Tuesday, October 16th, 2018
At the end of May, the new-look London Bridge Station was formally opened by the Duke of Cambridge, following a five-year project that cost almost £1 billion. Less than four months later, commuters and staff at the station were having to shelter from constant water ingress, with run-off from adjacent buildings finding its way directly into the station concourse.
With an infrastructure that dates back more than 100 years, London drainage facilities are constantly struggling to meet the demands of a city that just keeps growing. However, the need to retrofit waterproofing at such a major and expensive development so soon after completion has caused more than a few raised eyebrows.
The water ingress is plain for all to see, pouring down the walls of the tunnels that are immediately below the main concourse. Local traders, who operate the various shops and kiosks within the station, have been forced to put out buckets and trays to catch the leaks. It certainly does not portray the image that Network Rail was dreaming of achieving with its new flagship facility.
One trader compared the water pouring in to a “feng shui waterfall,” while another commented that the steady flow continues day and night, regardless of whether it is raining outside.
Network Rail was keen to play down the severity of the problem. A spokesperson told reporters that the waterproofing work is part of “a series of finalisation works” and that the overall project will still remain within the £1 billion budget that was set out in 2013.
When pressed as to cause of the leaks, the spokesperson said that there were some water sources that had not been included on the original station plans. Once the construction was completed, these proved to be directing drainage water directly into the station.
Those on the scene see this as more than “finishing touches” however. In the past week, areas at the front of the station have been cordoned off, and the newly-laid paving has been completely removed as contractors work to address the problem.
The exact cost of the work has not been disclosed, but experts say it will certainly run into seven figures. Prestec UK is the lead engineering firm on the project, and according to a press release on its website, it has been tasked with installing more than a thousand square metres of cavity drain membrane to the arches, along with extra water collection gulleys to route the water away from the station. They say that once the work has been completed around the retail units, there will be further waterproofing to be done in the western arcade area of the station.
Network Rail says that the station will be “fully opened” in December 2019. Naturally enough, this has only served to make many wonder why the ceremony with the Duke of Cambridge took place 18 months earlier.