UK Transport Wiki

Waterloo station,[1] also known as London Waterloo,[2] is a major railway terminus in central London, owned and operated by Network Rail. It is in the London Borough of Lambeth, near the South Bank, and in Travelcard Zone 1.

With some 88 million passengers a year, Waterloo is easily Britain's busiest railway station in terms of passenger throughput. The total number of people passing through the station is considerably greater, as this figure is based on ticket sales for London Waterloo alone and does not include usage data for the Underground and Waterloo East. The Waterloo complex is one of the busiest passenger terminals in Europe, comparable to the Gare Saint-Lazare and second only to the Gare du Nord in Paris. It has more platforms and a greater floor area than any other station in the UK (but Clapham Junction, just under four miles down the line, has the largest number of trains). It is the terminus of a network of railway lines in Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, South West England, and the south-western suburbs of London.

While most of Waterloo's traffic is essentially local or suburban in character, there are also regular "main line" express services to longer-distance destinations, the most important of which are Portsmouth, Southampton, and Bournemouth, all on the south coast.


The London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) opened the station on 11 July 1848 as 'Waterloo Bridge Station' (from the nearby crossing over the Thames) when its main line was extended from Nine Elms. Designed by William Tite, it was raised above marshy ground on a series of arches.[3] The unfulfilled intention was for a through station with services to the City. In 1886 it officially became 'Waterloo Station', reflecting long-standing common usage, even in some L&SWR timetables.

As the station grew, it became increasingly ramshackle. The original 1848 station became known as the 'Central Station' as other platforms were added. The new platform sets were known by nicknames - the two platforms added for suburban services in 1878 were the 'Cyprus Station', whilst the six built in 1885 for use by trains on the Windsor line became the 'Khartoum Station'. Each of these stations-within-a-station had its own booking office, Taxi stand and public entrances from the street, as well as often poorly marked and confusing access to the rest of the station. By 1899 Waterloo had 16 platform roads but only 10 platform numbers due to platforms in different sections of the station or on different levels sometimes duplicating the number of a platform elsewhere.[4] A little-used railway line even crossed the main concourse on the level and passed through an archway in the station building to connect to the South Eastern Railway's smaller station, now Waterloo East, whose tracks lie perpendicular to those of Waterloo. Passengers were, not surprisingly, confused by the layout and by the two adjacent stations called 'Waterloo'. By 1897 there were also three separate (and separately-owned) Underground stations named 'Waterloo' under or close by the station, as well as the adjacent Necropolis Company station.[5] This complexity and confusion became the butt of jokes by writers and music hall comics for many years in the late 19th century. In Jerome K. Jerome's book Three Men in a Boat no one at Waterloo knows the wanted train's platform, departure time or destination.[5]

In 1899 the L&SWR decided on a total rebuilding. Legal powers were granted that year, and extensive groundwork and slum clearance were carried out until 1904, when construction on the terminus proper began. The new station was opened in stages, the first five new platforms opening in 1910. Construction continued sporadically throughout the First World War, and the new station finally opened in 1922 with 21 platforms and a concourse nearly 800 feet (250 m) long. The new station included a large stained glass window depicting the L&SWR's company crest over the main road entrance, surrounded by a frieze listing the counties served by the railway (the latter survives today). These features were retained in the design despite the fact that by the time the station opened the 1921 Railway Act had been passed which spelt the end of the L&SWR as an independent concern.[5] The main pedestrian entrance, the Victory Arch (known as Exit 5), is a memorial to company staff who were killed during the two world wars. Damage to the station in World War II required considerable repair but entailed no significant changes of layout.

A past curiosity of Waterloo was that a spur led to the adjoining dedicated station of the London Necropolis Company, from which funeral trains, at one time daily, ran to Brookwood Cemetery bearing coffins at 2/6 each. This station was destroyed during World War II.[6]

Ownership of Waterloo underwent a succession, broadly typical of many British stations. Under the 1923 Grouping it passed to the Southern Railway (SR), then in the 1948 nationalisation to British Railways. Following the privatisation of British Rail, ownership and management passed to Railtrack in April 1994 and finally in 2002 to Network Rail.

Platforms 20 and 21 were lost to the Waterloo International railway station site, which from November 1994 to November 2007 was the London terminus of Eurostar international trains to Paris and Brussels. Construction necessitated the removal of decorative masonry forming two arches from that side of the station, bearing the legend "Southern Railway". This was re-erected at the private Fawley Hill Museum of Sir William McAlpine, whose company built Waterloo International. Waterloo International closed when the Eurostar service transferred to the new St Pancras railway station with the opening of the second phase of "HS1", High Speed route 1, also known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link or CTRL. Ownership of the former Waterloo International terminal then passed to BRB (Residuary) Ltd.

