Not only are super off-peak returns to London not available on trains arriving at Waterloo before 12 noon on Mondays to Fridays, they are no longer available for return between 16.00 and 19.00. These tickets are the old off-peak returns renamed. The new restriction means that many passengers will have to pay £35 for a day trip to London, instead of £30.80 (up almost 14%). Those not wanting to return in late evening, for example where they are taking young children for a school holiday trip, will be particularly hard hit. Social exclusion at its worst!

The journey from Southampton to London by Southern is more circuitous and takes about twice as long, but the fares are vastly cheaper. [The table below is based on website information, and the Group cannot accept responsibility for any error.]

Mondays-Fridays Southern (Last return train from Victoria 20.32) SWT
Any train £30.00 return (Peak Daysave ticket, available only on-line but providing unlimited travel on Southern trains including to Ashford International via Brighton, and Milton Keynes via Clapham Junction and Shepherds Bush for Westfield shopping centre). Earliest arrival in London is 08.45. £63.90 return
Off-peak return (Time restricted) £23.90 £35.00
Super off-peak return (Severely time-restricted) £14.00 £30.80


“It continues to surprise me that rail operating companies continue to alienate their passengers when they go through the ritual fare changes at the beginning of each year. I do wonder when passengers, who purchase annual return tickets, will be able to be guaranteed a seat on their journeys. The companies have their money upfront and therefore have a guaranteed income before they are required to provide the service.

It seems to me, as a layman, the companies rely on long outdated regulations which were in vogue during the early stages of the steam railway companies’ networks. Whoever is supposed to be looking after the consumer interests in relation to the train operating companies, really should hang their heads in shame as they are singularly failing to act on behalf of consumers of the services. Barry Burton, Fareham” (Southern Daily Echo 11/01/10)


Although this letter is a “layman’s” view, there must surely be a case for much stronger passenger representation. PassengerFocus versus the train operators sometimes seems a bit like David versus Goliath, though the outcome generally isn’t. It is vital that passengers and their representatives should have some influence on the award of franchises (assuming they survive). Note this, from the Central Rail Users Consultative Committee’s report ‘Rail Passenger Franchise Replacement – A Strategic Overview’, of January 2000:

“The Deputy Prime Minister, in a meeting with CRUCC representatives in August 1999, said that he wanted to see the passenger representative network heavily involved in the process of franchise re-letting. Support, or otherwise, for particular bids would be crucial.”

We know that the desired outcome isn’t achieved under current arrangements, because SWT’s own on-line poll in 2006 showed that only about one respondent in three thought that Stagecoach should have kept the franchise (SWT published a false figure of 61% - facts confirmed by PF).]


Poor performance counts against the official statistics when it arises from defective rolling stock but not when it arises from bad weather.

Despite rising temperatures after the cold spell, SWT’s on-line Journey Check was updated on Sunday afternoon 10/01/10 to show that the Waterloo-Dorking service would be cancelled all day on Monday because of the number of defective trains.

By early evening, this was updated again to show that all the cancelled trains were reinstated.

By Monday morning, after a night when the minimum temperature across the SWT area was 0C to 1C, all Waterloo-Dorking services were again advertised as cancelled for the day, with all Waterloo-Hampton Court services as axed between Waterloo and Surbiton. Also cancelled were the 06.43 and 07.10 Southampton-Waterloo, the 07.10 Haslemere-Waterloo, and the 07.46 West Byfleet-Waterloo. These cancellations were all “due to the continuing effects of snow, ice and low temperatures”. Presumably this was just spin for continuingly defective stock.

By Monday evening things were no better, with many trains running in short formation. Some of these were advertised as due to defective rolling stock and some as due to ‘poor weather earlier’. In shorthand, does this mean “trains which failed today”, and “trains which failed before today”?

Things were not much different by Tuesday morning. At least SWT’s website was commendably honest about what ‘full service’ means: “SWT expect to run a full service today Tuesday 12th January. A number of services may be subject to Delays, Cancellations and Short Notice Alterations. Also many trains will consist of fewer carriages than normal.”

This time it was the turn of SWT’s short-haul, crowd-busting trains to be cancelled by the ‘poor weather earlier’: the 07.20 Teddington-Waterloo, the 07.22 Epsom-Waterloo, the 07.37 Twickenham-Waterloo and the 07.46 West Byfleet-Waterloo. On top of these there were again plenty of defective stock cancellations, not to mention curtailments in the Portsmouth area owing to a person being hit by a train.

On the Tuesday evening, in increasingly moderate temperatures, even more trains were cancelled due to the ‘poor weather earlier’: 16.05 Waterloo-Reading; 16.38 Winchester-Totton; 17.13 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo; 17.22 Reading-Waterloo; 17.30/18.00/19.00 Waterloo-Epsom; 17.42 Waterloo-Shepperton; 18.18 Waterloo-Haslemere; 18.32 Waterloo-Basingstoke; 18.48 Waterloo-Guildford; 19.23 Waterloo-Surbiton; and 19.39 Haslemere-Waterloo. In addition, the poor weather earlier led to the short formation of the 16.33/17.02 Waterloo-Guildford; 16.35/16.50 Waterloo-Reading; 16.50/18.02 Waterloo-Woking; 17.12 Waterloo-Shepperton; 17.27/18.37 Waterloo-Kingston-Waterloo; 17.48 Waterloo-Southampton; 17.55 Waterloo-Alton; 18.00/18.09/18.30/18.45 Waterloo-Portsmouth; 18.12/18.23 Waterloo-Basingstoke; 18.15 Waterloo-Fratton; and 18.35 Waterloo-Weymouth.

On Wednesday morning, large numbers of trains were still reduced in length due to the ‘poor weather earlier’: 05.43/06.23(subsequently cancelled)/07.13 Portsmouth-Waterloo; 05.48 Dorking-Waterloo; 06.12/06.44 Alton-Waterloo; 06.23/06.54/07.24 Basingstoke-Waterloo; 06.15/07.45 Waterloo-Brentford-Waterloo; 06.41/07.03/07.47/08.02(Britain’s joint most-overcrowded train)/08.17/08.47 Woking-Waterloo; 06.48 Hounslow-Waterloo; 06.55 Weymouth-Waterloo; 07.03 Weybridge-Waterloo. 07.10 Haslemere-Waterloo; 07.46 West Byfleet-Waterloo; 05.58/08.07/08.37 Guildford-Waterloo; 08.12 Reading-Waterloo.

Then there was a light snowfall over the SWT area and trains started to be cancelled due to poor weather rather than due to poor weather earlier. Many cancellations all day, increased by a severe crew shortage in the evening – staff so demoralized that they were staying at home and watching the FA cup match?



Beautifully ungrammatical message appearing in SWT’s Journey Check facility on 21/12/2009:

“Trains will not be calling at London Road Guildford, Clandon or Horsley in both directions. Due to poor waether conditions. Services will how ever run between Effingham Jnc and Guildford Fast.”


It seems that January’s snowfalls were particularly kind to SWT. They completely extinguished trains only on the company’s less commercial routes:

* local services between Brockenhurst and Lymington, and between Ascot and Guildford;

* the line between Virginia Water and Weybridge, at the end of a very circuitous secondary route from Waterloo to Weybridge;

* the Dorking-Epsom line where services/profits are shared with Southern.

A DEVASTATINGLY DEFECTIVE TRAIN? On 7 January, the 07.24, 08.26, 09.26, 10.26, 11.26, 12.26 Exeter-Waterloo were all advertised as terminating at Basingstoke owing to a defective train.


(1) “South West Trains decided at 7pm on Tuesday that it would run a limited service before a snowflake had even hit the track. Thus yesterday services on the Hounslow Loop were either delayed or cancelled by … slush. Deb, Twickenham.”

