Transport User Voice – August 2019 – Improving performance on the South Western Railway

30 July 2019

The industry provides further updates to the Transport Focus Board

Passengers on the South Western Railway (SWR) network have suffered poor performance for two years or more. In Spring 2019, the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) results showed a decline in overall passenger satisfaction for SWR of two percentage points since Spring 2018. However, satisfaction with punctuality and reliability showed an improvement with a four percentage point increase in the same timescale.

On two occasions in 2018 they, along with Network Rail, SWR were questioned by the Transport Focus Board in public. Transport Focus invited them back to the July Board meeting for a further update. Andy Mellors, Managing Director and Alan Penlington, Customer Experience Director of SWR came along with David Dickson, Interim Route Managing Director of Network Rail for that region.

They explained how Network Rail and SWR will put passengers first under a new, more collaborative working relationship. They have established a Joint Performance Improvement Centre at Waterloo station where performance is scrutinised weekly by senior operational managers from both organisations operating as one team. Also, a strategic approach to joined-up working has included an examination of the culture of the two organisations, and attendance at each other’s key meetings.

They have another initiative to improve the reliability of the infrastructure (including track and signalling) which has been to deploy more engineers to conduct inspections for defects.

With more than 400 passengers taken ill on their trains each year, they introduced paramedic teams at Clapham Junction and Wimbledon stations last November. So train delays from this cause have declined by 90 per cent at Wimbledon and 60 per cent at Clapham Junction.

They acknowledged that the biggest cause of delay is trespass and fatalities, so additional British Transport Police have been recruited to address this.

The introduction of locally-based staff to manage train crew during disruption and of a simplified train dispatch plan in December will help to reduce the wider impact of unplanned disruption across the network.

The programme of introducing refurbished trains has begun and will deliver more than 10,000 extra seats. Plans are ongoing for the introduction of the new Class 701 fleet which will bring additional capacity, comfort and efficiency for passengers.

SWR and Network Rail acknowledged that there is still much to be done to improve performance but are confident that these new initiatives have started to produce positive results. Passengers will tell us how they assess these changes through NRPS in future.

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