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

This is likely to be the last Hogrider before the General Election and future parliamentary composition and policy direction are inevitably uncertain. We appreciate the friendly and positive contacts we have had with a number of MPs over recent years, and wish every success to those who hope to be re-elected. We are lucky in the South to have some first rate MPs who demonstrate high ethical standards and are committed to achieving improvements for both their constituents and the greater public across a great range of issues.

Clearly though, Parliament is still under a heavy cloud, and ethics are at its core. There is, of course, the headline-grabbing behaviour of a minority of MPs. There are also more substantial concerns about the aftermath of Robin Cook’s ethical foreign policy. And isn’t it pretty clear that John Prescott’s policy that the interests of rail passengers should be paramount has been trumped by Brian Souter’s view that “ethics are not irrelevant, but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed”?

The Government may have particular cause to regret leaving transport issues on the back burner for so long until the enthusiastic Lord Adonis took charge. It’s years ago that Tony Blair said on the Breakfast with Frost programme that rail privatisation had been a disaster.

One problem with the rail franchise system is that it ignores the basic principle of franchising that different operatives should maintain common standards. Could one imagine people like Adrian Shooter, Sir Moir Lockhead or Christopher Garnett spouting the greed-driven sentiments which determine the direction of Brian Souter’s franchises? The franchises will show consistent improvements only if they are all in the hands of the right people.

We might ask why people don’t need travel centres when their services are run by Stagecoach, and get great new travel centres when their services are run by others. And why is an expensive new Inter City fleet needed for passengers from London to Bath and Bristol, when Stagecoach regularly stuffs people travelling from London to Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth into cramped suburban stock?

Why are SWT passengers who need a ticket treated like criminals, whilst conductors like Rikki (See Part 1 of this newsletter) provide such fantastic service on First Scotrail? And why are SWT’s passengers subject to stressful on-board announcements about penalty fares when Southern’s passengers are allowed to relax?

Stagecoach’s prospectus for the latest SWT franchise was called ‘Building on Success’. Quite! If the company hadn’t made a huge profit from disposing of Southampton’s popular bus station, it might never have grown strong enough to win the SWT franchise and destroy the city’s station travel centre. And this is a city with 40,000 university students, and thousands of EU migrant workers. The potential demand for good advice is huge.

The new Government, of whatever party or parties, needs to give heavy weighting to demonstrated ethical behaviour when awarding rail franchises. ETHICS, ETHICS, ETHICS. After all, if the people who run the country are expected to behave ethically, why not the people who run the railways, which DfT still considers a public service, though on SWT you could reasonably challenge that.

Giving prominence to ethics would also be democratic. On April 6 2005, in the run-up to the last election, the Evening Standard tested public opinion and came up with the big headline, “What we want is honesty, sincerity, something to believe in”.

The danger, of course, is that the exact opposite will happen. Despite being baled out by the SRA with £29m of taxpayers’ money after its near collapse, Stagecoach is now seeking another £100m by way of unintended extra cushioning against the recession. It’s not taxpayers’ fault that the company overbid by more than half a billion pounds for the latest SWT franchise. Yet passengers are already being hammered by probably the most inhuman penalty fares operation in Britain as SWT tries to compensate for its financial recklessness.

One may guess how the extra money would affect Stagecoach. More determined pursuit of additional franchises, followed by the destruction of their travel centres and other valued resources? You can have public services, and you can have rail franchises operated by Stagecoach. The SWT experience does not create much confidence that you can have both.


* The last week of February saw SWT’s latest bi-annual Webchat event. In the past, these Q and A sessions have been archived on the company’s website. No longer. This latest event was advertised on-line with about 3 days’ notice, whilst the transcript vanished in early March. Insert “Webchat” into SWT’s search engine, and you are directed to “Frequently Asked Questions” with carefully-crafted standard excuses.

Many of the 151 questions covered were relatively trivial. Given that almost exactly half were anonymous, one wonders whether they were planted by people linked with SWT or members of its staff. About 20% of the remainder were from a single questioner.

SWT would like us to believe that passengers are focused on things such as punctuality and fare evasion. Yet some 20% of questions were about unsuitable rolling stock on long-distance services. Major concerns were also raised about high fares, time restrictions, difficulty in obtaining tickets, and the serious complications of using Oyster cards on SWT. Rather embarrassing as the extension of Oyster cards is being trumpeted by Government as a major new improvement for passengers.