(2) “I travelled on the first SWT Portsmouth bound SWT service in more than two hours on Wednesday afternoon and the snow was seriously affecting power supply, with slow running and dimmed lights. We broke down three times and the service stopped short at Havant. The crew were fantastic, though they seemed to know as little as the passengers about what was going on.

I think SWT were unwise to run a Saturday schedule. More trains would surely have helped keep the “third rail” ice-free. A cynic might say this was a chance for SWT to cut costs. David Habershon, Emsworth.”


“Ethics are not irrelevant, but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed” – Stagecoach Chairman Brian Souter.

Two very interesting rail topics for the beginning of 2010:

(1) A report in the January edition of Railway Magazine shows how the fares structure is hopelessly illogical, inconsistent and confusing, and face-to-face help ever less available, making it easy for Train Operating Companies to fleece their customers.

(2) The Government’s consultation on a proposed huge rise in penalty fares for the small minority of passengers who board trains without a ticket, to comply with the wishes of the Association of Train Operating Companies.


“ORDINARY FARES: There is no precise rate for fares applicable without exception to British Railways. In the left-hand column of the pages in this timetable will be seen the distance in miles from various places, and fares are usually based upon mileage rates of approximately 3d per mile, Second Class, for distances up to 200 miles, the basis for distances over 200 miles being slightly lower. First Class fares are approximately 50% over second.” [Source: Southern Region Passenger Services Timetable, 10/9/1962-16/6/1963]


The Railway Magazine report refers to the Commons Transport Select Committee’s past description of the fares structure on the privatised railway as a “see how much we can get away with attitude, fleecing passengers who have no option but to travel on peak-hour trains using fully flexible open fares.”

Cost no longer depends on distance. Virgin Trains (49% Stagecoach owned) rips off Euston-Lancaster passengers with the Euston-Glasgow fare, even though the journey is 172 miles shorter.

With annual adjustments in regulated fares tied to the government’s RPI+1% formula, many operators have introduced huge increases in unregulated fares, and tinkered with the definition of “off-peak” to force passengers to pay more where they cannot vary their journey time – when SWT put up their off-peak tickets by 20%, PassengerFocus’ research established that 74% of passengers said they would use the train less.

Advance tickets are usually the cheapest, but the passenger who unwittingly boards the wrong train with such a ticket may have to buy the dearest available ticket at huge cost, with no allowance for the money spent on the Advance ticket. In addition, many operators have cut their quota of these tickets. And there are big anomalies; a London-Rugby Advance ticket, valid on only one train, costs £23, but an off-peak fare of £16.95 is valid on far more trains.

It is unlikely that many people would guess that, from places such as Bristol Temple Meads and East Midlands Parkway to London, two open fares cost a lot more than a weekly season ticket.

The best bargains may be found on the Internet, but this entails the social inclusion of people without Internet access or who are not computer literate.

Sometimes it may be much cheaper to buy a succession of tickets rather than just one ticket for the whole journey, but it may take a lot of surfing to ascertain this. With the worst operators shutting down travel centres, and long queues at ticket offices where they are available at all, many passengers are most unlikely to get the cheapest possible fare. The Anytime fare from Coventry to Southampton is £105, but the Coventry-Banbury fare is £10.10, and the Banbury-Southampton fare is £36.30. So a saving of £58.60 (nearly 56%) is possible by booking separate tickets.


With the fares structure such a jungle, and passengers at the mercy of predatory (to use the term of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission) behaviour of companies such as Stagecoach, what more natural than that some passengers should want help in purchasing their ticket? When the Penalty Fares scheme was introduced, permit to travel machines were presented as an important safeguard for passengers. The worst operators, such has Stagecoach, have now ripped them out. This has happened on SWT, along with the destruction of travel centres, and more stations being left unstaffed for longer.

So the honest traveller can be genuinely perplexed when seeking to purchase a ticket, and may decide that the only sensible thing to do is buy it on the train. At a stakeholder event in relation to the last Southern refranchising round, a senior member of Northern Trains opined that most ticketless travel was not fraudulent.

That of course is not music to the ears of greed-motivated operators such as Stagecoach, who tightened their penalty fares scheme when they ripped out the permit machines, arrogantly proclaiming that genuine mistake would incur a penalty. Thus we have the consultation on increasing penalties to the greater of £50 or twice the full single fare to the next stop. The £50 would be reduced to £25 if the penalty is paid within 21 days.

Shouldn’t the question for government be: What matters most, fair fares and fair play for passengers, or a return to nine-figure bonuses for people like the Stagecoach founders?



The government’s investigation of bus fares proceeds. It arises from the huge disparity between the success of regulated services in London and steep decline in bus usage elsewhere. Stagecoach spurned regulation and shed its London bus operation at the time it was overbidding to keep SWT. Report from the Evening Standard of 7 January 2010:

“Shares in Britain’s bus operators fell today after the Office of Fair Trading referred local bus services to the Competition Commission over concerns about high fares. Go-Ahead shares lost 27p to 1322p, Stagecoach was down 4p to 175p and Arriva dipped ½p to 507p after the OFT said an investigation revealed limited competition between operators was pushing up prices and diminishing the quality of service. The OFT said it had received complaints about established bus firms exhibiting “predatory behaviour” to exclude new players.

Bus routes in London and Northern Ireland will not be included in the inquiry. Analysts at Shore Capital said Stagecoach, which earns 51% of its profit from its UK bus operations, was “most likely to be the most exposed to any adverse changes to the industry given it has no London bus operation, and is fully exposed to the local bus market”.

Presumably there will be no corresponding problem for Stagecoach in Scotland, where transport is devolved and Brian Souter is the ruling Scottish Nationalist party’s biggest donor. Interestingly, however, the (Glasgow) Herald tips First Group as one of the six best Scottish companies in which to hold shares, whilst the traffic commissioners in Scotland are looking at an anti-poaching measure to stop rival companies’ buses arriving at stops within 3 minutes of one another.


The recent report for government on the least popular stations shows 11 of those managed by Stagecoach or the Virgin-Stagecoach partnership among the worst 20 nationally.

Clapham Junction is 2nd worst; Crewe 3rd worst; Warrington Bank Quay 4th worst; Preston 6th worst; Wigan North Western 7th worst; Stockport 10th worst; Vauxhall 11th worst; Wimbledon 14th worst; Southampton Central 17th worst; Surbiton 19th worst and Nottingham 20th worst.

These stations are all medium to large in size. Since SWT has always admitted concentrating improvements at the busiest locations, it is hardly surprising that the facilities and maintenance at stations such as Totton (serving the 4th largest intermediate centre of population on the Southampton-Weymouth line) have been so poor. It has taken years even to replace rotten boarding at Totton, despite our having repeatedly drawn attention to it. Network Rail’s recent ‘Action Stations’ survey has usefully provided an opportunity to highlight the poor conditions at Totton.

The report particularly highlights the poor facilities, appearance, delivery of information and ease of access at SWT’s Clapham Junction. Passengers complain about having to haul luggage down a damp passageway or over a dilapidated footbridge to move between platforms. At ‘shabby’ Southampton Central, another major interchange, there is now to be a £2.4m improvement package for the south side, with SWT contributing only £475,000.

SWT’s sole, but much-trumpeted, success in this year’s National Rail Awards was for Brockenhurst as best medium-sized station. However, the station is of much less importance than any of the above, as it simply serves New Forest villages and gives access to the Lymington branch. Interestingly, a Southampton resident’s letter in the Southern Daily Echo of 3 November commented, “I saw a friend off from Brockenhurst Railway Station recently. I was appalled at the state of it. It was dirty, decrepit and dingy. Surely, with the Olympics coming soon, it could be given a facelift. Any tourist passing through would think it was in a third world country.”


Long after the event had taken place, SWT’s website was still proudly proclaiming that Anne Milton MP would be attending their ‘Try the Train’ day at Guildford. The event was to help give disabled people and their carers the knowledge and confidence to travel by train.

