Tag Archives: South Western Railway

Update from MD of South Western Railway

I have received the update below from South Western Railway’s Managing Director, Mark Hopwood.


I wanted to update you on the work South Western Railway has been carrying out in dealing with the Coronavirus and keeping key workers moving during this critical time.

Following on from the changes to the train service timetable we made last week, we have made further adjustments to our revised timetable, with extra early morning and later evening trains to better meet key workers’ travel patterns.  We have also this week made further contact with key stakeholders, including NHS trusts, supermarket distribution centres, and emergency services across our network to check our timetable is meeting their transportation needs. 

Our priority is to keep our trains running for the essential service workers who have to get to work, while keeping everyone safe and helping prevent the spread of the virus. This includes adapting our cleaning regime with our heavy cleaning programme suspended so the team can concentrate on disinfecting trains, with a particular focus on key touchpoints such as handrails, door buttons and toilets. As well as overnight cleaning we have extended the turnround times of trains to allow additional cleaning, bringing in off-track staff and trainees to help disinfect the trains whilst they are in service. The reduction in the number of train services has allowed the team to concentrate their efforts on the trains still running and so help keep customers and colleagues alike safe.

We have also closed our waiting rooms and are making announcements on trains and at stations to promote social distancing among those who have no option but to travel, while using all available communication channels to advise against non-essential travel and urge people to save lives and stay home.

Following Government advice, we have advised many of our non-operational colleagues to work from home and are restricting the activities of our customer contact centre. Unfortunately this has temporarily hampered our ability to handle refunds, however we are currently putting plans in place to allow us to restart this process very soon; although it will take some considerable time for us to work through the backlog of outstanding claims.

I know that refunds have been a major concern for many customers and I am pleased that the industry has this week announced some further policy changes which will alleviate some of those concerns such as extending the refund window from 28 day to 56 days, helping those who may be self-isolating and who feared missing out on a refund. Full details are available on our website.

Throughout this challenging period, we have tried to keep everyone updated through all available channels, including twitter, our website, station customer information screens, and stakeholder emails like this one. We have, and will continue to, take on board feedback about our services and how we can best meet the needs of not just those key workers, but also of those customers who are no longer travelling and need to change their plans.

We recognise that together with Network Rail we have a vital role to play in keeping the country moving and I am exceptionally proud of how my colleagues at South Western Railway, particularly those on the frontline, have risen to the challenge and are just getting on with the job of running our railway.

If you need any further information, please contact stakeholders@swrailway.com  

Yours sincerely,

Outcome of South Western Railway consultation into late night and early morning services

I have received an update from South Western Railways following their consultation re late night/early morning services. Kindly read below:

Dear Nikki,

I am writing to let you know that following last Autumn’s public consultation into changes to late night/early morning services, we will be pressing ahead with the improvements on a trial basis from December 2020. As a result, passengers will benefit from:

  • More late night services on Fridays and Saturdays
  • A more reliable railway for everyone
  • Less overrunning engineering works

Although this will mean the withdrawal or retiming of a small number of late night/early morning services on Sunday-Thursday affecting around 400 passengers, by allowing Network Rail additional time for engineering work we will deliver a more reliable railway for the hundreds of thousands of passengers who travel on the network every day.

The full results of the consultation are available at: www.southwesternrailway.com/consultation

Network Rail will carry out a large programme of improvement work in the Guildford area over Easter

I am sharing an update I received from South Western Railway about
a large programme of improvement work in the Guildford area over Easter that will affect train services for rail users including Haslemere residents.

Passengers advised to plan ahead this Easter with Guildford area set for 10 days of improvement work

  • All lines in the Guildford area will be affected by improvement work between Friday 10 and Sunday 19 April 2020
  • A limited South Western Railway (SWR) service will operate between London Waterloo and Guildford via Cobham & Stoke D’ Abernon between Tuesday 14 and Sunday 19 April
  • Great Western Railway (GWR) and CrossCountry services will be replaced by buses throughout
  • Southern passengers for Guildford will need to change at Epsom for onward SWR services

Network Rail will carry out a large programme of improvement work in the Guildford area over Easter to provide a more reliable railway and better performing train services.

