very old as, from the outside, you can see all the statues and old-fashioned architecture and it's actually a really lovely building to look at if you take the time, especially the main front entrance.
This is where the Eurostar first left from so it used to be very busy with international users as well as everyday users, but the Eurostar now leaves from St Pancras International. As far as I'm aware they turned the Eurostar platforms into normal train platforms but they don't seem to actually be using them so this area seems to just be a waste of space at the moment, but it does mean that the station is less crowded.
This is still a very busy station though, despite the Eurostar not being here anymore, as trains literally leave to everywhere in the UK. There are 19 working platforms, another 4 platforms in Waterloo East, plus access to the Underground station which has 4 underground lines passing through it. There are so many digital timetables for train departures so it's easy to keep an eye on the train you want, that is if you can find it amongst all the other departures!
Waterloo East is the station that I mostly use as this is the one that South Eastern trains run through. This station is right next to the main Waterloo station and you can get to and from it by walking across the enclosed bridge over Waterloo Road.
Waterloo is a fairly good station for entertaining yourself if you've got a while to wait for a train. There are a fair few shops and casual places to eat including fast-food restaurants and cafes. The station is also situated in a great location in London being a short 5-10 minute walk from the London Eye and South Bank, so is very close to some great attractions.
This station obviously has it's faults like all stations do such as occasionally delayed trains and not the nicest smelling toilets, but other than that, I think that Waterloo is one of the better stations in central London.
As most people may be aware, the attraction of history is something that I have started to get seriously interested in as I get older as it allows another viewing perspective to be taken that uncovers literally another dimension relating the facts of something or even someone. One such thing that is interesting is Waterloo Station, a place that I am very familiar with as being one of the thousands that travel through here every day.
The mainline station is simply an extension to the line which used to terminate at Nine Elms, a mile and a half away. It was decided that the area was not situated for the best possible commercial purposes and it was decided that the extension should be built to allow passenger travel to a more central location and due to this Waterloo Station was built and opened in 1848. With a number of minor stations being built where Waterloo is today that went to various areas South West of London, the five mini stations were merged into one and called Waterloo. Today all services that run from Waterloo are managed by South West Trains, a controversial train operator in its own right for some of the decisions it makes, running services from Waterloo to Southampton and Weymouth and as far away as Exeter with more local services to Wimbledon, Kingston, Windsor and Staines.
The position of Waterloo is perfect; yards from the River Thames with the London Eye simply a five minute walk away, the station can easily be classified as a hub due to the fact that three Underground lines intersect here as well as the Waterloo and City Line that runs direct to Bank in seven minutes. To increase the size even further a walkway direct to Waterloo East is in place that allows a passenger interchange from one mainline station to availability to board trains to the South East.
Walking from the Thames in the direction of the nearby IMAX Cinema you walk through the magnificent Waterloo Arch to get onto the concourse. This is extremely eye-catching and the sheer size makes it more of a one off architectural piece than the normal seventies designs that ridicule most mainline stations today in Central London. In fact inside the Station the roof has recently been cleaned and restored allowing more light and to the Platforms.
Over the years the internal layout of Waterloo has changed dramatically, the service road that used to run across the concourse between Platforms 10 and 11 was removed as apart of a rebuild in the early 1980's with the whole area becoming one singular concourse. This was primarily used for Freight to be placed on Trains as well as ensuring members of the Royal Family were taken straight to there Train. Although probably the most dramatic piece of building work at the Station has been the addition of the Eurostar Terminal. This was built on the north side of the Station and Platforms 20 and 21 became the international gateway to which Eurostar's departed from London for the continent. Sadly with the relocation of the Terminal to St Pancras the Platforms are still empty and used with South West Trains crying out to use these to alleviate the pressure from the other 19 Platforms that they use at Waterloo. It's a shame really as every day I go through this veritable leviathan of a Station that I see this area used and effectively moth balled. It annoys me somewhat as this area could be used effectively without any impact to the rest of the Station.
