Disruption from major engineering works at the UK’s busiest train station could have “lasting implications” for small retailers along the South West Trains line, a small business lobby group has warned.
Ten of the of the 19 platforms at London’s Waterloo station have been closed until August 28 as part of major works by Network Rail, which includes extending platforms.
Commuters along the SW Train network, especially those from the Woking, Guildford and Surbiton areas, have been warned the train timetable will be significantly reduced for this period. A few stations, such as Earlsfield, will even be closed during peak hours.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said many retailers in south west London and the connecting commuter areas now risk facing unforeseen losses and a drop in customer numbers — especially during a month that is traditionally peak season for tourism.
“Whilst our members will be doing everything they can to work flexibly around the disruption to rail services at Waterloo and other mainline stations across London this month, there will be lasting implications for small businesses already on tight margins,” FSB London policy chairwoman Sue Terpilowski said.
“This is peak season for tourism and for those businesses in the hospitality or retail sectors the impact will be felt more keenly.
“Many restaurants, hotels and shops will experience cancelled bookings and lost sales that will not be recovered when the work at the stations is completed.
“Some small businesses are able to allow staff to work at home, but many cannot. Whatever approach they take, will cost time and money to arrange, which at a time when the cost of doing business in the capital is rising, they can ill afford.”
Colin Stanbridge, the chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said his organisation supported the aim of the engineering works but questioned if the level of disruption was “really necessary”.
“While Network Rail are advising people to work from home, take leave around this period or avoid peak hours, this is not always possible or practical,” he said.
“Staff often have to be in the office to do their job, to have the required level of input in meetings and for many roles in service provision such as restaurant staff it is literally impossible to do their job away from their place of work or work alternative hours.”
SW Trains operates 1600 trains a day from Waterloo station, carrying 651,000 passengers. It is regarded as the busiest commuter operator in Europe.