Engineers will lay almost a mile of new track for trains to run on and over a mile of conductor rail to supply trains with electricity. 41 new track circuits, which tell signallers where trains are on the network, will be installed. The project has taken more than two years to plan and will take 12,000 man hours to complete.

Between Friday 10 and Sunday 19 April, all other services by SWR, GWR, CrossCountry and Southern are affected as follows:

  • SWR services between Woking/Guildford and Haslemere will be replaced by buses
  • SWR services between Guildford and Aldershot will be replaced by buses
  • GWR services between Reading and Gatwick Airport will run between Reading and Ash, with buses replacing services between North Camp and Guildford/Gatwick Airport
  • CrossCountry services from Newcastle to Guildford will terminate at Reading
  • Southern services for Guildford will start and finish at Epsom, with passengers required to transfer to SWR services to travel on to Guildford
  • SWR will run a limited service between London Waterloo and Guildford, via Cobham & Stoke D’ Abernon, from Tuesday 14 April.

Passengers should plan ahead and check before they travel with National Rail Enquiries or their train operator, as services are subject to changes and may take longer.

Mark Killick, Network Rail Wessex route director, said: “We would like to encourage passengers who travel through Guildford to plan ahead and check before they travel, as there will be a very limited number of services between Friday 10 and Sunday 19 April.

“We apologise for the disruption that our improvements will cause however this work is vital if we are to improve both the railway and train services in the area. Closing the line for 10 days will allow us to carry out much more work compared to a series of more limited weekend closures, which could take months.”

Alan Penlington, South Western Railway Customer Experience Director, said: “These crucial works will increase the reliability of train services that travel through Guildford and help reduce disruption in the future. I realise there is never a convenient time to close the railway, but Network Rail has chosen to carry out these works over the Easter holidays when passenger demand is typically lower.”

“I really appreciate the patience of our customers whilst the improvement works are carried out and I urge anyone who is traveling via Guildford over the Easter period to check before they travel.”

Notes to editors

  • As part of our multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, we’re working for you to allow trains to run more frequently, faster, and to improve the reliability of the rail network to reduce delays in the future.
  • Network Rail is investing over £2bn over the next five years to upgrade signalling, tracks, structures, embankments, stations and depots to give passengers in South West London, Surrey, Hampshire, Somerset better journeys with fewer delays.
  • Our timetables are planned 12 months in advance, and we schedule in the time needed for planned works to improve the rail network.
  • When we need to carry out planned engineering works, such as replacing tracks or upgrading signalling systems, we might need to close a section of track for 24 hours or longer to complete the upgrade work efficiently and safely.
  • Trains run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so there’s no time when the network isn’t being used, meaning works can cause some disruption for passengers and businesses.
  • We plan works for certain times, so they cause the least disruption to passengers such as on bank holidays, Sundays and overnight, when the network is less busy.

Suspended – RMT Strike Monday 9, Tuesday 10, Thursday 12 & Friday 13 March

Notification from South Western Railway that RMT strike action has been suspended

South Western Railway announces compensation package for customers affected by December strikes

From: South Western Railway
Date: 18 February 2020
Subject: South Western Railway announcement on compensation for December 2019 strike

Dear Nikki,

I am writing to you to let you know that today we are announcing an additional compensation package for customers affected by the strike on our network in December 2019.

We did our utmost to keep passengers moving during December and carried over 80% of the number of passengers we normally would have done at this time of year. However, I have listened to customer feedback, and given the duration and intensity of the strike, we are now offering additional compensation, over and above the normal delay repay arrangements.

Full details of the compensation arrangements can be found in the attached press release or by visiting: www.southwesternrailway.com/december-2019-strike-compensation

Yours sincerely,

Mark Hopwood
Managing Director
South Western Railway 

South Western Railway Strike Update

Today, I received this update from South Western Railway regarding proposed strike action.