Station facilities[]

The major transport interchange at Waterloo comprises London Waterloo, Waterloo East, the Underground station (which includes the Waterloo and City line to Bank, known informally as 'The Drain'), and several bus stops.

Waterloo station connects to Waterloo East, across Waterloo Road, by a high-level walkway constructed mostly above the bridge of the former little-used connecting curve.

River services operate from nearby Waterloo Pier next to the London Eye.

A large four-faced clock hangs in the middle of the main concourse. Meeting "under the clock at Waterloo" is a traditional rendezvous.[7]

Police station[]

For many years until February 2009 there was a British Transport Police police station at Waterloo by the Victory Arch, with a custody suite of three cells. Although it was relatively cramped, until the late 1990s over 40 police officers operated from it.[8] Following the closure of the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo,[9] the police station closed in February 2009, and the railway station is now policed from a new Inner London Police Station a few yards from Waterloo at Holmes Terrace.[10] Until July 2010, the Neighbourhood Policing Team for Waterloo consisted of an Inspector, Sergeant, two Constables, Special Constables, and 13 PCSOs[11] - this establishment was significantly increased by the introduction of the 'Neighbourhood Hub Team' at Waterloo, involving police officers from London Underground.

Transport links[]

London bus routes 1, 4, 26, 59, 68, 76, 77, 139, 168, 171, 172, 176, 188, 211, 243, 341, 381, 507, 521, X68 and night bus routes N1, N68, N76, N171, N343 and N381. Some buses call at stops by the side of the station on Waterloo Road, others at Tenison Way, a short distance from the Victory Arch. These stops replace a former bus station at the lower (Waterloo Road) level where there are now retail outlets and an expanded entrance to the Underground.

National Rail Services[]

Waterloo has 24 terminal platforms in use, making it the biggest station in the UK in terms of platform numbers. The station is managed by Network Rail, and all trains are operated by South Western Railway.

Waterloo International Station[]

Waterloo International was the terminus for Eurostar international trains from 1994 until 2007, when they transferred to new international platforms at St. Pancras International. Waterloo International's five platforms were numbered 20 to 24 and have now been converted to mainline National Rail platforms used by South Western Railway services.

Preceding station National Rail logo.svg.png National Rail Following station
    Disused Railways    
Terminus   Eurostar   Ashford

London Waterloo East Railway Station[]

Main article: London Waterloo East railway station

Waterloo East is a through station, the last stop on the South Eastern Main Line before the terminus at Charing Cross.

Preceding station National Rail logo.svg.png National Rail Following station
London Charing Cross   Southeastern
South Eastern Main Line
  London Bridge

London Waterloo Underground Station[]

Main article: Waterloo tube station

Waterloo is served by the Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern (Charing Cross branch) and Waterloo & City lines. It is one of only two London terminals without a close connection to the Circle Line, the other being London Bridge.

Preceding station Underground.png London Underground Following station
towards Harrow & Wealdstone
  Bakerloo line   Lambeth North
towards Elephant & Castle
towards Edgware, Mill Hill East
or High Barnet
  Northern line   Kennington
towards Morden
towards Stanmore
  Jubilee line   Southwark
towards Stratford
Terminus   Waterloo & City line   Bank


Heathrow Airport links[]

Waterloo station is the central London terminus for the proposed Heathrow Airtrack rail service. This project, promoted by BAA, envisages the construction of a spur from the Waterloo to Reading Line to Heathrow Airport, creating direct rail links from the airport to Reading Central, Woking and Guildford. Airtrack was planned to open in 2015, subject to government approval.[12]

Cultural references[]

The area took its name from the Battle of Waterloo.[13][14] In the 1990s, after Waterloo station was chosen as the British terminus for the Eurostar train service, Florent Longuepée, a municipal councillor in Paris, wrote to the British Prime Minister requesting that the station be renamed because he said it was upsetting for the French to be reminded of Napoleon's defeat when they arrived in London by Eurostar. There is a name counterpart in Paris: the Gare d'Austerlitz is named after the Battle of Austerlitz, one of Napolean's greatest victories. However, this station is less important than most other stations in the city.


