The Northern line at Waterloo station has moved closer to having step-free access after a deal was signed with the developer of a new office block directly above it.
Elizabeth House, a rather run-down office block that runs alongside Waterloo Station is scheduled to be demolished, and developers are contributing to local area improvements as part of the planning condition, including enabling step-free access to the Northern line platforms.
The planning documents note that while adding a lift shaft to the Bakerloo line can be done without interfering with surface buildings, lifts to the Northern line can only be built if the surface buildings are being demolished. So the demolition of Elizabeth House gives what’s described as a “once in a generation” opportunity to provide the lift shaft and step-free access to the Northern line.
The cost of providing the lift shaft to safeguard the possibility of step-free access to the Northern line is estimated to be £4.5 million, although the developer is only liable for £1.8 million of the costs.
This is due to a calculation that making the entire Underground station step-free would cost around £45 million, and as the new office block is expected to be responsible for 4% of the demand at the station, the developer can only be liable for 4% of the cost — hence £1.8 million.
Therefore additional funding would be required to deliver the lift shaft. According to the Lambeth Council planning documents, is likely to come from TfL with possible funding sources being the TfL Business Plan and potential s106 contributions from other schemes.
The planning permission was originally granted back in October 2019, but was subject to the signing of a Section 106 agreement, which has now been done.
The agreement requires the developer to construct a 2.5 metre lift shaft from the ground to 2.5 metres below the level of the Northern line, to allow for the lift equipment to fit in underneath. Although the shaft runs from the ground, that’s to help remove soil without taking it through the station. When completed the lift will operate from the lower concourse level that already exists down to the platform level of the Northern line.
The York Road entrance that reopened in May 2019 has escalator access down to the lower concourse, and there’s lift access from the Waterloo Road entrance to the Jubilee line, which then has a travelator link to the lower concourse. There is still a theoretical possibility that the lift shaft cannot be delivered due to engineering constraints, in which case the developer will be expected to spend the same amount on other local upgrades.
When completed, the Elizabeth House redevelopment will be renamed One Waterloo.
It will also include a promenade that will provide an acre of green space, open to the public and accessible directly from the Waterloo Station concourse linking the mainline station with York Road. You could call it a “Garden Bridge”.