What could give greater confidence than being seen on or off the trains by a carer? Alas, the Salisbury Journal of 15 October 2009 published a letter from a local resident thanking a member of Salisbury station staff for breaking the rules in allowing him to accompany a frail elderly friend on to the platform. The letter ends, “I hope the man in question is not reprimanded now I have publicized his kindness in showing a bit of humanity and common sense”. The same writer also mentions the closure of the travel centre (travel centres are a very friendly facility for disabled people) at Salisbury and SWT’s false promise, as at Southampton Central, that the centre was making way for a retail unit.


* Writing about SWT, a local MP tells us:

“I have recently been dealing with a situation in which a young constituent was unable to obtain a cheap ticket from the ticket machine, had to board without a ticket and was then taken to task for travelling without a ticket. The company have been completely unapologetic.

Whilst I have usually found guards to be helpful I have also witnessed an occasion of out and out bullying. The guard in question seemed to have it in for everyone. The first occasion was when a passenger wanted to change his ticket and pay the difference. He was told he had to buy a new ticket for the full journey, despite being politely told by the gentleman that he had done the same thing previously. The guard then went on to bully a young Asian child who clearly didn’t realise the difference between first and second class and frog marched him down the carriage. I would stress that in my experience this was an exception, but it shouldn’t have happened at all.”

* Like police officers, as in one of SWT’s subtly threatening posters, newspaper editors may travel incognito by train. The Southern Daily Echo is never slow in verbally chastising errant youth, so it seems particularly significant that Editor Ian Murray was moved to intervene when witnessing the abusive treatment of a teenager by one of SWT’s storm-troopers. Instead of apologizing, the storm-trooper (aka conductor) tried to strike a threatening pose after summoning a manager. Other passengers then joined in to support the youth. Having the tables turned was apparently too much for the storm-trooper, who withdrew his labour and left the manager in charge of the train. Mr Murray’s report was in the Echo of 31/10/2009:

“-- Soon after, we were aware of the guard walking the carriage to check tickets. He visited the table opposite first, looking at the tickets of the one lady and the elder of the two young men before asking the chap in the white T-shirt to check his Railcard. He had every right to do so and also then to point out the card was out of date. He explained to the teenager that if he couldn’t produce a valid card – the lad explained he had picked up an old one by mistake – then he would have no choice but charge him for a full fare ticket.

All of this was perfectly acceptable, but not I decided the tone that at best could be called condescending, at worst downright rude. Now the teen was asking how he could later claim a refund of the extra payment when he found his valid card. The guard told him in no uncertain terms that no refund would be possible. He added that if the youngster re-read his Railcard paperwork then he would discover that clause 7 (I may have the actual clause wrong here) clearly showed that … and so on.

I looked up. As usual for the British everyone else was busily attempting to pay no attention, heads buried in books, papers and laptops. It was none of my business I thought, but as the conversation across the aisle continued with the teen remaining perfectly calm and polite and the guard’s tone becoming ever more accusatorial I decided to speak. Leaning across the gap I explained that it was my honestly held belief that the guard did in fact have the option of using his discretion and letting the lad off with a caution. What’s more he should certainly have the right of appeal if he could prove that he did possess a valid card and this was simply a mistake.

The guard was not happy at my intervention and was at pains to point out that I was wrong. He continued to press his point with the lad until the money was handed over. He now checked the rest of our tickets and I handed him mine. “I do have a valid Railcard,” I said, offering it up. “Bully for you!” was his professional response at which, after flamboyantly showing me his name badge should I wish to complain, he left the carriage.

Five minutes later the guard with a rail manager in tow returned to where I was sitting. Perhaps, he explained, sitting on the arm of another chair, I would wish to repeat to this manager what I had said. I declined, pointing out that I had no wish to entertain the whole carriage – who by now had understandably abandoned their British reserve and were all watching events unfold – and would make any observations I felt necessary in the usual way.

At that point dear reader he could have called it a day and the matter would have no doubt ended there. Alas, our friend decided to push the point. “You had plenty to say earlier,” he insisted, although not in the tone he had spoken to the teen it must be noted. I paused. To continue the conversation would play into his hands. And then it happened, one of those spontaneous events that restore your faith in humanity. The whole carriage began to speak up. They felt the guard had spoken to the lad appallingly. His tone had verged on bullying. If one of them had spoken to a customer in that way they would be fired.

The smart-suited chap announced he worked in security and in his opinion the lad was obviously a good sort. The mum I had helped earlier bemoaned the way youngsters were so often treated. Even the nicely-dressed lady popped her head around the seats to add her opinion that the tone had been unnecessary. If I hadn’t been so shocked I would have burst into applause. God bless them.

The carriage eventually fell silent, we all looked at the manager and then the guard who, after a moment, announced he was quitting for the day, told his manager there would be no more tickets checked on that journey and flounced off. The manager smiled at us all weakly, said nothing and followed. I looked at the lad and apologised. “I had no intention to make you the centre of all that,” I explained, knowing that if it been one of my daughters they would have been in equal measures grateful but mortified. He said thank you to everyone, but continued to look a little shell shocked.

For the remainder of the journey we noted it was the now whistle-wearing manager who saw the train off at each station. We did not see the guard again. – I like to think that there is at least a rail carriage-full of adults who will not sit by in future.”

* Christian Wolmar [RAIL Issue 630] reports a further example of his abominable treatment by guards on Virgin Trains (49% Stagecoach-owned).

“-- Pleasant is not a word I would use for the guard on the Virgin train I took from Euston to Liverpool a couple of months previously. He was the sort of jobsworth who takes delight in making life difficult for passengers. I was unable to pick up my tickets from the machine because the travel agent for the TV company I was working for had texted me the wrong code. I knew the right code was on my computer but there was only five minutes to go and I did not want to miss the train. I said to the guard, who was on the gate checking people in, that I could show proof of purchase on my computer, but instead he demanded I pay the full £67 single to Liverpool before I boarded. When I was on the train, he accepted the computer ticket, allowing me to sit in first class which showed it could have been settled without me paying twice. Of course, by then he had made his 5% on my extra ticket.

Worse was to come. As he suggested, I sent the ticket for refund but VT said that since I had not shown a valid ticket to travel, it was up to the travel agent to reimburse me and not the train operator. So VT is quite prepared to make me pay twice to satisfy its bureaucratic principles. I am pressing for the refund and will relate my tale.”


[Report from David Wallis]

“Another fiasco with the railway to report. On Sunday morning 13th December, Gwynne and I and a friend required to travel to Brockenhurst. Knowing that there were engineering works affecting the trains at the weekend, I took the trouble to ascertain the times of the replacement buses from the helpful lady (Julia) at Totton station. The timing given for the bus was 09.18 from the stop opposite the Red Lion where an appropriate notice had been posted. Trains would run at 05 past each hour thereafter.

Of course no bus materialised and we three, plus a young woman who was due in Poole to open a shop where she was the manageress, waited in vain in the cold and rain until well after 09.30. Gwynne then used the help phone on the station whilst the young woman phoned South West Trains on her mobile.

The help phone was connected to London where the person dealing with the query said that the bus was “held up” despite the almost clear roads – remember this was early Sunday morning. Although this was obviously untrue she could be of no further help.

The young woman fared no better having been connected to an Indian voice who appeared to nothing about local traffic arrangements.

Fortunately, the young woman’s partner was nearby with his car and offered to run all five of us to Brockenhurst where a train to Poole was more likely to be available. In the meantime the 10.05 train was shown to be cancelled and no transport to the west was available until 11.05. Assuming that the previous bus had run (there was no way of knowing this) passengers at Totton and Ashurst were left with no service for a good three hours showing the usual contempt that SWT has for the largest town in the New Forest.

Our reason for the journey to Brockenhurst was to take part in our local Ramblers’ Christmas walk and lunch. It was only our Good Samaritan who prevented our day being ruined.

