All change at Waterloo! Bright new station to emerge from under the arches as masterplan revealed

Long-term plans to transform Waterloo station were unveiled today (Monday) in a bid to improve links with the South Bank and other cultural venues.

A masterplan backed by Network Rail and Lambeth council puts forward a 10-15 year vision of new entrances, wider concourses and the conversion of unused underground arches into shops and restaurants.

Network Rail chair Lord Hendy vowed not to build over the 175-year-old station’s historic roof – but the 210-page masterplan proposes a series of tall buildings around the station’s edges, including of up to 28 storeys on its northern side.

Lord Hendy hopes Waterloo could undergo a similar transformation to King’s Cross and London Bridge stations – and said Victoria was next on his list for redevelopment, though details remain under wraps.

Until the Elizabeth line sent passenger numbers at Liverpool Street and Paddington stations soaring, Waterloo was the busiest rail station in the country, with 57.8m passengers last year.

About 30m people a year visit the wider Waterloo and South Bank area, which includes the National Theatre, the Royal Festival Hall, the Old Vic and the Young Vic.

The masterplan, by Grimshaw architects, which designed the award-winning international wing of the station once used by Eurostar, aims to remove the “barriers” the station presents to pedestrians while suggesting areas for commercial development to fund the station revamp and boost the area’s economy.

How the interior of Waterloo station would look under the masterplan (Grimshaw/Network Rail)
How the interior of Waterloo station would look under the masterplan (Grimshaw/Network Rail)

It proposes pedestrianising Cab Road to enable a “Victory Arch piazza” to be built at the station’s main entrance, plus a new entrance at Lower Marsh.

In total, there would be 11 new or enhanced entrances, 40 per cent more space on the platform concourse and more than 5,000 cycle parking spaces. The 11, 77 and 243 buses would be re-routed and a new bus station created on the station’s southern side, near Lower Marsh, where office blocks of up 16 storeys could be built.

Lord Hendy told the Standard: “As these things go, [the masterplan] is one of the best things I have ever seen.

“There’s huge detail and the active participation of the local authority, local community and local landowners. It’s something that we at Network Rail can build on to make the station better for the future.

“I think our combined objective is to do the same thing around Waterloo as we now see at King’s Cross.”

He said the aim was to use “as little public money as we can manage” by allowing developers to build on publicly owned land. The masterplan, which is seen as a “first step” to making the changes, does not include an estimate of the cost.

Lord Hendy said the station’s undercroft was a prime area for redevelopment. Bigger and better retail units were likely to be built on the concourse and ground floor.

“Don’t imagine we are going to demolish the train shed and build a 92-storey tower on top, because we’re not,” he said. “But around our footprint there are some spaces that could be used for development.

“The train shed at Waterloo is iconic. I can’t envisage any circumstances where we build on top of that.”

There are no plans to increase the number of platforms. There are 24 at present, including the five former Eurostar platforms.

The station entrance on Waterloo Road is regarded as “undersized”, causing overcrowding at the Tube barriers and at the escalators to the mainline concourse.

Station Approach, Spur Road, Cab Road, Tenison Way and Mepham Street are used by buses, taxis and service vehicles “to the detriment of pedestrians”, the masterplan said.

Lambeth leader Claire Holland said the aim was to create “world class public realm”, but admitted progress may start with only “small steps” such as wayfinding guides.

“The station is a massive asset to the area but there are barriers,” she said. “We know it can be slightly unpleasant. Our priority is absolutely to transform the area.”

Kirsten Lees, a partner at Grimshaw , said the masterplan was “visionary and aspirational but critically pragmatic”. She said: “The Waterloo and South Bank area of tomorrow will be one of London’s healthiest, most sustainable, diverse and successful centres.”