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South Western (South Western Railway)

East Anglia

What is happening now?

On 27 March 2017 the government announced that South Western Trains Limited, a joint venture between First Group and Hong Kong-based MTR, had won the franchise competition. The new franchise, known as South Western Railway, began on 20 August and will run for seven years.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said:

“Passengers using trains on the South West network told us their main priorities for a new operator are: boosting reliability and more space to sit and stand in some comfort. They also want to see a better on train experience, stations modernised and improved information.

We included these aspirations in our work with the Department for Transport when working on the franchise outline, when talking to the bidders and hope to see the passenger voice strongly built into the new franchise.

Transport Focus is looking closely at the winning bid to see how these ambitious proposals will deliver for passengers. New trains, more services, smarter ticketing including flexible season tickets and lots of other promised improvements. We are looking forward to working closely with First MTR as it delivers these enhancements, emphasising this must be in a way that does not cause undue shorter term disruption.

Passengers will be pleased to also see the introduction of boosted compensation through Delay Repay triggers being set at the lower level of 15 minutes – a big step in the right direction in building trust with passengers.”


The DfT held a public consultation into the future of rail services in the South West, and produced a stakeholder briefing document summarising the responses to the consultation. We have published our response to the consultation on our website.

In February 2016 the shortlisted bidders were announced:

  • First South Western Trains Limited
  • Stagecoach South West Limited.

In June 2016 the DfT issued the Invitation to Tender setting out what they want bidders to provide in the next franchise. Bids were submitted on 7 September 2016.

Our role in the franchising process

In September 2016 we reviewed the bidders’ delivery plans for the Customer Experience and the Stations elements of the tenders, and provided the DfT’s bid evaluators with a specialist report on each.

Prior to that, we met with the DfT to determine our input to the franchise replacement process, identify key issues and help to shape the franchise specification. In Autumn 2015 we carried out research to explore passengers’ current experiences and aspirations for the future. This research has informed our discussions with DfT and our further input to this franchise. You can read an overview of that research here.

Our National Rail Passenger Survey offers a twice-yearly perspective on passenger satisfaction across the network.

Transport Focus reports and publications

March 2017 First MTR wins South Western franchise – Transport Focus response
February 2016 South Western consultation – Transport Focus response
January 2016 South Western passenger research – an overview
January 2016 South Western passenger research – agency report

Click here for key Department for Transport publications


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