Not only did we forfeit the outward part of our tickets but also we felt obliged to offer the driver a contribution towards the petrol which he had to buy specially before setting off to Brockenhurst.”


Short trains/overcrowding

In the two weeks leading up to Christmas SWT were running fewer coaches than normal on train services both to and from Guildford-London Waterloo. Of those services that were shorter these were timed for departure between 10:02 and 11:17, and on the return between 19:00-20:00. As such, there was chronic overcrowding on many of the services I used and on no occasion during one 7 day period did I get a seat (excluding on one train when I gave up my seat so an elderly couple could sit together).

On 21/12/09 at 20:17, the train I boarded from Basingstoke (to Woking) had what appeared to be human faeces on the floor between the toilet and the door. I can only assume this was once again due to the under maintained on-board toilets overflowing. The wider issue here is that on board toilets are frequently out of use and/or emitting a foul odour and I can only assume that SWT are not meeting their obligations to offer safe and hygienic facilities (a requirement under the Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1992 covering employees and members of the public).

New fare rises

In addition to some unannounced rises, the most significant is that of the new Off-Peak/Super Off-Peak scam. Clearly little consideration has been given to how this can be reasonably enforced. After all, the ticket does not itself indicate what restrictions are in place and therefore it would be possible to buy a ticket during a valid period for the same ticket to become invalid. Yes, yellow stickers have appeared on ticket machines and I assume their role is to encourage the purchase of the 20% higher fare.

If a Super Off-Peak ticket is purchased but due to unexpected changes I require to travel home earlier, I assume I will be able to buy an 'excess' to my ticket rather than potentially wait 3 hours to start my journey? If so, what provisions will be set up for changing this ticket type as the ticket machines do not offer this facility and SWT never meet the queuing standard at Waterloo or Clapham Junction during my observations. In such cases, the barriers will no doubt be programmed to reject these tickets (the main reason for their implementation I am sure). Can therefore staff be asked to let passengers through to 'upgrade' their ticket to the more expensive Off-Peak ticket on-board the train? I can see no reason for this request not to be met as failure to do so would be in breach of the National Conditions of Carriage.

Furthermore, there is nothing to stop passengers from using the travelcard portion of the ticket to make journeys that are otherwise subject to the new restrictions. I could therefore board a train at Waterloo and get off the train at Surbiton, before rejoining the same service to continue my journey to Guildford.

What about if I start my journey (using a Super Off-Peak ticket) from Richmond as I did this evening, but I have to change trains at Clapham to complete my journey to Guildford. If I change trains during the new period of restriction, what is there to stop me accidentally or unknowingly boarding the 'wrong' train? I would have been let through the barriers with a valid ticket at Richmond station.

Queuing standards/ticket offices

SWT are still failing to allow passengers through the barriers when the queuing standards have not been met. It shouldn't be up to the gate-line staff's discretion; quite simply the National Conditions of Carriage state that over 3 minutes (or 5 minutes peak) is exceeding the queuing standard. Why are passengers still being treated as fare evaders when the train company fail to provide adequate staffing levels?

Information screens

Some or all of the screens have not been working at Guildford since the New Year. In fact, the problems started before this time although it has been markedly worse in the past 7 days. How can passengers decide the correct route to take/restricted ticket to buy when the main (and only) screens in the ticket hall are not working?

In summary

Year after year of fare rises that have apparently been to improve the service. 'No one likes paying more' is a term I have heard on many occasions. What is clear is that greedy operators like SWT no longer view their role as providing a service while running an efficient business. They cut front line services knowing that they can do so, while continuing to overcharge and harass passengers. Journey frequencies have actually been reduced on some routes that I used to travel on, and on the main line services, there are still four trains an hour. This is after years of above average fare rises and tinkering with ticketing restrictions.

While most businesses would adjust supply to meet demand, SWT refuse to do this as in many cases their franchise does not require them to do so (their justification). They are not running a competitive business; surely therefore they should be properly regulated? Meanwhile queues at the ticket offices have increased while revenue protection has got even more underhand. There are no worries for genuine fare evaders though, as long as they travel after dark when revenue staff have gone home. SWT says that it doesn't make commercial sense to offer station revenue protection measures later in the evening, despite safety issues on board trains and the very large number of passengers using services late during weekends. The new trains are often filthy and in the summer air-conditioning frequently doesn't work. Unlike older train stock, there are no windows to open in such circumstances.

I've seen revenue staff actively target the vulnerable and charging them penalty fares. In some cases when I've intervened I've been threatened with removal from the station, but on one occasion recently at Woking, the passenger's fine was torn up. SWT should not be allowed to operate a penalty fares scheme as they consistently fail to meet its requirements for adequate ticketing facilities.


On 28/11/2009, the 17.20 Waterloo-Yeovil train hit debris from a landslip in the Gillingham area just before entering Buckhorn Weston tunnel. The train, which was travelling at about 60mph, was derailed and the front coaches made contact with the tunnel wall. It was remarkable that there were no deaths or injuries. Informed sources say that, once the driver realised the seriousness of the situation and that there was nothing he could do, he (very sensibly) moved to the cab floor. SWT put a message on its website apologising for the inconvenience caused by the landslip but not mentioning the derailed train or sympathising with its passengers for the shock and distress they must have suffered.


[Source: BBC website]

“Three hundred passengers had to be moved to safety [on 8 January] after fire started on a passenger train in south-west London. The fire broke out in a power unit on the South West Trains service from Portsmouth to Waterloo near Berrylands station, Surbiton, at 0915 GMT. It took fire fighters an hour to bring it under control. No-one was hurt, but services have been disrupted.

South West Trains apologised and said the incident had caused "significant inconvenience" to passengers. Rail services from Guildford and Basingstoke into Waterloo have been suspended and services out of Waterloo have been disrupted.

A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said: "A small fire broke out in a power unit under the train carriage." It caused a "small amount" of damage to one of the carriages and two fire crews attended the incident. She added: "Passengers were evacuated as a precautionary measure and there were no reported injuries."

One passenger on board the train said he had been delayed for two hours on his journey from Weybridge to Waterloo. The 30-year-old, who did not want to be named, said some commuters walked down the tracks. He said: "Some people decided to brave the cold to get to other stations. Ironically, the meeting I was due to attend in London had actually been cancelled."


With Stagecoach Chairman Brian Souter confidently predicting he will win another £100m from taxpayers when his spat with DfT on SWT goes to arbitration, his own bonus and position as the SNP’s major donor should be safe. The extra public funds should also help him fulfill his ambitions to grab the East Anglia franchise (now coming up for re-franchising) and reduce that, like SWT, to a bleak, post-public-service cash cow. If that sounds like exaggeration, note this extract from an article by Erik Pedersen in the Nottingham Evening Post about Stagecoach’s East Midlands Trains franchise:

“WHAT'S the absolute worst thing you can imagine about travelling with East Midlands Trains? Nope, not that. Actually no, not that either.

Aha, good guess! But no.

That ... ew, that sounds disgusting. And trying to flush did what? OK, that's pretty bad. But still, no.

Unless you said "knowing that other people on the train may not have paid," you're just wrong.

We know this because the rail company's managing director, Tim Shoveller, told the Evening Post last week that "one of the things that passengers tell us consistently is that they are fed up with fare evaders. Regular fare cheats who try to dodge paying should know we are serious about tracking them down. We are on the side of honest fare-paying passengers who end up paying for those who think the rules don't apply to them".

Now, far be it from me to accuse Mr Shoveller of attempting to win the coveted Kay Cutts Award for Comically Appropriate Surnames. And certainly, I think we can all agree that we are not on the side of the "regular fare cheats". At the same time, I am having something of a difficult time imagining the floods of calls and emails coming in about this particular issue.