From: Andy Mellors
Date: 21 November 2019 at 4:15:04 pm GMT
To: Nikki Barton
Subject: South Western Railway Update

Dear Cllr Barton,

I am contacting you regarding the prospect of industrial action taking place on the South Western Railway network and the impact this could have on passengers in your local area.

The RMT union has called 28 days of strike action which will disrupt our train services throughout December. The action is due to commence on 2 December and last until the New Year.

I very much hope we can avoid the strikes happening at all and we’re still open to discussions with the RMT.

However, we are working very hard planning for how we keep our passengers moving if the strikes do go ahead. 

This dispute centres around the role of guards on SWR’s trains.  We have publicly promised that there will always be guards on our trains, helping deliver the train service passengers need and want, and that our guards will have a safety critical role.

All we’re asking is that our guards work with us to bring in our new trains, which our estimates show could mean over 10 million more passenger journeys arrive on-time in peak hours every year.

We still hope these promises will help avoid strike action. However, we are putting plans in place to keep as many passengers as possible moving throughout the strike should it proceed:

  • By early next week we will publish downloadable, detailed timetables for services that will still be running during the strike, once these have been finalised. We will also be publishing some frequently asked questions to help passengers plan their journey
  • We are working with other transport providers so as many tickets as possible can be accepted on other rail and bus networks
  • We are committed to doing everything we can to provide people, business, councils, community groups and other organisations with the most detailed and up-to-date information we have and will be providing the latest travel information on our website

I don’t want this strike to happen. It doesn’t need to happen, and I hope the promises we’ve made to our guards will help reassure them that the strike is unnecessary.

However, if the strike does go ahead we will be doing everything we can to get our passengers to where they need to go in the run-up to Christmas and New Year.

We will provide you with regular updates as and when new information is available.

You can find the latest information at www.southwesternrailway.com/strike 

Kind regards

Andy Mellors
Managing Director
South Western Railway

Woking SWR stakeholder conference

Yesterday, I attended the South Western Railways Stakeholder conference in Woking.

Some slides:

Guard will be retained but strikes are still scheduled for December 2019
Additional early evening services for Haslemere

Acknowledgement by CEO Andrew Haines that Network Rail didn’t understand consequences of changing the layout at Waterloo station on the travelling public and didn’t liaise with SWR on impact on timetables. New approach – Putting Passengers First – following Holden Recommendations identified many improvements needed.

Big stress of increasing passenger numbers, 230 million/year on Wessex Route, Waterloo is the busiest station in the country.

Andy Mellors, Managing Director SWR, celebrating recent successful launch of Surrey Hills to South Downs CRP at conference.

Proposed amendments to some late night & early morning train services from December 2020

From: Andrew Harrowell
Date: 30 October 2019 at 7:52:00 am GMT
Subject: Proposed amendments to some late night & early morning services from December 2020

Dear Community Rail Partnerships

I am writing to you to let you know about our current consultation on the proposed amendments to some services from 13th December 2020.

The attached letter from Andy Mellors, Managing Director of South Western Railway, and Mark Killick, Route Director of Wessex of Network Rail, details why we are proposing these amendments. You can view the full consultation at: www.southwesternrailway.com/consultation

I would appreciate it if you could share this with you steering groups and stakeholders.

Many thanks

Andy Harrowell

Community Rail Manager

South Western Railway

Over one million people to save hundreds, as new ‘16-17 Saver’ launches, cutting cost of rail travel for teenagers

Press release from South Western Railway

  • Half price 16-17 Saver launching next week for 1.2million 16 and 17-year olds
  • Young people set to make average savings of £186 every year
  • Railcards boost education opportunities and help communities and businesses by making travel cheaper for young people

The Department for Transport, together with the rail industry, has confirmed the brand new 16-17 Saver will launch next week, guaranteeing half-price travel for young people in England and Wales.

