Waterloo Station retail balcony

Improving England’s busiest station with new shopping space

While filming the Bourne trilogy, Matt Damon was one of the more than 90 million people who pass through Waterloo station every year: a number predicted to grow by 30 per cent by 2030. So improving the station’s facilities and reducing congestion ahead of this, and the 2012 Olympic Games, was essential.

With 350,000 passengers passing through Waterloo Station daily, removing existing retail outlets from the main concourse and building a 220 metre balcony with 18 retail outlets was a challenge for the BAM team.

To tackle this, the site team was split into two, working day and night shifts to avoid disrupting the station’s day-to-day operations. Working hours were restricted during the day and the majority of the works were carried out during the station closure hours from midnight to 5am. This required precise planning and excellent communication on a nightly basis.

Project details

  • Client: Network Rail Infrastructure
  • Main Contractor: BAM Construction
  • Architect: Weedon Partnership

  • Quantity Surveyor: Network Rail Infrastructure

  • Structural Engineer: Price & Myers

  • Services Engineer: Hoare Lea

  • Value: £17.6m

  • Floor area: 5,115m2

  • Completion: June 2012

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The unique challenge of a safety-critical working environment

We worked very closely with Network Rail, following strict permit approval procedures to work in the many different parts of the station included in the works. This included building the new balcony but also converting first floor offices and accessing services under the concourse.

If any fire alarms were triggered by the slightest construction dust, the team had just six minutes to locate the problem, assess if it was a real fire, and let Network Rail know it was a false alarm. If not, the whole station would be evacuated, losing thousands of pounds of business and disrupting passengers for hours. With this in mind, the team was meticulous about dust suppression and access control.

“We needed to find a radical solution to improve the space and facilities at Waterloo. The opening of the balcony, with the removal of retail units from the concourse, crucially reduces congestion while still providing the facilities expected at a modern station.”

Tim Shoveller

Managing Director of the Network Rail/South West Trains alliance

Innovative helicopter lift delivers plant

Because it was a very constrained and busy site, we had to carefully plan and manage deliveries. We took an innovative approach to deliver heavy plant materials via helicopter lifts – a joint effort between our plant, services engineering and construction teams. Although this required complex planning with many stakeholders, including the London Fire Brigade, Transport for London, the British Transport Police and the Civil Aviation authority, 10 plant loads were smoothly lifted and landed in just 45mins on the roof of Waterloo Station.

Complex services engineering

Below Waterloo station lies a labyrinth of Victorian catacombs that accommodated 6,500 people during the Blitz, as well as the old Eurostar terminal.

With the help of our in-house services engineering team, we used as-built drawings and extensive surveys to map the services underfoot and integrate them into the new services solution. We also had to excavate the concourse to install four new escalators to the balcony.