diamond geezer

 Monday, September 16, 2013

WATERLOO & CITY: Up the line

Arrive off-peak at Waterloo to ride the Waterloo & City and you won't have to queue. You'll still have to walk via where the queue would be, and that might take a while, but you'll probably not have to stop and wait. This degree of separation from the remainder of Waterloo station is a result of the W&C's original existence as a non-Underground line, indeed there's still some faded Network South East branding on the platform edge. This was British Rail's branch line to the City, a sub-river shortcut, hence the fairly utilitarian architecture. The most direct route into the station from Waterloo is from the Bakerloo/Northern ticket hall, off-peak a lonely portal with minimal signage. More interesting is the approach from the Jubilee line ticket hall, an entirely different beast. This requires climbing a flight of steps and walking round what can only be described as a balcony, with fine views of passengers emerging up the escalators and an unexpected elephant. You've got to love the Jubilee line elephant.

Off-peak, the ramps down to platform level are austere and silent. There are two ramps in total, a cheap form of queueing mechanism during the early morning rush, plus one set of steps that's more direct. Note that there are no ticket barriers anywhere at this end of the line, so it would be wise to touch in at the top of the incline before it's too late. Which brings us to the platform. There are two of these - one inbound only and one outbound only, and the incoming passages lead to the latter. Don't expect an especially long platform, the W&C has the shortest trains on the network. If there's no train waiting, and there probably won't be, take a moment to stare down the tracks into the darkness. That's the Waterloo & City line's depot down there, where trains hole up between service and drivers pause for rest. One is probably lined up with headlights ablaze, and when you hear the whistle blow it's on its way.

The journey's not lengthy, just four minutes to traverse the mile and a half to Bank, passing beneath the river halfway completely unnoticed. It being off-peak you'll likely have a seat to yourself, maybe twenty, or even a solo carriage if you visit appropriately. There are bends and turns, but no events of any major significance, until hey presto the train arrives at its destination. If you're at the back of the train you have the furthest to walk, with the only exit being at the far end. Watch out for the tiny newsagent's kiosk partway along - that's News Box - with just enough space for City papers and a limited amount of chocolate.

A choice of exits is available, and what's more an extremely diverse range. Immediately before the ticket barriers a passage leads off to the heart of the station, ideal for interchange if you don't mind a long twisty walk. For those departing the station entirely, you could take the gently sloping stairs, But far more likely you'll ride the travolator, the moving walkway installed in 1960 to assist city gents in alighting to the surface. Gliding upwards you pass beneath hoops of colourful advertising, the current branding being for Emirates. That's the airline, not the cablecar, because financial types prefer to fly to the Middle East rather than North Greenwich. You might then Grab A Bite from the food outlet at the top, before heading up to whatever it is you intend to do in the City.

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