Whether starting or returning to sixth-form or college, beginning an apprenticeship or entering the world of work, teenagers can start buying their discounted tickets on Monday 2 September.

It is forecast to save young people and their families an average of £186 every year and is set to boost education opportunities, communities and businesses with young people able to travel more affordably.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said:

“The brand-new Saver means that a generation of rail passengers can now benefit from cheaper fares, keeping money in their pocket and helping them get to school, college and work. 

“We want to create a railway system that’s fit for the 21st century and provides a reliable, punctual journey. It’s tempting to say fares should never rise, but the truth is that if we stop investing in our railways then we’ll never see it improved.

“Through the Saver, the 26-30 Railcard, the trialling of single-leg fares on LNER and a record £48 billion investment in the railways, we are focused on providing passengers with the frequent, reliable and affordable journeys they deserve.”

The launch comes as the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) confirmed that over 327,000 people are now saving a third off their journeys after purchasing the 26-30 Railcard, saving an average of £19 per month since it launched in January.

Today’s announcement means that passengers aged between 16 and 30 will now benefit from significant savings on their travel.

Available for purchase for £30 online at www.16-17saver.co.uk, the 16-17 Saver will be on sale at 9am on Tuesday 20 August. From this date, up to 1.2 million young people are eligible for the 50% discount it offers on most rail travel, including peak and Season tickets.

Robert Nisbet, Director, Nations & Regions at Rail Delivery Group said:

“The launch of the 16-17 Saver, in partnership with the Department for Transport, demonstrates the rail industry’s commitment to providing the best value fares for all customers. 

“There are 1.2m people aged 16 or 17 years in Great Britain – working together, we want to ensure they can access affordable rail travel with the new 16-17 Saver”.   

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges said:

“This rail discount for 16 and 17-year olds is a huge step in the right direction and will help to alleviate the financial pressures facing young people and their families across the country.

“Many from disadvantaged backgrounds find themselves making difficult choices about their future based on how much their journey to college will cost, increasing the pressures of staying in education.

“Travel costs should never be a barrier to education, today’s announcement will give a much needed helping hand to thousands who rely on rail travel to access education and training.”

The new Saver means that young people are now eligible for a child fare until their 18th birthday. It is valid across England, Wales and services into Scotland.

The root and branch review of the rail industry, led by Keith Williams, is looking at fares reform and affordability for passengers. It is intending to publish recommendations by the end of this year, with the anticipation that reforms will begin during 2020.

January 2020 will be the seventh year running the Government will have capped fares in line with inflation. Since 2014 fares have, on average, remained below the annual inflation cap.


  • The 16-17 Saver can also be purchased by calling 0345 301 1656.

Transcription of Yesterday’s Interview with BBC Surrey about The Community Rail Partnership

Yesterday, I shared a press release about the inaugural Steering Group meeting of the Surrey Hills to South Downs CRP. More here.

Andy Harrowell, South West Railway’s Community Rail Manager and I were interviewed about the project by BBC Surrey.

Here is a transcription of the interview, which helps explain more about this initiative.

BBC Surrey: A new community group has been set up to help look after train stations in parts of Surrey, particularly around the Surrey Hills and the South Downs area. The Community Rail Partnership, as it’s called, will work alongside South Western Railway to make stations more attractive and to help publicise destinations. Andy Harrowell is from South Western Railway and says the volunteers will take on a number of tasks, and visitors will start to notice a difference.

Andy Harrowell: Community Partnerships are all around four different pillars of work. That’s looking at things such as promoting healthy and sustainable travel, supported and social development as well as including quite a diverse audience. The actual work tends to come down to an agreement of an activity plan between a range of different stakeholders and partners to traditionally to see things such as line guides, which helps to promote destinations accessible from stations. It could be looking at how you can promote gardening or volunteering at the station, as well as raising awareness of other links between different methods of transport and the railway.

