South West Trains - A

South West Trains - A
Stagecoach South Western Trains Limited, trading as South West Trains (SWT), was an English train operating company owned by Stagecoach, which operated the South Western franchise between February 1996 and August 2017.
SWT operated the majority of commuter services from its Central London terminus at London Waterloo to South West London and was the key operator for outer suburban and regional services in the counties of Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset.
It also provided regional services in Devon, Somerset, Berkshire, Wiltshire and on the Isle of Wight through its Island Line subsidiary. Unlike the majority of franchises, SWT operated without subsidies, being a profitable concern due to the high number of commuters that regularly used its services.
The area of operation was the former South Western division of Network SouthEast, and was also roughly that of the pre-1923 London & South Western Railway (excluding everything west of Exeter). As part of the privatisation of British Rail, SWT was taken over by Stagecoach.
In 2004, the franchise was retained by Stagecoach when re-tendered. In 2007, the franchise was merged with the Island Line franchise to form a newly extended South Western franchise, which was won by Stagecoach. When next tendered, the franchise was awarded to South Western Railway which took over the franchise on 20 August 2017.
South West Trains History
South West Trains Origins
As a consequence of the privatisation of British Rail during the mid 1990s, railway operations were segmented into various franchises, one of which being the South Western franchise. These franchises were awarded to various privately owned companies following an evaluation of competitive bids. During 1995, it was announced that the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising had awarded the South West Trains franchise to the Scottish transport group Stagecoach.
Operations commenced on 4 February 1996, with South West Trains' first train, the 05:10 Twickenham to London Waterloo; it was the first privatised scheduled train to operate for 48 years.
In April 2001, the Strategic Rail Authority awarded Stagecoach a new franchise for the region, its bid having been judged to be superior to those from its rivals, FirstGroup / NedRailways and Sea Containers. The 2001 franchises awarded were (as promulgated) to run for twenty years, however, only one year later, the Strategic Rail Authority decided to reduce the duration of franchises, thus South West Trains was awarded a three-year franchise starting on 1 February 2004. Shortly following this award, SWT placed a substantial order for new rolling stock for the network, it was described as being the largest such order in British history.
During the early days of its franchise, SWT gained notoriety for enacting severe cuts to its services, which were typically attributed to the shortage of drivers; the company sought to remedy this by seeking to hire additional drivers. SWT also implemented significant improvements upon the network, including replacing much of the inherited British Rail-era rolling stock, along with the refurbishment of most stations, which included increasing their accessibility to disabled passengers. There was also an emphasis on the improving the customer experience, such as better access to service information. During the early 2000s, improvements included the introduction of new rail services and the reopening of Chandler's Ford station in Hampshire.
South West Trains Changes
From May 2004, a smoking ban on all SWT services was introduced; this move, which came partly in response to a fire caused by a cigarette left next to an under-seat heater during the previous year that raised safety concerns, also pre-empting the public smoking ban that was introduced two years later. Additional staff were deployed onboard trains to help enforce the change. At the time, most other commuter services had already banned smoking, and the measure was claimed by the Evening Standard to be popular with the majority of the travelling public.
On 12 December 2004, the company completely recast its timetable, the first occasion that such an exercise had been performed in the South West region since 1967. This was reportedly motivated by ambitions to bring service provision into line with changing demand and to take into account the different characteristics of modern rolling stock, with the intention that this would improve reliability and punctuality across the network.
Further major changes to the timetable followed in subsequent years, including the restoration of services between Yeovil and Yeovil Pen Mill that had been withdrawn under the Beeching cuts.
During December 2005, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that Arriva, FirstGroup, MTR/Sea Containers, National Express and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to tender for the new South Western franchise, which combined the South West Trains and Island Line Trains franchises; National Express later withdrew. In September 2006, the DfT awarded the franchise to Stagecoach, the new franchise starting on 4 February 2007, for a period of ten years.
Throughout the operation of the franchise, passenger numbers grew year on year, along with rapid spikes in numbers occurring in some years. While many franchises required government funding to sustain their services, SWT operated without any subsidies and was a profitable venture.
This outcome was largely on account of the high proportion of commuters that made frequent use of its services. One of the franchise's major ongoing concerns was the overcrowding that occurred on some services, particularly around rush hour, thus SWT's management paid considerable attention to increasing capacity when feasible.
Major measures performed by SWT to expand the network's capacity included the substantial redevelopment of its London Waterloo station and the procurement of new rolling stock. Christian Roth, SWT's engineering director, claimed in 2015 that the firm was in the process of delivering similar capacity improvements to the Thameslink programme at a tenth of the cost and a quarter of the time.