With the extended use of Oyster, Waterloo has been modernised even further. Along the various entrances to the 19 Platforms in use there used to be various little kiosks and shops such as WH Smiths and small food shops such as Delice De France. In a shock move these have been removed and replaced with automated barriers, the kind you get at a Tube Station that means you have to push your Travelcard through or slap your Oyster Card down. Originally these entrances had two members of staff checking tickets of all passengers and as you can imagine the queues were backing up. Well now its totally different as there are a continuous row of 164 gates. This is quite something to look at as they run from one end of Waterloo to the other, and with the Shops being removed it has opened the area up and makes the place a lot brighter and far more attractive to look at and actually be in.
The fact that there are so many lines that intersect at the Station means straight away that the place is going to be busy anyway and how this is managed is the key to how good the trains actually are. What impressed me were that there were a number of Customer Service stands place at intervals across the concourse, manned all the time during peak hours the staff there were professional and courteous in the approach to customer queries, on the flipside the Ticket Office that in Waterloo was large to say the least with the Office being manned by ten members of staff has been closed and replaced by Ticket machines. This does not present the correct image to visitors or travellers to the capital and in some way demeans the image of what is being presented, not sure if it's like this in any other capital city... I certainly hope not.
In the fifteen years that I have been going through this Station I have seen the retail side grow and grow. From the small and people packed Our Price to the new Marks and Spencer's, to the opening of Costa Coffee and Burger King. It is nice to sit outside Costa and simply people watch everyone on their own adventure, but the negative is that you get hounded by beggars asking for money. Again this puts me off as the Security see this and will follow a person until someone gets annoyed and they will ask them to leave. It's also the same with Photographers, in a place like this that is renowned for things such as the famous clock as in "meet me under the clock at Waterloo Station" then it is clear that people will take photos. The only problem being is that the Security does tend to question why they are doing this and in some cases remove the person from site. I can see why they are asking especially with what has happened in Moscow in the last few days, but do they have to be so heavy?
Overall the Station does its job and with a plenitude of Buses that service the Station and its own Taxi rank the possibility that this is the end of the line should not be questioned at all. This station has a lot of history that is just waiting to be discovered, a good example is the Funeral service that took Coffins from Waterloo down to Brookwood Cemetery, this was the London Necropolis Company that had its own siding that can still be seen today from a building in Westminster Bridge Road that joined the mainline, I personally find this fascinating as the building is still there today!
Waterloo serves a purpose and does deliver it well with plenty to do whilst you wait for your train, with the purpose that you spend money! Everything centres around food so you'll never go hungry or even thirsty as there are a couple of Pubs on the concourse and even more nearby outside the station which given the fact that the trains may be playing up is a very good option to let the crowds die down before making a move home.
Waterloo Station is one of the UK's largest stations and is located in the south of London. Waterloo station was split into 2, you had Waterloo & Waterloo International, where Eurostar trains used to terminate & start from heading across Europe, this section of the station closed a few years ago as Eurostar moved their services to the brand new St Pancres International/ Kings Cross station in the North of the City.
Waterloo station now has just local services running across the South & South West regions of the UK but it's still a major station for access to central London & to the South West regions. Services are ran by South West Trains which is a train operator ran by Stagecoach. I have not had many experiences travelling with them but when I have & from what I have heard by friends, they are a really nice company, trains are generally clean & tidy, I have been to Waterloo station a few times and never seen any major problems with them neither.
Waterloo station is very large & open and has 20 platforms which stretch along one edge of the station, this is great as as all the platforms are together, making it easier to find the one you need. You'll also find huge departure boards before the platforms to find out which train & platform you need. These are very easy to see as they are massive, clear LED screens.
While you wait for the train, I think the station has ample amounts of facilties, with 23 food & drink outlets including top brands like McDonalds, Cafe Nero, Starbucks, Upper Crust, M&S Food, Burger King, Thresher, The Pastry Shop & Krispy Kreme. They also have 14 retail outlets including 3 W H Smiths, a Boots, Monsoon, Tie Rack & Body Shop. So if you arrive early or your train gets delayed you'll find plenty of ammenities to keep you occupied for a while. Other facilities include the usual you have at major stations like toilets, baby changing facilities, cash machines, ticket office where you can get timetables & information, buy tickets & get assistance, telephones & luggage trolleys.