"Dear sir,

"I was most upset on a recent journey to spy a beady-eyed man who boarded at Bedford and, I am quite certain, did not pay his fare. I was able to observe quite carefully during the half hour we spent sitting somewhere near Leicester, and there was definitely an air of the criminal about him. It chilled me to the very core. I would have soothed my nerves with a bracing drink had the buffet bar not been closed due to staff shortages ..."

Maybe I'm being cynical here, but I rather assumed that people getting in touch with East Midlands Trains might occasionally be feeling a bit of pique about, say, paying the ticket-pricing equivalent of a colonoscopy to ride an understaffed, out-of-date train to a station that resembles a closing-time pub bog.

Mr Shoveller's embrace of law and order comes as part of a new crackdown happening this week alongside EMT's new penalty fares system. Get caught without a ticket and you'll be fined £20 or twice the full single fare to the next stop, whichever is higher. This of course happens hot on the heels of the new ticket barriers at Midland Station.

And undoubtedly, it'll make life tougher on the people who think it's their God-given right to travel free to Loughborough. It'll probably also snag a few tourists who ride the tram to the station, enter via Station Street without passing a ticket machine and hop on the nearest train assuming for some crazy reason that the fact that the train conductors carry ticket dispensers means that you can buy tickets on the train.

Now, let's have a couple of caveats. First, I actually really like the people who work on the frontline for East Midlands Trains. They're friendly and helpful, even when they're announcing that there's no buffet service on this train due to staff shortages. Two, it's not East Midlands Trains' fault that the entire British rail system operates on some written-on-the-back-of-a-fag-packet system of muddled semi-privatisation.

That said, it'd be nice if a train company could give as much of a rip about me as it apparently does about those dastardly fare dodgers. Because as it happens, Tim, I'm not a criminal. I'm someone who has to lug his suitcase from the tram stop around to the main hall so as to not fall afoul of Johnny Law. When the only noticeable changes at Midland Station are the ones that act as deterrents – and make life more difficult for everyone – it gets tough to view the trains as an outfit that cares about customer service or how well they're competing for customers who might just find it easier to drive.

And thinking of the M1 as a pleasant alternative? That's the absolute worst thing I can imagine about travelling on East Midlands Trains.”

[At a stakeholder event in 2007, in the course of the Southern re-franchising exercise, a senior manager from Northern Trains stated that he recognised that most cases of ticketless travel were unlikely to be fraudulent]


Six days in prison for picking up ticket left on train
Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday, April 16, 2009, 07:30

“A man spent almost a week in prison after he was arrested for picking up a ticket left on a train. Abidrashid Abdilaahi returned the ticket he found on a table when confronted by the guard and bought his own. But he was still arrested at Nottingham Station and spent six days in prison after police failed to book a translator for his first court appearance.

Nottingham magistrates released Abdilaahi, 41, on Tuesday after sentencing him to one day in custody for theft. He pleaded guilty to the charge. Abdilaahi's solicitor Dean Bower said he had been punished more than enough for a trivial offence. "This is not a serious offence," said Mr Bower. "The ticket was returned to its owner moments after it was taken. All that happened was he was walking through the carriage looking for a seat, glanced down, noticed the ticket and picked it up. He did not know if it was valid or not and did not intend to use it. "He was then sold a valid ticket to Chesterfield, even though the person who sold him that ticket was making arrangements to have him arrested at Nottingham."

Transport police interviewed Abdilaahi with an interpreter because his English was poor. They then decided to keep him in custody, but failed to book the interpreter for court the next day. Magistrates had no choice but to adjourn his case because Abdilaahi could not understand what was going on. No Somalian interpreter could be booked until after the Easter Bank Holiday on Tuesday – after Abdilaahi spent six days at Lincoln Prison. A spokesman for British Transport Police said an interpreter was present when Abdilaahi was charged on Thursday morning. "It was our understanding that there would be an interpreter in court," he said.

Abdilaahi, of Mere Road, Leicester, is originally from Somalia, but is a Dutch national with the legal right to work in the UK. He is a cleaner at Leicester Royal Infirmary. His lawyer says Abdilaahi is in poor health and was not given his usual medication until he had been in prison for five days. "He is poor," Mr Bower said. "And six days of incarceration have already cost him approximately a week's wages, although fortunately he believes his job will still be there for him."

Magistrates released Abdilaahi immediately. He was not asked to pay usual prosecution costs of £70. The defendant saluted the magistrates and repeatedly thanked them as he was led out of the dock. Abdilaahi had no previous convictions for theft but has previously served a jail term in Leicester for assault. It is the police's responsibility to book interpreters for a defendant's first court appearance as it usually takes place within 24 hours of them being charged at a police station.

Sanchia Wheeler, a civil litigation lawyer at Nottingham-based law firm Cartwright King, said: "Police officers are human and do make mistakes. However, care has to be taken where it is clear that such errors can lead to the unnecessary custody of persons and deprive them of their liberty. "I feel that the officers have to answer for their actions and he deserves an apology and compensation at the very least. "There should be a process in place to ensure that matters such as booking an interpreter are confirmed before their attendance at court."

A spokesperson for East Midlands Trains said: "We are working hard to prevent ticket-less travel on our trains and have already introduced a number of initiatives to prevent anybody travelling without a ticket, such as the introduction of more ticket vending machines at stations and educating passengers through posters at stations. "In addition, we will be introducing automatic ticket gates at a number of our key stations this year."

[Since Stagecoach seems so keen on dragging people to court (See also Hogrider 124), it’s worth reporting that Brian Souter’s son, Scott, recently admitted assault and causing injury, which one would have thought a vastly more serious offence than picking up a ticket – Source: Times 21/10/09]


“I recently turned up at Ascot station to catch a London train only to find that a ‘Juniper’ EMU had failed in platform 1. The layout at Ascot is unusual in that platform 1 is a single track flanked on both sides by platform faces. As the London train was now diverted onto platform 2, it would have been a simple matter to open a couple of doors on the failed train and let people like myself, with heavy luggage, step through onto platform 2. Instead I, and others, had to hump our cases over the high footbridge at very short notice. We literally had to run to catch the train that had been announced as a platform alteration only a minute earlier!

Wishing to ask why nobody on the spot had the common sense to open the failed train’s doors, I wrote to South West Trains’ customer services in Southampton. Typically, they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about because they’re not railway people and didn’t know the layout. Their reply was that it would be “too dangerous”.

I thought that was nonsense, so I wrote again to explain the layout and got a reply saying that “to open the doors on two trains side-by-side and align them up accurately would be too difficult and against Health & Safety”.

I then wrote directly to the managing director at Waterloo, only for my letter to be passed back to Southampton, who now told me, “Trains cannot be used as a passenger link with other platforms as the train may have to depart whilst passengers are still passing through, which would cause a delay or even passengers getting locked in and taken to a destination they did not plan to travel to”.

So there we have it: ‘A train may depart without notice and people may be trapped inside’. However, these trains have guards and their doors are opened and shut thousands of times a day all over the SW network. Trains are regularly sent to sidings after the guard has checked out all coaches and shut the doors.

Is this a typically lame excuse or what? What it amounts to is that the so-called Health & Safety regime in this country believes it is safer for an elderly person to rush over a footbridge with heavy luggage rather than step through a level train. Well, I’m sorry but I totally disagree. Peter Middleton, Video 125 Ltd, Ascot”


[In August 2009, Jocelyn Pearson of the rail watchdog Passenger Focus, said that only 63% of passengers travelling on SWT’s services tell us that they are satisfied with their personal security at Guildford station]


Guildford: Friday 16th October 10.45:

One ticket window open only - (four closed). Four ticket machines (50%) not working.