While some rival companies chose to pursue driver-only operated trains, eliminating the necessity of a guard, SWT senior manager Brian Souter promised to keep a guard on every service; one consequence of this agreement was strong relations between the company and the trade unions.
Further measures were also proposed by SWT; Tim Shoveller, the company's managing director, periodically spoke out on his desire to eventually introduce double-decker trains to serve its busiest commuter routes. While typically viewed as an effective means of increasing capacity, such ambitions were complicated by multiple factors, the principal of which that there were no double-deck trains in operation that were believed to be suitable for SWT's needs, thus likely necessitating the development of an original design.
Procuring a small fleet of bespoke rolling stock would certainly incur a steep price rise over conventional rolling stock, while handling the increased dwell times typically necessary when operating double-deck trains would also adversely impact the timetable, finally, no such rolling stock could be operated until the completion of track lowering across substantial portions of the network, particularly around bridges and tunnels, for sufficient headroom to be achieved.
Between 2012 and 2015, Stagecoach partnered with the British railway infrastructure owner Network Rail to jointly operate London Waterloo via a single management team that operated both tracks and trains in and around the station from a on-site joint control room.
At the time, the partnership was hailed as an advancement for rail operations, However, the arrangement was dissolved in 2015 without any official explanation, although anonymous insiders claimed the cause to be Network Rail's reluctance to devolve power over its centralised infrastructure to individual routes while Stagecoach desired a local decisions made in partnership.
South West Trains Demise
In March 2013, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the DfT was in talks with Stagecoach to extend the franchise until April 2019. At one point, it seemed certain that the franchise would be renewed, information to that effect having been included on the Government's published Rail Franchise Schedule in October 2014.
However, in July 2015, Stagecoach confirmed that talks had failed and the franchise would be relet. This outcome was viewed by several industry commentators as being unexpected and inconvenient in its timing; the periodical Rail speculated that Stagecoach's rejection had been largely due to government officials feeling that the state was not receiving a sufficiently large share of the profits being generated.
Stagecoach and a FirstGroup / MTR Corporation joint venture were shortlisted on 4 February 2016 to bid for the new franchise. On 27 March 2017, the franchise was awarded to South Western Railway, in spite of concerns that it would result in a single company holding a monopoly on services between London and the West of England, Dorset and Somerset, due to FirstGroup also operating the Greater Western franchise in those regions.
South West Trains Services
South West Trains was the key operator for western Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, and also served Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon. In Greater London, it operated all National Rail services (other than London Overground) in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Boroughs of Richmond-upon-Thames and Hounslow, and also served the London Boroughs of Merton, Wandsworth and Lambeth.
Most SWT services ran on electrified lines using the 750 V DC third-rail system. A diesel fleet was used for services on the West of England line to Salisbury, Exeter and Bristol, using the unelectrified track beyond Worting Junction just west of Basingstoke, and for Salisbury to Southampton via Romsey services which also served Eastleigh. By 2015, SWT was reportedly operating roughly 1,600 train services each day and managing in excess of 200 stations.
From Waterloo, SWT's London terminus, long-distance trains ran to southern England, including the major coastal population centres of Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth. There were also trains to Reading, Exeter and Bristol, but these were not the principal fast services from London to those cities, which are operated from London Paddington by Great Western Railway. The majority of its passengers were on suburban commuter lines in inner and south-west London, Surrey, east Berkshire, and north-east Hampshire.
After privatisation in 1996, the network changed considerably, no longer serving West Croydon, Sutton, 'Coastway' stations between Chichester and Brighton, or the Reading to Basingstoke line. Services to Bristol (introduced in 2004 to replace withdrawn Arriva Trains Wales services), Mottisfont and Dunbridge and Dean were introduced after the start of the franchise. Its longstanding services beyond Exeter to Paignton, Plymouth and Penzance, which ran in competition with First Great Western and its predecessors, ceased in December 2009 so as to release stock for the hourly Waterloo to Exeter service.
As with most rail companies, non-folding bicycles were banned from peak-time trains to and from London. However, these restrictions applied only to cyclists boarding or alighting in the area bounded by Hook, Alton, Guildford, Reading and Dorking. The aim was to maximise available passenger space on the most crowded trains.
South West Trains had Quiet Zones, similar to the Quiet Coaches on trains operated by certain other Train Operating Companies. Quiet Zones were available on most outer-suburban services and on some express services and are indicated by notices in the windows and signs on the doors. Passengers in these zones were requested not to use mobile phones to take calls or play music out loud.
