Legally known as Stagecoach South Western Trains Limited, the parent company of SWT is Stagecoach Group which also owns East Midlands Trains and 49% of the Virgin Trains franchise. The SWT franchise is stated as being the most complicated train operating company to operate because of the vast number of services which are stated below.
A wholly owned subsidiary of the Stagecoach Group, SWT took over the operation of the old British Rail Southern Region's South Western division following the privatisation of British Rail in 1996. At the time they started modifying the Network SouthEast livery of its rolling stock to one with an added orange stripe as this was an easy modification of the trains' existing British Rail Network SouthEast livery and also because the stripes looked similar to Stagecoach's bus livery, but since 1998 it has standardised on a trio of slight variations - mainly white for long-distance services, mainly blue for outer-suburban services, and a mainly red livery for metro services which has been applied to the Class 455 electric multiple units as they were refurbished. Since privatisation a number of initiatives have been undertaken including refurbishing stations, better access for disabled people, and better customer information displays at stations.
Recent developments include the introduction of new rail services and the reopening of Chandler's Ford station in Hampshire. On 12 December 2004, the company completely recast its timetable for the first time since 1967 in an attempt 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.
A complete smoking ban on all SWT services was introduced from May 2004, partially in response to a fire caused by a cigarette being disposed of near a heater under a seat. In addition, there are restrictions on the carriage of bicycles: non-folding bicycles are banned from early morning and evening trains to and from London Waterloo, which has drawn criticism from integrated transport advocates and cyclists alike. The company justifies this policy by pointing out that many trains are extremely crowded during the rush hour, and that bicycles take up as much space as several people.
The South West Trains franchise was initially renewed for four years from February 2003. This was followed on 22 September 2006 by Stagecoach Group's winning of the right to operate the newly-enlarged South Western franchise for a further ten years until 2017.
This enlarged franchise started on 4 February 2007 and incorporated the formerly independent Island Line on the Isle of Wight. The legal name of the company has also changed from South West Trains Ltd to Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd - although the trading name has remained unchanged.
The vast majority of SWT's services are on electrified lines using the 750 V DC third-rail system. There is a relatively small diesel fleet for services on the West of England line to Exeter and Bristol. SWT operates up to 1690 trains per day. Due to the high volume of trains and years of under-investment, delays were commonplace and often led to passenger angst. Initiatives to improve performance have borne fruit and services are generally reliable. These include the introduction of a completely re-structured timetable in December 2004 and the commissioning of a unified Network Rail and SWT control centre at Waterloo, which aims to improve communication between the different organisations responsible for the operation of the railway.
The hub of the network is London Waterloo station, SWT's London terminus. It connects London to the southern and western area of England; a major portion of the company's services is also concerned with suburban commuter lines in south-west London.
There are six main lines operated by SWT:
Suburban services diverge from the above routes. Taken in order westwards from Waterloo, travelling down the SWML, they are:
Single and Return fares are available on all South West Trains routes and should be purchased before boarding, except where a ticket or permit to travel machine is not available. In these cases tickets can be purchased from the onboard Guard or the Revenue Protection officers. Travelcards are available for journeys into London. They are valid on London buses, Tramlink, Docklands Light Railway, London Underground and national rail services within the London travelcard area.
Season tickets and travel cards are also available to cover multi day regular journeys. They are available in weekly, monthly and annual periods.
In May 2007 South West Trains introduced a new fare structure for services travelling from Reading to London Waterloo. The original peak prices and times were retained, and "Off Peak" was redefined at a higher fare as services leaving after 11am or arriving in Waterloo at or before mid-day. Services after this period are now referred to as "Super Off Peak" and attract similar prices to the old Off Peak tickets .
From January 2009 Waterloo station will be gated in order to improve revenue protection at Waterloo. Network Rail has recently started work on this project.
Oyster card pay as you go is not currently available on any South West Trains route, however under the new franchise, smart card ticketing is expected to launch in 2009, this is due to having to install gates or validators at stations to "touch in". Oyster card travelcards and season tickets are valid within the London travelcard area, this is the same as normal paper travelcards and season tickets.
South West Trains currently issue penalty fares for customers travelling by train without a valid ticket. However South West Trains have planned to install at least 1 self-service ticket machine at each of its served stations in the bid to stop fare evasion.
The Penalty fare is either £20 or double the travelled fare, which ever is greater. This does not apply west of Salisbury due to the lack of ticket machines available.
Revenue Protection officers employed by South West Trains travel the Network and are visible at stations to enforce the Penalty Fares and issue some tickets; aside from Station ticket barriers and permit to travel machines, CCTV is another method used to combat ticketless travel and prevent assaults on members of staff and customers.