Other areas of concern were capacity, service gaps, failures by train staff to look after passengers, and slow running. There was virtually nothing about punctuality or fare evasion.

* SWT’s new ‘customer UPDATE’ leaflet is a gem of misrepresentation. It claims “Customer satisfaction on the increase”. This claim is based on the Autumn 2009 National Passenger Survey, referring to the company’s 86% rating, without mentioning that this is a discrete figure based on a single question about the journey the passenger has just completed rather than on the general experience of commuting. The leaflet then cunningly moves on from actual percentages to percentage movements. It says satisfaction with car parking / helpfulness and attitude of on-train staff / availability of on-train staff have improved by 3%, 4% and 5% respectively. It fails to say that the new satisfaction levels are 44%(peak) and 46% (off-peak) / 66% / 50%.

The leaflet does admit that satisfaction with information provided on journey / on-board toilet facilities / cleanliness of train are down 3%, 3% and 4% respectively. It fails to say that the new satisfaction levels are 71% (peak) and 74% (off-peak) / 31% (peak) and 39% (off-peak) / 71% (peak) and 75% (off-peak).

Interestingly, the leaflet ignores the biggest recorded movements in the ratings. In the peaks, satisfaction ratings with room to stand or sit, and with ease of boarding and alighting, have increased from 39% to 50% and from 67% to 79% respectively compared with Autumn 2008. This surely reflects how steeply commuting has declined. The corresponding ratings for off-peak periods show satisfaction falling from 77% to 75% and from 82% to 80%, presumably reflecting SWT’s shortening of trains. It seems shocking that a quarter of off-peak passengers should be dissatisfied with the room to stand or sit, given that they are paying some of the highest fares in Europe.

On the acid test of value for money, satisfaction has increased from 22% to 24% among peak passengers, possibly reflecting the reduced overcrowding, whilst it has fallen from 46% to 42% among off-peak passengers, possibly reflecting discontent with SWT’s 20% greed tax on off-peak morning returns to London. With the new, evening, time restrictions introduced since the survey, dissatisfaction can be expected to rise. However, the degree of dissatisfaction appears academic given that no other kind of business could survive with such poor figures.

The attitudes and helpfulness of station staff were scored at 73% in the peak and 66% off-peak. But only 49% peak and 56% off-peak were satisfied with staff availability. In conjunction, these figures suggest that only around one half to one third of passengers are able to find a member of staff and get the help they need. Since 50% of peak and off-peak passengers were satisfied with the availability of train staff, and 66% of peak and off-peak passengers were satisfied with staff attitude and helpfulness, it seems that just 33% of passengers are able to find a member of staff and get the help they need.

On how well SWT deals with delays, 34% of peak and 41% of off-peak passengers are satisfied. This is where Part 3 of Hogrider sheds some light. People don’t like being dumped like rubbish at intermediate stations when they are already delayed and may have connections to make or appointments to attend. Nor do they like standing on bleak, unstaffed stations watching their train race past for Stagecoach’s operational convenience.

Time for SWT to admit high levels of passenger DISsatisfaction, despite the franchise having been in the hands of a single operator longer than any other?


[This news arrived too late for the hard copies of Hogrider that go to official bodies, and will therefore be carried over to the next edition. Fortunately there is an article in both the Portsmouth ‘News’ and Southampton’s ‘Southern Daily Echo’.]

[From ‘Bootnotes, a free paper, 17 March]

“A 25-year-old musician was turfed off a South West Trains service after security operatives objected to his "suspicious" set list, The Portsmouth News reports.

Bassist Tom Shaw was putting together the list for his band The Magic Mushrooms, and ill-advisedly included the word "killers" as shorthand for These Things That I've Done by The Killers.

He explained: "I got on at Fratton and there were two people who looked like they were in luminous Transport Police jackets. I sat down and they were looking over my shoulder."After a couple of minutes they told me I'd have to get off the train. When I asked why, they said they'd speak to me more on the platform."

He continued: "They made me get out at Fareham and when I asked what was wrong they told me to show them the piece of paper I'd been writing on. They said I'd been behaving suspiciously. I couldn't understand it. It seemed very strange, as it was just a list of songs."We had a gig coming up, so I was writing out what we could play. They made me explain song by song."