South West Trains Routes
South West Trains operated suburban and long-distance trains.
Main destinations included:
London Waterloo, Clapham Junction, Barnes, Richmond, Twickenham, Hounslow, Ascot, Staines, Reading, Windsor & Eton Riverside, Kingston, Raynes Park, Motspur Park, New Malden, Chessington South, Surbiton, Leatherhead, Weybridge, Dorking, Effingham Junction, Woking, Guildford, Aldershot, Alton, Farnborough Main, Fleet, Basingstoke, Haslemere, Andover, Winchester, Eastleigh, Southampton Central, Romsey, Salisbury, Fareham, Portsmouth & Southsea, Brockenhurst, Portsmouth Harbour, Bournemouth, Westbury, Bristol Temple Meads, Weymouth, Yeovil Junction and Exeter St Davids.
South West Trains Main Lines
The seven main lines operated by SWT were:
  • The South West Main Line (SWML) to Southampton Central, Bournemouth and Weymouth. 2 trains an hour through to Weymouth (1 fast and 1 semi-fast) and 1 train an hour to Poole (stopping) Mondays-Saturdays, with Sunday Bournemouth services extended to Poole.
  • The Portsmouth Direct Line via Guildford and Haslemere: leaves the main line at Woking. 4 trains per hour to Guildford, then 1 semi-fast service and 1 stopping service to Haslemere. The semi-fast service continued as a stopping service to Portsmouth. The fast services ran approximately half-hourly Mondays-Saturdays, 2 trains per hour (1 fast, 1 stopping from Guildford) on Sundays.
  • The West of England Main Line to Salisbury, Yeovil Junction and Exeter St Davids: leaves the main line at Basingstoke.
  • Wessex Main Line (part): Salisbury to Bristol Temple Meads. This service originated from London Waterloo and divides at Salisbury.
  • Heart of Wessex Line (part): Yeovil Junction to Yeovil Pen Mill / Frome. This service originates from London Waterloo and divides at Yeovil Junction.
  • London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour via Basingstoke and Eastleigh. Hourly service off-peak Mondays-Saturdays, merges with the Poole train on Sundays.
  • London Waterloo to Reading via Staines-upon-Thames, Ascot and Wokingham.
South West Trains Suburban Services
Suburban services diverged from the above routes. Taken in order westwards from Waterloo, travelling down the SWML, they are:
Waterloo to Reading Line
from Clapham Junction
  •    The Hounslow Loop Line from Barnes to Whitton or Feltham
  •    The Windsor branch from Staines-upon-Thames
  •    The Chertsey loop line from Virginia Water to Weybridge
  •    The Ascot to Guildford line via Aldershot
The Mole Valley Line
from Raynes Park to Dorking via Epsom
  •    The Chessington branch from Motspur Park
  •    The branch to Guildford from Leatherhead
The Kingston Loop Line
from New Malden (Main Line) to Twickenham (Reading Line)
  •    The Shepperton branch from Teddington; normally, these services run via New Malden, some peak services run via Twickenham
The New Guildford Line
to Guildford via Cobham from Surbiton (travellers from Guildford to London can also travel via the main line through Woking)
  • The Hampton Court branch, also from Surbiton
  • The Alton branch, from Brookwood also serves the Mid Hants Railway, a heritage line
South West Trains Other Services
Southampton Local Lnes: Salisbury to Romsey via Southampton Central and Chandler's Ford (previously this service ran to Totton)
Lymington Branch Line: (Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier)
Island Line: Isle of Wight, Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin
  • Southampton Central to Portsmouth & Southsea
South West Trains Overview
South West Trains Franchise(s):
South West
4 February 1996 – 3 February 2007
South Western
4 February 2007 – 20 August 2017
South West Trains Main region(s):
Greater London
Isle of Wight
South West Trains Other Region(s):
South West Trains Fleet Size: 373
1 Class 73 electro-diesel locomotive
11 Class 158 Express Sprinter sets
30 Class 159 South Western Turbo sets
45 Class 444 Desiro sets
127 Class 450 Desiro sets
91 Class 455 sets
24 Class 456 sets
36 Class 458 Juniper sets
2 Class 707 Desiro City sets
6 Class 483 sets
South West Trains Stations Called at: 213
South West Trains Stations Operated: 185 (including Island Line)
South West Trains Parent company: Stagecoach
South West Trains Reporting mark: SW
South West Trains Predecessor: Network SouthEast
Island Line (Island Line franchise)
South West Trains Successor: South Western Railway
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