I approached the ticket gates as I wished to cross the footbridge and attempt to buy a ticket at the quieter side of the station. I observed that the 'bridge pass' vending machine has been removed. The gate was open and no member of staff handed me a bridge pass when I explained that I wanted to cross the bridge. On reaching the Guildford Park entrance, I was informed by the ticket gate/revenue staff that I could not leave without a bridge pass. A passenger kindly substantiated my claim that I was simply walking over the bridge and I had not come off a train. Unfortunately the member of staff refused me permission to leave the station to buy a ticket (by standing in my way and blocking the open gate). I asked the guard if they could sell me a ticket before I boarded the train having explained the situation I faced but they said they did not have a ticket machine with them.

Guildford: Saturday 17th October 13.14:

Two ticket windows open – (three closed). Again four ticket machines not working.

Two passengers tell of their wait of over 20 minutes this week and I would imagine they were lucky. I used to wait almost 30 minutes before I read about the queuing standards.

I also note that in the past year I have not once seen the additional ticket office window open at the Guildford Park entrance to the station. This used to be open for much of the day.

Plusbus update

SWT staff have not been issuing Gold Card discounts on Plusbus tickets in recent weeks at the ticket office (where all have to be purchased excluding for onward travel from Basingstoke where the ticket machine can be used). SWT have said in their most recent correspondence that they will not be providing a refund for the overcharged amount as it is my responsibility to check my ticket while at the ticket office. However, I have provided (where available) the ticket for the rail element of the journey indicating that a discount has been applied at the same time to this part of the ticket only. I have subsequently discovered from SWT ticket staff that the option for Gold Card discounts to be applied to Plusbus tickets was removed following a recent 'upgrade' of their system. FGW and Southern are using the Rail Settlement Plan system and yet they are able to offer Plusbus tickets with the correct Gold Card discount (I can confirm this to be correct with the last two weeks).

How does someone with a disability manage whilst waiting for tickets? Was this not considered before a decision was made to allow SWT to close the travel centre?

Inspectors using discretion

I have no confidence in such approach. I have witnessed people being harassed by revenue staff (and I have documented evidence of such) despite them claiming they could not buy a ticket. I'm sure it’s of little reassurance to passengers that they may not be fined depending on who they speak to. A clear set of robust guidelines needs to be advertised at stations, informing passengers of their responsibilities and rights, and also regarding those of the train company. The current one-sided approach has stopped members of my family and friends using the SWT services. I'm sure there are still people deliberately avoiding their fares and its worrying that SWT still do not staff their ticket gates later in the evening.

Ticket Vending Machines

Cheaper fares are often available at the ticket office, but it took me 30 minutes to queue and buy a ticket on Saturday 3rd at Woking (using one example). Why is there not a sign to warn passengers that the cheapest fare may not be available at the machine? Why are peak and off-peak tickets offered for sale during super-off peak times (including all times at the weekend)?

The permit to travel machines certainly met my needs. Unfortunately they were taken away, thus stopping legitimate passengers from boarding a train whilst indicating their intention to buy a ticket. As the queuing standards are almost never met at Guildford, it seems strange that SWT were so willing to remove them while simultaneously failing to differentiate between fare evaders and those that could not buy a ticket.

Guildford station (ticket gates)

The gates do not always work at Guildford despite myself being in possession of a valid ticket. In all such cases, tickets have been purchased from the ticket machines. There has also recently been a problem with tickets not being printed correctly and with half of the machines not working in the ticket hall.


I'm sure such assistance is of benefit to some passengers, perhaps those that have not used the machines before. It is of no substitute to adequate staffing levels at the ticket office, however. Furthermore it does not address the issues of different prices being offered at the ticket office where no such option exists on the machine (such as when after the last off-peak service has departed but before super off-peak tickets are available). In reality I've seen a deterioration in the already poor service offered at Guildford. When will the DfT start enforcing existing legislation?”


“Alan Williams rightly raises the issue about ‘customers’ obtaining information on routes and timetables.

Guildford is a seriously busy station, but has no map of routes, general timetables or information on the times and routes of the various cheaper-ticket schemes. You either queue up for 10-plus minutes to ask a harassed clerk, or play games with the incomplete information on the ticket machines (to the irritation of other passengers wanting to catch trains).

At a brief discussion recently with a South West Trains representative, I suggested that it would be helpful if, alongside the ticket machines, there could be a computer terminal(s) with a link locked to the National Rail Enquiries web site, so that we could look these matters up for ourselves at the point of sale. He said this is a possible idea. Ian Macpherson, Guildford”

[A good idea indeed, but getting a SWT manager to do anything which increases costs and makes bonuses even less attainable, as below, is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas]


The text of the brief is below. Presumably fare box increases are excluded so that managers do not gain from the new time restrictions designed to increase takings by about 14% through forcing people from ‘super off-peak’ to ‘off-peak’ tickets.


In recent times the discretionary SSWT management bonus scheme has recognised both individual performance and company performance. Our financial performance last year and failure to meet financial targets meant that no management bonus was awarded.

As discussed at the recent management conference, the financial position for the coming year is challenging and further sustainable cost reductions are required. We recognise, however, that a bonus scheme can be an important way of incentivising the management team and so have reviewed the criteria for Management Bonus for 2009-2010.

What does the new scheme look like?

This is a “one-off” discretionary management bonus scheme for 2009-2010 designed specifically to incentivise managers to achieve the planned cost savings required in this financial year. The aim is to achieve a further £7-10 million of annual cost savings, over and above those that are reflected in the budget, that are sustainable, year on year, over the life of the current franchise.

It is proposed that a bonus pot of £500k is triggered when £7m of sustainable cost savings are achieved, increasing on a line scale to £1.2m when savings of £10m or above are achieved.

The table below summarises the financial details of the proposal:

Cost Saving Bonus Pot amount
£7m £500k
£8m £733K
£9m £967k
£10m £1.2m

Are there any other factors?

A bonus will be payable for the 2009-2010 financial year if both the following criteria are met:

* The net miscellaneous income/cost budget for 2009-2010 is achieved (NB. passenger income and car park revenue will be outside of the criteria).

* At least a further £7m of unbudgeted, sustainable savings are identified and implemented by year end.

It is accepted that the full year effect of some of the additional schemes will not be delivered in 2009-10. The Finance Director will monitor this and update the SSWT executive team regularly on progress – this will then be cascaded to managers throughout the year.

Who’s eligible and how much will everyone get?

Managers, Heads of department and Directors will all be eligible to participate in the bonus scheme.

If the bonus is triggered, it will be paid equitably (as a proportion of payroll) to all managers, subject to individuals having received a “good performance” or above performance rating in their end of year review. We recognise that some teams contribute more than others in making the savings, but all managers will contribute in some way to savings and keeping business performing to a high standard.

Therefore, as long as your performance rating is “good performance” or above, you will be awarded a share of the bonus pot. A separate discretionary bonus pot will also exist so that individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the business, including, of course, cost saving achievements, can be recognised. This will be awarded by the Directors.

The bonus would be payable in July 2010, once the year end accounts have been finalised and once a validated calculation has been made regarding the size of the savings that have been identified. Any questions? Please speak to your Head of department."


* SWT guard apparently flouting the law

Advice received from a Surrey rail user: “A guard (not a Revenue Protection Officer) tried selling me a penalty fare four months ago. I refused and they disappeared (although they said some obnoxious comment when I got off the train at Woking). One wonders if they were going to pocket the money as the guard cannot actually demand the £20 they kept saying I had to pay?

* Revived interest in Totton-Hythe line

Hampshire County Council is looking into whether the Community Rail Partnership model could be used to investigate re-opening the railway line serving Marchwood and the Waterside to passenger services. Having an operational passenger railway line for the Waterside is seen as easing the pressure on Southampton station and on local roads such as the A326, and giving thousands of New Forest residents a local station for work and leisure travel.