The other offending items included Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out and Cigarettes and Alcohol by Oasis, but the single word "killers" evidently set alarm bells ringing, since security staff told Shaw he'd been targeted "because there had been a 'number of arrests' nearby including one man who had killed his wife".

A South West Trains spokeswoman offered: "We employ highly-professional rail community officers who work closely with the British Transport Police in protecting the security of passengers on the rail network.

"During a routine high-visibility patrol, they spoke with a passenger on the platform at Fareham station. The team clarified the nature of the individual's business, were satisfied with his explanation and the man went on his way."

She concluded: "We would like to thank him for his co-operation and understanding of the need to be vigilant in the current environment."

Note Steven Stewart, Director of Corporate Communications of the Stagecoach Group, got in touch this afternoon following publication of this article. He wrote:
I am writing in connection with the above story, which makes an inaccurate reference to an individual being "turfed off" a train. Please note that his is completely untrue. He was politely asked to step off the train by our rail community officers, which he was happy to do. The train was extremely busy and this was intended to protect Mr Shaw's privacy whilst we asked him a few questions. I would appreciate if your story was amended to reflect the true position.”


Within a few hours, the blog which followed this article had attracted almost 90 comments, condemning SWT and its snoopers in the strongest terms. Comments like “Vote fascist” and “glo-jacketed thugs” illustrate the strength of feeling. There was particular contempt for the observations from Steven Stewart, since it was clear the abused passenger had had no option but to leave the train. The Southern Daily Echo used the term “kicked off” in inverted commas, suggesting this is what he actually said. SHRUG’s organiser contributed the following very mild observations to the blog:

“Stagecoach sensitivities 

I was amused by Stagecoach's sudden hair-splitting concern with the truth, because the passenger would clearly have been "turfed off" if he hadn't alighted voluntarily.

After Stagecoach was awarded the current SWT franchise, SWT ran an on-line poll to see whether people thought they should have won. A figure of 61% in favour of Stagecoach was published in SWT's passenger magazine, at the very time that the poll was showing 34% - confirmed by Passenger Focus. So far as I know, no retraction was ever published.

I assume the community rail officer didn't have enough to do. SWT's recent Webchat event drew a question about why these people are used on revenue protection duties.

I think one has to be wary about anything Stagecoach says, because of Brian Souter's assertion that "Ethics are not irrelevant but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed". Truth is surely essential to ethics. It's time Government stopped awarding franchises to companies that don't demonstrate reasonable ethical standards. We expect it of our MPs. So why not from companies who have received huge sums of public money in return for what DfT still calls a public service.”


The Scottish press is becoming increasingly interested in Stagecoach’s political infiltration. Brian Souter has thrown big money at Clause 28. He has become the Scottish Nationalists’ biggest donor, after which proposals for tighter regulation of buses in Scotland were dropped. His sister’s high-profile litigation to keep ramblers from the grounds of one of her castles has been seen as seriously impeding the intentions of Scotland’s Right to Roam legislation. Note the following from the Herald of 26/01/10, particularly the refusal to comment:

Bus inquiry chair steps down after objection raised

Mark Williamson

The man in charge of the competition probe which resulted in Stagecoach being ordered to sell its Preston Bus operation in Lancashire has withdrawn from an examination of the wider bus market following an objection.

The Competition Commission said that Dr Peter Davis had withdrawn from the group to complete an inquiry into the local bus market, which he had been appointed to chair.

The watchdog said one of the parties to the reference raised concerns about the appointment of Dr Davis arising from his involvement in the CC merger inquiry over Preston Bus.

This concluded in November. Stagecoach was ordered to sell the business that it had acquired some ten months previously, after a period of what have been described as “bus wars” between the companies in the town.

The Commission believed the takeover would reduce competition and could harm passengers’ interests.In November, it reiterated its view that the employee owners of Preston Bus had been left with “little choice” but to sell out to Stagecoach, after the Scottish company moved to operate routes in direct competition at a heavy loss.

Stagecoach is waiting to hear the outcome of an appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The Competition Commission said it was satisfied that the objections raised to Dr Davis’s appointment to the UK local bus market inquiry are unfounded.

It said: “The CC does not accept that Dr Davis’s involvement in the Preston case would in any way compromise the ability of the Local Bus Services Market Investigation Reference group to discharge its functions in an independent and impartial manner.”

