Waverley Railway Station

(Waverley Station, Edinburgh Waverley, Waverley Dhùn Èideann)

Balmoral Hotel and Waverley Station, Edinburgh
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Balmoral Hotel and Waverley Station, Edinburgh

Lying beneath North Bridge in Edinburgh, and extending from Waverley Bridge in the west to Calton Hill in the east, is the immense Waverley Railway Station, which has been given the Gaelic name Waverley Dhùn Èideann. Covering 10 ha (25 acres), with a 3.4 ha (8.4 acre) glass roof, Waverley is the second-largest station in Britain and one of the largest in the world. Unusually for a British city, Edinburgh's principal station is located very much at its centre. This is because the geography of the city, with the Old Town perched on a ridge to the south, linked via North Bridge to the New Town on a ridge to the north, allowed the railway to be routed through the valley between. This valley had been the site of the Nor' Loch, effectively a sewer for the Old Town, but was drained in the later 18th C. In the early 19th century plans were laid to build a canal through the valley, involving noted engineers such as Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), but the railway era overtook these proposals.

In the early 1840s, three stations were established here in quick succession: the first as the termination of the North British Railway from England; the second, by the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway, led trains along a line angled at ninety-degrees to the current platforms, through a tunnel under Princes Street and the New Town to Scotland Street and then onwards to a ferry from Granton over the Firth of Forth. The third was the eastern terminus of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, which followed a controversial link through Princes Street Gardens to Haymarket Station in the west and on to Glasgow. The link through the gardens, and tunnel under the Mound, were only established following extended argument, and debates in Parliament, as the residents of Princes Street, led by Lord Cockburn, defended their environment. The name Waverley, after Sir Walter Scott's novels, was applied to the three stations from c.1854.

The station we see today was begun in 1868, after the North British Railway absorbed the other companies, replacing the congested old stations. The Scotland Street Tunnel closed at that time. Traffic increased with the opening of the Forth Bridge in 1890. The North British Hotel (now the Balmoral Hotel) opened next to the station in 1902. Electrified lines arrived in Waverley in 1991, while the platforms were reconfigured to cope with additional traffic in 2006-7. A £130-million refurbishment project was undertaken 2009-13 which included fitting 28,000 new panes of glass to replace the enormous roof, said to be the third-largest glazed structure in Britain, the size of 14 football pitches. Many of the station buildings, including large vaults beneath, remain underused and various plans for redevelopment remain unimplemented.

Now one of only twenty British stations managed by Network Rail, the Waverley handles more than 22 million passengers every year, the second busiest in Scotland after Glasgow Central (2014).

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