As of August 2007 South West Trains have reinforced the penalty fares policy with new announcements at stations prompting travellers to buy tickets before boarding. This new clamp-down has had some criticism due to lack of "self-service" ticketing machines and long queues at booking offices due to a lack of staff, which prevents the ability to buy tickets.
On the Island Line, the clearances of a tunnel under Ryde are insufficient for standard trains. As a consequence, former London Underground rolling stock has been used since the line was electrified. Since 1992, Class 483 trains have been used, of which five 2-car units remain in service, with a sixth awaiting overhaul. SWT took on this fleet when it was awarded the combined South West/Island Line franchise in 2007.
Services on the Lymington Branch Line are now operated as a "heritage" operation using one of two refurbished 3Cig units, nos. 1497 and 1498. The two units have been repainted into their original liveries, one in classic Southern green and the other in British Rail blue and grey, and were launched into service on 12 May 2005.
The introduction of Desiro rolling stock built by Siemens was to replace the old slam-door trains which were coming to the end of their useful lives, and had been posing health and safety problems. The introduction was delayed because of the additional power needs of this type of stock: Network Rail spent £1 billion upgrading the power supply to take account of this. The new trains are generally proving popular with passengers. They have on-board information systems and full air-conditioning. Their faster acceleration is counterbalanced by the need to stop longer at each station, since they have fewer doors (although the fact that the old trains' doors could be opened while in motion was considered a safety hazard). In addition, the Desiros have many more components: all are computerised and subject to the possibility of breakdowns. It is estimated that the slam-door trains could achieve 60,000 miles (96,000 km) without breakdown; the Desiros an estimated 13,000 miles (20,800 km) but this is gradually improving.
The Desiro stock comes in two variants - Class 450 units which have four 20m cars and are mainly used on outer suburban services and Class 444 units which have five 23m cars as well as intercity style door layouts and are used on longer-distance services to Weymouth.
A full refurbishment program that started in 2004 on the fleet of 91 four-car units was completed on 24 March 2008. Modifications included a new 2+2 seating layout with high back seats, CCTV, cycle storage, wheelchair space, doors that can now open further to allow for faster alighting and additional passenger information systems. All units are now painted in a new red "Metro" version of the South West Trains livery.
Thirty of these four-carriage units were ordered by South West Trains in 1998, to create extra capacity and to replace some of the ageing 4Cep units, which at the time were on short-term lease. Deliveries of these units commenced in 1998.
The class suffered from major technical problems, so none of the older units were withdrawn from service. It was six more years, in 2004, before the full fleet was in service. In 2003 and 2004, reliability was so dire that although they were only six years old, South West Trains decided that the units should be replaced by 2005 with the newer Class 450 Desiro units . Only a handful of units are required each day to help maintain services from Waterloo to Reading, and these were expected to cease after 31 July 2006 when the lease with the rolling stock company expired. An application by SWT to extend this by six months was declined as the class does not meet all the requirements of disability legislation.
However, since then it was decided that on or before the start of the new franchise in February 2007, the class would be reinstated and take over all operations on the Waterloo to Reading line, indirectly covering the loss of the class 442s. They have been fitted with new larger destination screens that comply with the disability legislation, however, still fall foul in some other areas such as the height of the door open buttons. It is believed a small exemption is being made for the Class 458s in those respects.
The 159/1s were converted at Wabtec Doncaster from Class 158s, exchanged with TransPennine Express for Class 170s, to expand the current fleet. 11 further two car 158s were received from TransPennine Express, which were refurbished and renumbered. All SWT 159/0s are currently undergoing refurbishment at Wabtec Doncaster to look like the newly received and refurbished class members. They will however retain their more powerful engines.
Two ex SWT 158s, 786 and 789, have been allocated to First ScotRail and are currently based at Edinburgh Haymarket DMUD.