  • The opening scene of the 1943 film Miss London Ltd. features Anne Shelton as a singing track announcer who works for SR at Waterloo
  • Several scenes in the film Waterloo Road were filmed at Waterloo in 1945
  • The station is the subject of John Schlesinger's 1961 documentary film Terminus
  • Several scenes in The Bourne Ultimatum, starring Matt Damon, were filmed with British actor Paddy Considine at Waterloo between October 2006 and April 2007
  • Bollywood film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom was filmed extensively within Waterloo and the storyline was set around two people awaiting passengers arriving at the station
  • Scenes for Incendiary were filmed at the station during April and May 2007
  • The station has been used to shoot scenes for films including London to Brighton, Russian Dolls, Franklyn, Breaking and Entering and Outlaw


Waterloo has frequently appeared in television productions, including Waking the Dead, The Commander, Spooks, The Apprentice, The Bill, Top Gear, and Only Fools and Horses.


Two of the most famous images of the station are the two Southern Railway posters "Waterloo Station - War" and "Waterloo Station - Peace", painted by Helen McKie for the 1948 centenary of the station. The two pictures show hundreds of busy travellers all in exactly the same positions and poses, but with altered clothing and roles. The preparatory sketches for these were drawn between 1939 and 1942.

Other famous paintings of the station include the huge 1967 work by Terence Cuneo.


  • In Jerome K Jerome's 1889 comic novel, Three Men in a Boat, the protagonists spend some time in the station, trying to find their train to Kingston upon Thames. After being given contradictory information by every railway employee they speak to, they eventually bribe a train driver to take his train to their destination.


  • Waterloo and Waterloo Underground are the setting for the Kinks' song "Waterloo Sunset", written by Ray Davies and recorded in 1967. Its lyric describes two people (Terry and Julie, sometimes taken to refer to sixties icons Terence Stamp and Julie Christie.) meeting at Waterloo Station and crossing the river (via Waterloo Bridge, as Davies has confirmed). The song has been recorded by Cathy Dennis and Def Leppard: other acts, such as David Bowie and Elliott Smith, have covered the song in live performances
  • Adrian Evans wrote the song "London Waterloo", which is dedicated wholly to the station
  • The lyrics in the 1979 song "Rendezvous 6:02" by British progressive band U.K. describe a meeting at Waterloo
  • The lyrics to "Torn On The Platform" by Jack Peñate refer to the station ("train leaves at two, platform 3, Waterloo")
  • Carl Barat's band Dirty Pretty Things' debut album is called Waterloo to Anywhere
  • The booklet accompanying The Who's album Quadrophenia includes a photo of the album's protagonist on the steps of Waterloo, depicting a moment from the song 5:15
  • The music video to 'West End Girls' by the Pet Shop Boys was part filmed at Waterloo in the mid 1980s
  • Abba held a press photo shoot at Waterloo on 11 April 1974, the day after their first appearance on Top of the Pops, in celebration of their 'Waterloo' winning the Eurovision Song Contest five days before
  • Folksinger/comedian Les Barker wrote a lament for a lost commuter, "The Trains of Waterloo" which can be heard on the CD, "ORANGES AND LEMMINGS: The Mrs Ackroyd Band" with June Tabor doing the vocal.


  1. Stations Run by Network Rail. Network Rail. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
  2. Station Codes. National Rail. Retrieved on 23 August 2009.
  3. 'York Road', Survey of London: volume 23: Lambeth: South Bank and Vauxhall (1951), pp. 40-44.
  4. Biddle, Gordon (1973). Victorian Stations. David & Charles, 109. ISBN 0715359495. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Marsden, Colin J. (1981). This Is Waterloo. Ian Allan, 2,3. ISBN 978-0-7110-1115-1. 
  7. The People's War. BBC. Retrieved on 3 May 2010.
  8. Jones, Trevor (1998). Private security and public policing. Oxford University Press, 127. ISBN 0198265697. 
  9. Forest, James J.F. (1998). Homeland Security: Critical infrastructure. Greenwood Publishing Group, 254. ISBN 027598771X. 
  10. Google Maps. Retrieved on 3 May 2010.
  11. Waterloo Neighbourhood Policing Team, British Transport Police.
  12. Heathrow Airtrack. BAA. Retrieved on 6 January 2010..
  13. Mayor of London: Waterloo Opportunity Area Planning Framework (26 October 2007). Retrieved on 9 November 2010. “"Named after the Battle of Waterloo..."”
  14. The Opening of Waterloo Bridge. Retrieved on 9 November 2010. “"The first Waterloo Bridge, designed by John Rennie, was opened by the Prince Regent amid much pageantry on 18 June 1817, the second anniversary of the battle it commemorated.")”

See also[]

External links[]