BBC Surrey: Now, I tend to use the train quite a lot throughout the course of the year to get around. And it’s quite interesting to notice differences between stations because you do stop off with some stations, where you know, a lot of love and care has gone into the upkeep. You see beautiful flower displays and artwork as well. Is it likely that at these stations that’s the result of the volunteers with the CRP?

Andy Harrowell: Yes, that’s very much the case. So, we have what we know as station adoption. What we’re doing is trying to look to work with volunteer groups who want to adopt their station and help it further reflect the local area, which can often be through art or gardening or a book swap. So, we’ve actually got 18 of those registered with us across the network and that’s everywhere from Inner London, Brentford down to Templecombe and Wareham.

BBC Surrey: So that’s Andy Harrowell from South Western Railway talking about the launch of this new Community Rail Partnership in the Surrey Hills and the South Downs area. Let’s find out some more. Nikki Barton is a councillor for Haslemere and just happens to be Chair of the Community Rail Partnership steering group as well. Good evening, Nikki, hopefully you had a chance to listen to what Andy was saying there. So, some exciting plans ahead. What is in store for the group? What can we expect?

Nikki Barton: Well, it’s a really exciting initiative. We’re really delighted to bring together a fantastic range of partners. Our new partnership is called The Surrey Hills and The South Downs Rail Partnership. We brought together the South Downs National Park, The Surrey Hills, and the parish councils and various community groups from each of the communities along the line. In terms of projects, we’ve got a whole range of initiatives and ideas. We’d like our stations to be a lot more attractive, to have more planting. As you were saying earlier, in your earlier piece, some art too. We’d like to follow some of the passion of Love Haslemere Hate Waste, and have water refill units at the station so you can avoid single use plastics. We would really like to encourage tourists to come down to visit. We get big groups of people coming down from London, rambling up into the South Downs and The Surrey Hills. At the moment, when you arrive at our stations, there’s no guidelines, there’s no map. So, we’ve been developing some Rail To Trail and Rail To Ramble maps that serve the station. <more here>.

BBC Surrey: Basically, it’s making the visitor/the passenger experience that bit better.

Nikki Barton: It is. I think the interesting thing about the project is that you can look at it on a number of levels. So yes, the visitor experience but also we’d really like to improve it for the everyday user travelling through Haslemere station. We have got over 1.7 million passenger journeys a year. It’s a huge number of people using the stations. And there are areas that we could really do with improvements, for example, we’d really like to improve the integration between the bus and the train network. At the moment, it’s almost impossible to commute from a village or outside the town because the buses don’t connect with the trains, for example. I think there is a great range of initiatives that this Partnership will explore going forward.

BBC Surrey: Okay, I mean, I’m not sort of courting controversy here. But I’m just intrigued by the idea that this relies on volunteers … Is it right that basically sprucing up our network and our stations should fall to volunteers?

Nikki Barton: Yes, I think that’s a really good question. We do have some amazing volunteers that give a lot of time. I do at times wonder, given how much rail travel costs, whether that should be something we’re doing but, I think it’s all about community pride. And in each of the villages and the towns along the route of this Rail Partnership, the station is really our main transport hub. If it’s looking good, and it’s attractive, it’s good for us all. One of the key elements is really to encourage people to come and visit our amazing towns. Haslemere has got fantastic businesses, independent businesses, and what we’d really like to do is, by making the station an attractive place, and the same with Witley, and Milford and in the future, Godalming and Farncombe, that people come down to see towns on the line and go and have a coffee, buy a book and explore the towns as well. It’s about really a holistic approach to our community

BBC Surrey: And you can’t argue with that. And just finally, in a few words, how can we find out more and look to become a volunteer?

Nikki Barton: Well, if you look online, we have set up a new website – Haslemere Community Rail Partnership. I think we’ve got Surrey Hills To South Downs website up and running as well. So, you can find it all that online.

BBC Surrey: Good stuff. Nikki, thanks for joining us this evening. Have a great weekend. And I look forward to our stations around Surrey and The South Downs area looking at a little bit more spruced up as we move forward.