* Fareham-Gosport Busway

The first judicial review of this scheme did not result in its being blocked, and completion by March 2011 was expected. However, the court then granted a further appeal, so work stopped again. Planners had voted for the scheme by just 6 votes to 5, with 2 abstentions. It seems a very poor substitute for the Portsmouth-Gosport-Fareham tramway, which the Government approved in 2001. In a further measure which ignores the green agenda, Stagecoach plans to substitute diesel trains for electric on Monday-Friday Lymington services from May 2010.

Interestingly, Lord Adonis has just decided that electric tram-trains should be trialled between Sheffield and Rotherham, rather than diesel tram-trains between Sheffield and Huddersfield. In addition, diesel trains between Manchester, Oldham and Rochdale have been withdrawn to make way for electric trams. Nottingham City Council is looking for extensions to its tramway. The first tram for Edinburgh has been built. And a House of Commons’ All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group has been formed to consider how bodies can work together to “improve the take-up and implementation of tram systems in the UK”. So it appears that there is renewed interest in electric local transport, except in populous Hampshire.

* Stagecoach ordered to give up Preston Buses

Stagecoach needn’t have bothered with its allegedly dubious tactics in grabbing Preston Buses. The Competition Commission has decided that the takeover was not in the public interest.

* Stagecoach covets National Express

Stagecoach’s keenly pursued merger with National Express has been rejected. The East Coast Main Line is now in the public sector, though with re-franchising planned by 2011. The threat that National Express’ East Anglia and C2C franchises could be taken over by Stagecoach (and no doubt stripped to the marrow, whatever the cost to passengers, as on SWT) has been lifted for the present (new franchises to start in 2011).

The (Glasgow) Herald’s report of 16 October made clear that Stagecoach’s plans were in the interests of shareholders rather than passengers:

“Stagecoach chief Brian Souter still covets the bus and rail businesses owned by National Express, despite the failure of a long-running takeover attempt he was associated with. Stagecoach had an agreement in principle with a consortium led by National Express’s largest shareholder the Cosmen family that if their bid was successful the Perth-based company would take over National Express’s rail and bus businesses. But it was announced yesterday that, after months of talks, the Cosmen family and ally CVC Capital Partners have decided not to make an offer. A Stagecoach spokesman indicated the company retains its enthusiasm for National Express’s bus operations in the West Midlands and Dundee and its East Anglian and C2C rail franchises. ‘We continue to believe that any acquisition of the UK bus and UK rail operations of National Express on the right terms would present a significant opportunity for the group to generate value for our shareholders.’ ”

* Moratorium on Third runway at Heathrow

BAA has stated it will not apply for permission to build a third runway at Heathrow until after the next general election. It has also criticised the Conservatives’ opposition to the runway. The House of Commons’ Transport Committee extraordinarily, given the green agenda, voted in favour of a third runway over a high-speed rail network (voting was hardly a resounding endorsement of the runway: 3 Labour members voted for it; one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat against; and 6 were absent or did not vote).

* Indifference at Southampton Central

On 15/11/09 buses were replacing trains west of Southampton. The buses were advertised on-line and on posters as departing from the down side. A passenger went through the downside exit, telling the ticket barrier attendant that she was going to Ashurst. She then discovered that buses were actually leaving from the upside. When she returned to the barrier, she asked the attendant why he hadn’t told her, and he replied that she hadn’t asked.

* Timetable changes from December 2009

There are virtually no permanent changes by any of the train operators. SWT has axed the 04.40 Southampton-Eastleigh and 05.05 Eastleigh-Southampton trains, perhaps as one of its bonus-earning measures? Remarkably, the GB timetable is silent about the major disruption from work in Southampton tunnel until 12/01/10. On Cross Country, however, there are no services south of Banbury on Sundays throughout February and March, presumably owing to related re-gauging work.

Network Rail has completed the Axminster passing loop. The generally hourly service between Waterloo and Exeter will provide up to 5 additional connections a day from Southern Hampshire to Exeter, which may marginally spread crowding on First Great Western’s Portsmouth-Cardiff services, which provide the connections. Exeter services usually leave Salisbury at 47-past (51-past on Sunday) and return from Exeter St David’s at 26-past. Stops at Pinhoe, Whimple and Feniton, in the Exeter commuting belt, however, are significantly reduced; trains normally stop alternately at Pinhoe or at Whimple and Feniton. On Sundays, the position is even more odd, with alternate trains calling at Grateley and Pinhoe, or at Overton, Whitchurch, Feniton and Whimple. There are no SWT services from Salisbury to destinations beyond Exeter.

* Lifts at Southampton Airport Parkway largely funded by taxpayers

The new lifts and bridge, described by campaigners as arriving 10 years late, were reportedly funded as follows: £2m from central government; £90,000 from Hampshire County Council; £600,000 from BAA; and £224,000 from SWT.

* More bus cuts for Southampton

As is now traditional, the New Year started with reports of new bus service cuts, this time in First services, mainly in Southampton. The Southern Daily Echo reported considerable public anger, the comments from some passengers contrasting starkly with the characteristically restrained language of members of the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group. Particularly hit will be service 4 from Southampton to Totton via Southampton General Hospital. It appears that the last service from the hospital to Totton will be at 18.06, discouraging evening visits. On Saturdays, the service will be halved to hourly all day. The only improvements in prospect appear to be in Bluestar Route 9 from Southampton to Hythe, which will increase to half-hourly on Sundays, and the reintroduction of night services from Southampton to Calmore on Fridays and Saturdays.


The hated noise pollution on SWT trains assumed a high profile in the summer, thanks principally to Havant MP David Willetts, railways expert Christian Wolmar, and the Daily Mail. Passengers’ comfort is ruined by continual announcements which, on top of the hustle and overcrowding of commuting, inevitably cause stress. This has proved particularly annoying on the long-distance Waterloo-Portsmouth route, where passengers are herded into suburban stock to provide seats for Woking passengers in lieu of the near-daily loss of accommodation through duff stock and crew shortages.

This seems to be more a case of SWT’s ‘big brother’ attitude of intimidating passengers by delivering copious and often superfluous warnings in superior mid-twentieth century BBC accents. The same phenomenon is apparent on SWT-managed stations: there are often announcements about riding cycles or skateboarding on platforms being illegal when there is no cyclist or skateboarder in sight.

SWT’s response to the complaints was that it was merely following EU regulations that rail companies have to announce information about destinations and other stops. The relevant regulations were not even in force until the beginning of December, and SWT’s response does not cover announcements about things other than destinations, nor does it apologise for all the wrong destination announcements on the company’s dual-portion trains. Trains on the London Underground and Merseyrail have continual announcements, but they sound helpful rather than superior, and are less jarring to the nerves.

As for the implementation of the regulations, SWT appears to be rather selective. Note the following in Alan Williams’ article in Modern Railways (January 2010):

“From the beginning of December, right across Europe, new European Union regulations require that any passenger on a train delayed by more than an hour should receive a refund of 25% of their fare in compensation. If the delay is more than two hours, it goes up to 50%. And if your journey has to be abandoned, you are entitled to a full refund. What’s more, train operators must now pay this compensation in cash, not just in vouchers for future travel, and provide refreshments for anyone stranded or seriously delayed.

But don’t get excited. There is one rather large snag. Yes, you’ve guessed, it is called the Department for Transport. For although the legislation was drawn up in 2007, it seems the DfT didn’t get round to consulting the train operating companies (TOCs) until earlier this year. And, needless to say, the TOCs, who are not at all keen to hand back more of their profits at a time when they can’t put up [regulated] prices again, have asked for extra time to consider the proposals, although quite why they think they are so different from the rest of Europe isn’t clear – apart from the fact, of course, that they are driven by the best interests of their shareholders [particularly the big shareholders like Souter and Gloag?] rather than their customers. And the DfT, instead of telling them to comply in short order, has bowed to the pressure and refused to implement the new European regulations… The DfT admits that it will be months, possibly years, before the new regulations apply in Britain.”