|Class||Image||Type||Top speed||Number||Routes operated||Built|
|Class 73||electro-diesel locomotive||90||145||3||Thunderbird||1962|
|Class 158 Express Sprinter||diesel multiple unit||90||145||11||London Waterloo - Salisbury / Bristol Temple Meads|
Romsey - Salisbury via Southampton Central
|1989 - 1992|
|Class 159 South Western Turbo||diesel multiple unit||90||145||301||London Waterloo - Salisbury / Bristol Temple Meads / Exeter St Davids / Paignton / Plymouth / Penzance||159/0 - 1992 159/1 - Converted 2006|
|Class 421 (3Cig)||electric multiple unit||90||145||22||Lymington Pier - Brockenhurst||1970 - 1972|
|Class 444 Desiro||electric multiple unit||100||160||45||London Waterloo - Weymouth (South Western Main Line)|
London Waterloo - Portsmouth Harbour
|2003 - 2004|
|Class 450 Desiro||electric multiple unit||100||160||127||Outer Suburban routes:|
London Waterloo - Portsmouth Harbour / Alton / Reading / Windsor & Eton Riverside
Ascot - Guildford
Hounslow Loop Line
Southampton Central - Portsmouth & Southsea
|2002 - 2007|
|Class 455||electric multiple unit||75||120||913||Inner Suburban routes:|
London Waterloo - Shepperton / Hampton Court / Woking / London Waterloo via Hounslow /London Waterloo via Strawberry Hill / Dorking / Guildford via Oxshott or Epsom / Chessington South
|1983 - 1985|
2005 - 2008 (refurbished)
|Class 458 (4Jop) Juniper||electric multiple unit||100||160||304||London Waterloo - Reading / Ascot - Guildford||1999 - 2001|
|Class 483||electric multiple unit||45||72.5||6||Ryde Pier Head - Shanklin||1938|
1989 - 1992 (refurbished)
|Class 9605||diesel multiple unit||70||112||1||Route Learning||1960|
|Class 170 Turbostar||Diesel multiple unit||2000||2006-2007||Transferred to First TransPennine Express and Southern|
|Class 411 (4Cep)||Electric multiple unit||1956-1963||December 2004||Originally from different operators|
|Class 412 (4Bep)||Electric multiple unit||1956-1963||March 2005||1 unit converted into Class 411 (4Cep) in 2004|
|Class 421 (4Cig)||Electric multiple unit||1964-1972||May 2005||Two retained for heritage operations on Lymington Branch Line, now 3Cig units|
|Class 423 (4Vep)||Electric multiple unit||1967-1974||May 2005||One retained for railtour work, but now sold to the Bluebell Railway.|
|Class 442 (5Wes) Wessex Electric||Electric multiple unit||1988-1989||February 2007||Currently Stored at Alstoms Eastleigh Works |
17 Moving to Southern in 2008
These units (Class 442) were initially dedicated to the Weymouth line, but through the 1990s began to be diagrammed on the London Waterloo to Portsmouth direct line. In preparation of the Class 444 and Class 450 "Desiro" units taking over from the slam-door fleet, the Wessex Electrics were withdrawn from Portsmouth line services and were again wholly dedicated to the Weymouth line.
The Class 442 was one of the first types to make extensive use of plastics in construction, earning them the nickname among staff of "Plastic Pigs". When they were first introduced they were plagued by minor technical failures but subsequently became among the most reliable EMUs operating in the UK. South West Trains announced that they would be withdrawing these units with the last official workings of these units will take place on Saturday 13th January 2007(however the last Weymouth to Waterloo running was on the 24 January 2007). The last operated SWT service was on the 4th February. This move also coincides with SWT reinstating all Class 458s for the Waterloo-Reading line. As a result the Class 444s inherited the Waterloo - Weymouth route and the Class 450s took over some of the Portsmouth Harbour services, whilst the 442s went into storage at the Alsthom works at Eastleigh. The Department for Transport has suggested that the 442s are now likely to complement the Southern fleet and will be used on services out of London Victoria.
In 2000 South West Trains acquired a fleet of eight newly-built 2-car Class 170/3 units, to supplement its existing Class 159 fleet. Units were deployed on London Waterloo to Salisbury as well as a new Southampton local train, and Reading to Basingstoke trains. They were sometimes pressed into use on Exeter services, but as they are not fitted with end gangways for catering or selective door opening for the short platforms at some stations, this was not a regular route.
From late 2006 through to mid 2007, the Class 170s were gradually transferred to TransPennine Express in exchange for a larger number of Class 158 units, to expand and standardise the fleet. One Class 170, 170392, which was originally built to Southern specification, but taken over by SWT soon after its construction, has returned to Southern and converted to a Class 171 unit.
Of the Classes 411, 412, 421 and 423 slam-door trains, several former SWT units have been preserved.
Wimbledon Traincare depot is one of Europe's most advanced train servicing complexes. It is located between Wimbledon and Earlsfield stations, on the main line to Waterloo, and is coincidentally situated next to South West Trains' other iconic landmark, the Wimbledon Train Viaduct.
Bournemouth train care depot is southwest of Bournemouth railway station it occupies the approach to the former Bournemouth west station. It was the last place the Class 442 (5Wes) Wessex Electric were stored before moving to Southern. The branch turns off at Branksome railway station and trains can be seen stopping at platform 2 and reversing into the Depot.
Southampton train care depot is south of St Denys railway station and is also next to Southampton FC's Stadium at St Mary's. This newer traincare depot was constructed to perform maintenance on the new Desiro Stock, which can now be found at the works.
South West Trains has often come under criticism for its high ticket fares. In January 2008, its fares increased on average by 4.3% although on other networks, such as Southern and Southeastern, they will rise by more than 16%.
It was also revealed in a national newspaper that some SWT staff are judged on the number of penalty fares they issue.