The station is extremely easy to get to from across London, 4 tube lines pass through the station (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines) with the underground station directly below the mainline stations, just switch between the two using escalators or stairs. Tons of local buses also visit the station from Central, North & South London. You can also jump in a cab or ride your bike as parking facilities for bikes are available at the station. So I think it's one of the most easilly accessable stations in London.
For easy use & easy accessability I would recommend Waterloo
I have family that live in Kingston-upon-Thames, and use South Western's service out of Waterloo about once a month to go and visit them. Waterloo is the only other train station I use with much regularity besides Paddington, and it has its faults and its benefits relative to its more famous north-west counterpart.
Waterloo Station is incredibly accessible via the Tube - with access to the Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines, Waterloo can get you to Canary Wharf, Bank, Tottenham Court Road, Kings Cross, Paddington, or Oxford Circus without necessitating a line change, and literally anywhere else in the city with only 1 line change.
However, Waterloo is lacking in non-fast-food and non-greasy food stalls. There's a McDonald's and a Cornish Pasty Co (which you can smell anywhere in the station!) on the lower level, and a chain pub on the top level, as well as a generic baguette place (the name escapes me, but it has a yellow label and looks as though all the baguettes are brought in, pre-made, every morning - though I could be wrong!). A Pret would be a nice alternative to these options, but the closest one is on the other side of Waterloo Bridge! The Sainsbury's across the road is another option, but you need to cross Waterloo Road to get to it.
If you're wanting to travel in and out of London from the Southwest, Waterloo is an unavoidable pit stop but, beside recommending you pick up lunch either before your journey or plan on heading north of the river as soon as you get off the train to grab a bite to eat, it's a very nice station.
Another pro, I can vouch for the WH Smiths as they are well stocked - I've bought many books at Waterloo Station!
Waterloo railway station is situated south of the river, so it is an obvious choice for those of us visiting London from the South West. In fact, all the train services appear to be operated by South West Trains. Situated only a short walk from the Thames, it is also a great starting place for a tourist holiday or day trip.
We arrived into Waterloo Station at just before lunchtime on a Saturday and it was bustling but not too crowded. Like most larger stations, the high ceiling contribute to a feeling of space. At Waterloo there are a variety of shops to take care of your need for snacks or gifts, we popped into a small branch of Marks and Spencers "Simply Food", and also noticed a mini branch of both the Body Shop and Paperchase.
However, when we arrived our main concern was to use the loo - and for this there was a 30p charge. I think that a charge to use toilets should mean that they are very well kept, but this was not the case at Waterloo. They were just as grubby as any other station toilets, with broken locks and dubious hygiene, but with the added insult of having to pay and squeeze through a very narrow turnstile. (Those of a more generous stature, or with lots of luggage - you'd better cross your legs.)
The station itself was very clean and tidy looking, with cleaners in evidence picking up litter and sweeping. It is not a particularly inviting place to spend any time though, as although you can purchase take-away snacks, there is nowhere to sit, aside from perhaps 2 or 3 benches that (on my visit) were already taken. This is particularly frustrating as the platforms are not announced for each train until usually about 10 minutes before departure, sometimes less. This means that if you've arrived early you'll spend your waiting time in the main hall of the station (staring at the departures board, willing it to change!) rather than on the platform. When we departed, we found that the train was waiting on the platform as soon as it was announced and we were able to get onto the train straight away. This part seemed very efficient. Some more seating in the waiting area would help!
From Waterloo on foot it is very convenient to get to attractions such as the London Eye (5 minutes walk) or the Tate Modern (20 minutes walk). By taking a pleasant walk across the river you could get to Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus in about half an hour. Alternatively, both the Northern Line and the Bakerloo Line tube leave Waterloo regularly. On our day trip we walked along the banks of the Thames to the Tate and then into Covent Garden for shopping, and then with tired feet we zipped back from Leicester Square on the tube in a few minutes.