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L.B. Foster Delivers on Major Signalling Upgrade for London Waterloo

Network Rail is investing £800m to improve and increase the capacity of London Waterloo, Britain’s busiest station and one of the country’s most used railways, with a program of works from 2015 to 2018.

Central to the project's success is a major signal and control panel upgrade at Wimbledon Junction in south London. The upgrade involves the complete redesign and reconfiguration of existing signalling to accommodate the 30 per cent increase in capacity that will help futureproof capacity at London Waterloo well into the middle of the 21st Century.

The Wessex Capacity Alliance comprises six partner organizations; Network Rail, Colas Rail, Skanska UK, AECOM, Mott MacDonald and OSL Rail. Network Rail and project partner Skanska UK selected L.B. Foster to design, implement and commission the new signaling and control panel project at Wimbledon Junction. 

Chris Mayhew, Program Systems Integration Manager at Skanska UK is the man spearheading the Wessex Capacity Alliance project. Chris explains: "The Waterloo and South West Upgrade project is one of those 'once in a lifetime' infrastructure investments designed to future proof services for a generation.

"It's so far reaching - from redeveloping Waterloo station into a modern, 21st Century transport hub, introducing longer platforms and longer trains, to the application of new technology to make trains more efficient and improve punctuality. That's where L.B. Foster fits in. The new control panel changes are mission critical to this project.”

Control panels

L.B. Foster’s role in the renewal project is in two phases. Phase 1 (Platforms 20 to 24) installation took place during 19-night shifts in January 2017 with phase 2 (Platforms 1 to 8) taking place during 11 night shifts in August 2017. Both phases include modification and rectification work to the Control & Indication Panels at Wimbledon Area Signaling Centre. 

Additional upgrades to the Technicians Control Panels at Waterloo Relay Room and Clapham Relay Room have also been completed as part of the project.

Nigel Dobney, Project Manager, L.B. Foster, says: "These are the kinds of projects that we thrive on. Success is all about communication and we’ve invested in developing positive relationships with all members of the Wessex Capacity Alliance. That has helped us to understand the scope of the project better. It’s meant we’ve been able to develop and present a robust installation strategy that instilled confidence in W.C.A. that the panel works would be delivered and installed in a professional and timely manner.

“The overall scope of the brief has changed so much that it’s almost unrecognizable but that's where our expertise, experience and innate understanding of the control panel and signaling environment kicks in. We're working with legacy systems that we’re more than familiar with as we’ve had experience working on similar systems over the years. This familiarity has been invaluable in developing the blueprints for the new configurations.

“Our installation team has worked tirelessly under strict time constraints to ensure that all works were completed on time and to schedule so that W.C.A. could test prior to trains recommencing running each morning. It’s high pressure work but our team is well used to delivering in such circumstances.”

Chris Mayhew at Skanska continues: "L.B. Foster's team has been faultless. They have been involved in every decision and every redesign, delivering creative solutions to complex challenges. Whenever we have called upon them to respond they have responded and delivered over and above expectations."

There are more than 230 million passenger journeys on the railway to and from London Waterloo every year – an increase of over 100 per cent in 20 years. Work on the Waterloo and South West Upgrade started in April 2016 when Network Rail began developing the former Waterloo International Terminal for domestic services. The project is expected to be completed by December 2018 and will provide the biggest package of improvements to London Waterloo since the 1930s.

David Otohwo is Head of Engineering at Wessex Capacity Alliance. He manages a team of over 1,000 engineers, all working towards the common goal of delivering the Waterloo and South West Upgrade on time and on budget. He explains his experience working with L.B. Foster on the Wimbledon Junction control panel upgrade: "The complexity of the upgrade at Wimbledon is extraordinary. But somehow it didn't seem to phase the team from L.B. Foster. They went about their work quietly and confidently, delivering time after time. I think the greatest testimony to the team's contribution is the fact they went about their work almost unnoticed. 

“Keeping below the radar on big projects like this is a real skill because it means that what you're doing is going to plan and is not a concern to the project team. That's the kind of contractor we like!"

The number of passenger journeys on this line has more than doubled in the last twenty years to 234 million and is expected to increase by a further 40% by 2043. At London Waterloo Network Rail is working to:

  • Create a spacious, modern and accessible station concourse by rebuilding the former Waterloo International Terminal.

  • Increase services by bringing platforms 20–24 back into use and introducing modern facilities along with new track and signaling.

  • Allow longer ten-carriage trains to run to suburban routes by extending platforms 1–4.

Across the network, the Waterloo & South West Upgrade will bring:

  • Longer platforms for longer trains, at a number of stations on the Reading line.

  • 30 brand new trains, providing 150 extra carriages between London Waterloo and Windsor.

  • New technology to make trains more efficient and improve punctuality.

  • Improvements to depots and maintenance facilities to look after the network’s biggest ever fleet of trains.

This is the biggest investment to this railway for decades. It will provide a bigger and better London Waterloo, with improved facilities and also provide space for 30% more passengers during the busiest times of the day. This investment will also pave the way for providing more space and journeys for longer distance passengers in the near future.

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