Interestingly, whereas SWT passengers are suffering stressful announcements but not getting compensation to which they are entitled, Southern passengers enjoy a generous and very well-advertised compensation scheme, but have to listen to fewer announcements, as below.


During November, SHRUG’s organiser spent a week on Southern with an £80 Weekly Daysave ticket, visiting Milton Keynes, Bognor Regis, Littlehampton, Rye, Ashford, Covent Garden, Seaford, Brighton and Worthing. The experience was unexpectedly agreeable after years of commuting on SWT. He now routinely uses a Southern Peak Daysave ticket when travelling to London, (available on-line for £30; valid for one day on any Southern train). Travel is less direct than on SWT’s Waterloo service, but you can still leave Southampton Central at 06.10, have a 20-minute coffee break in the friendly little café / newsagents on Chichester station, and be in Victoria at 09.02, two hours before SWT’s Super Off-peak ticket holders can start their journey from Southampton to Waterloo. You can get to London Bridge even earlier, at 08.45.

Compared with SWT’s Desiros and Junipers, the trains are great. Announcements are invariably correct (including information on dual-portion trains of which Southern operates many); most on-board announcements are via the digital displays, so are not intrusive – the rest are in a soft voice; there are no threats of penalty fares except on occasional station posters, and the displays remind passengers to show consideration for others, for example by minimising use of mobile phones.

All trains on the route have all- or part- comfortable long-distance seating; the air-conditioning is snug and does not sting the eyeballs, and arms-rests are upholstered so that arms do not slip off. The upholstery and décor are relaxing. There is a priority seating scheme in the interests for example of elderly or disabled people, expectant mothers and those carrying small children. Staff all seemed to empathise with passengers and no arguments or outrageous demands for additional fares noted.

Services are frequent, yet staff look for passengers making connections before locking doors, and generally unlock doors for last-minute passengers. It would be difficult to imagine Totton’s 30,000 residents getting fewer than 6 departures an hour if Go Ahead ran SWT. The several hundred residents of Barnham get 17 departures an hour, more than the 230,000 inhabitants of Southampton get from SWT, First, Go Ahead and Arriva combined. Stations are welcoming. One elderly woman was noted being allowed through a ticket gate just to buy a paper. There is a small, unofficial book-lending scheme at Bognor Regis, and many cafes and concourses have tourist information and community notices.

Stations have plenty of ‘Delay Repay’ posters, stating that delay will be compensated whatever the cause. Even delays of 30-59 minutes attract a 50% refund on single fares or 25% on returns. There were some delays from infrastructure problems (the full week of travel saw severe gales along the Sussex Coast) but none from rolling stock defects or crew shortages.

For the future it can only get better as it becomes possible to travel along the coast to Brighton and then zip up to London on an inter-city Wessex Electric train.

One very small complaint: Daysave tickets resolutely refuse work ticket gates. This didn’t matter on Southern, but on Southampton Central it was twice necessary to slip in/out when other passengers operated the double gates, owing to SWT’s ongoing staffing deficiencies.

Overall though, it would be good if Southern could get a special award if the Government holds another stress awareness day.



Response to Network Rail on behalf of the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group:

“We are grateful for the opportunity to comment.

>From the Hampshire perspective, there are longstanding aspirations for an improved Portsmouth-Cardiff service. The SRA's strategic plan clearly recognised the need for improvement, since its proposals included a half-hourly all-day service on the Bristol-Portsmouth section by 2005-06. More recently, the decision on GW electrification, though obviously welcome in itself, has led to cancellation of 11 new 4-car trains for Portsmouth-Cardiff. It is disappointing that the RUS simply proposes a few extra carriages on peak services.

At the Hampshire end of the route, there are only two trains per hour between Portsmouth and Southampton, the most populous corridor south of a line from the Greater London area to Bristol. The two trains comprise the Cardiff service and a very slow all-stations service operated by South West Trains, and these generally arrive and depart at Portsmouth a few minutes apart in each hour. In addition, South West Trains’ Portsmouth-Eastleigh-Waterloo services no longer connect with Cross Country services at Winchester. The overall effect is that anyone living in the Portsmouth area who wants to use the Southampton-Manchester, Southampton-Weymouth or Salisbury-Exeter services needs to travel to Southampton or Salisbury on the Cardiff train. This obviously tends to promote overcrowding.

The other main issue affecting South Hampshire is the withdrawal a couple of years ago of the very well-used through carriages between Portsmouth and Penzance. It seems that the present non-Cardiff Great Western services from Southern Hampshire head towards Great Malvern as a matter of cross-Bristol operational convenience rather than to meet the needs of long-distance passengers from Sussex and Hampshire.

I understood from a First Great Western Manager, at one of the company’s excellent annual stakeholder events, that they recognised the popularity of the Portsmouth-Penzance service and would not themselves have opted to remove it – it simply didn’t feature in DfT’s specification for the franchise. With the withdrawal, also, of SWT services between Brighton/Portsmouth and Paignton, this has left South Hampshire without a West of England service for the first time in at least 50 years.

The prospective termination of all SWT services at Exeter will make matters worse and the alternative route via Westbury isn’t much better - there is now only one morning train from Westbury to the West of England and that, too, goes no further than Exeter.

Take Bournemouth-Plymouth. This is not an unreasonable journey aspiration given the substantial populations involved, but the journey will be very awkward in future. It is likely to mean at least three changes (Southampton/Salisbury/Exeter) unless people use the very circuitous (and therefore costly) route via Reading.

Direct train services have always been recognised as commercially desirable and they are especially helpful to disabled people. Sir Bob Reid’s Provincial Sector drew much of its success from creating a network of long-distance services over routes not serving London. It is a pity that so many of them are now being dismantled, for example Cross Country services from Bournemouth now go no further than Manchester (with one exception a week). Joined up services are commercially desirable and good for passengers. A recent welcome development is the hourly journey opportunity between Southampton Central and Ashford International, with connections of 10-15 minutes each way ‘on the level’ at Brighton.

I hope these comments will be helpful.”


Response to Southern from SHRUG’s Organiser:

I have day-tripped from Southampton to Ashford a number of times since you introduced your integrated timetable with hourly Southampton-Brighton trains connecting with hourly Brighton-Ashford trains. I know of others who have done likewise. This long route can clearly increase the attractiveness of your excellent Daysave tickets.

It is now possible to leave Southampton at 08.33 and be in Ashford at 12.18. Twenty years ago, the corresponding journey took 55 minutes longer (and involved 3 changes), but this was a ‘fastest time’ using one of the small number of Portsmouth-Brighton expresses which then operated.

Clearly, travelling to London from Rye, Appledore and Ham Street via the high speed services from Ashford is an attractive option. However, your December 2009 timetable already allows commuters this option. It is difficult to see why passengers from Hastings would travel to London that way; it would be no faster and would cost a lot more than travelling on the direct services to Charing Cross. The main ‘gainers’ from your proposed changes would therefore seem to be off-peak London passengers from the eastern end of the Hastings-Ashford line which, I imagine, would be a relatively limited market.

As you will know, the South Coast Corridor Multi-Modal Study, produced by Halcrow for the Government Office for the South East in the Spring of 2002, proposed that “A new through rail service linking Southampton, Fareham and Havant with Ashford, which has connections through the Channel Tunnel to mainland Europe, should be introduced”.

I realise that few Eurostars now serve Ashford, but no doubt some stops could be reintroduced. An easy route between mainland Europe and the populous south coast would seem to make commercial sense. Brighton-Ashford-The Continent would seem to be a more attractive travel option than Hastings to London via Ashford.

Turning to the capacity issues, I wonder whether some compromise could be made, such as running 3 or 4 car electric trains between Brighton and Hastings in the paths of the current Ashford trains, with quick connections at Ashford for Hastings. In 1989 a two-minute connection routinely applied eastbound, and slightly longer westbound.


As always, thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to contact us. Without your support and input, this newsletter would not be possible.