However, the Commission said that in the interests of ensuring a speedy and uncontroversial start to what it said was an important market investigation it had been decided that Dr Davis will withdraw from the inquiry group. Diana Guy will chair the group in his place.

Asked if Stagecoach had objected to Dr Davis’s appointment, a spokesman for the bus and trains giant said: “This is not an issue we are commenting on.”

In August, Stagecoach described the proposed inquiry into local bus markets, excluding London, as “a huge waste of taxpayers’ money” and “a pointless academic exercise”.”


The Evening Standard of 4/2/2010 reported: “Diana Guy, deputy chairman of the Competition Commission, today warned transport companies that she will brook no nonsense from them in the coming probe into local bus services. Guy is trying to cut six months off the two-year time scale of the investigation. She said: “We are fully prepared to use our statutory powers to ensure that the information we need is delivered in a timely fashion.” A spokesman for the Commission said: “Clearly this is a two-way street and if we are to speed up our enquiries we need co-operation from interested parties.”

Industry analysts pointed out that in the past the Commission has had a few run-ins with the giant bus and rail group Stagecoach.


The Evening Standard of 12/2/2010 similarly wants train operating companies who ignore the public interest to be brought to heel: “Meanwhile, the Mayor’s exhortations to the rail operators, to work more closely together to provide a better passenger service, simpler ticketing and safer stations, should be taken to heart. London’s economy depends on people being able to move easily across the rail system. If operators fail to play their part, the Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, should take a far harder line when renegotiating the terms of future rail franchises. That is language they understand.”

[Note: No chance of Stagecoach heeding the Mayor’s exhortations. SWT is proposing reduction of ticket office opening hours at a further 24 stations, This inevitably means stations left unstaffed for even longer periods. Note this aggressive response from SWT to fears that their passengers will be put in even greater danger: “This is predictable and disappointing scaremongering and distortion”. [Source: Southern Daily Echo 26/2/2010] Interesting that the new Southern franchise prescribes longer staffing hours at a number of stations - it seems very lucky that Stagecoach didn’t get the franchise!]


Of course, Stagecoach expects more taxpayers’ money for disadvantaging passengers:
“Stagecoach told investors: “Trading remains in line with our expectations and we believe the prospects for the group remain positive. The firm, which is wrangling with the Department for Transport for more taxpayer cash to prop up the South West Trains business, today said arbitration was set for May and that it hoped for resolution by the summer.” [Source: Evening Standard 8/3/2010]


(Evening Standard 9/2/2010) “A Drunken train guard signalled his driver to go through a red light and refused to open the doors to let passengers off or on during a terrifying journey between Waterloo and Kingston.

Travellers hammered on the driver’s door to alert him after the doors failed to open at Barnes but he thought the noise was caused by Friday night revellers and carried on. Eventually at Mortlake he investigated, a commuter phoned police and officers were waiting when the train pulled into Wimbledon.

Patrick Coyne, 40, was found passed out and slumped over his controls. “ This was not normal practice for safety reasons,” prosecutor Anne Crossfield told Westminster magistrates. It took a minute to rouse him and he was disorientated. He was sacked by South West Trains. In his bag were two cans of Budweiser and he admitted decanting half a bottle of vodka into two water bottles. Coyne told officers: “I must stop drinking.”

Ms Crossfield said at one stage in the journey the train arrived at St Margaret’s and the defendant gave the driver two signals to proceed to the next station but the driver could see that there was a red signal. “The defendant, after realising what he had done, apologised to the driver,” she said.

Coyne, of Merton Park, pleaded guilty to endangering the safety of a person conveyed by railway due to being over the alcohol limit. He will be sentenced later, probably at crown court. “


A freight train derailed at Millbrook on the afternoon of 22 February, causing huge delays for homeward bound commuters. As usual, nobody could tell passengers what was going on. But as SWT regularly fails to hold connections when services are a few minutes late, has severely reduced staffing, and has destroyed a helpful network of travel centres, it’s perhaps too much to expect anything approaching customer service from them. Note this from the next day’s Southern Daily Echo:

“Passenger John Bullas, 45, described chaotic scenes at Southampton Airport Parkway station. Mr Bullas, a research consultant from St Denys, said “Nobody seemed to know what was going on. There was a total lack of communication.” He added that at one point passengers were herded into a bus only to be told to get back on the train then wait a further 20 minutes before it was given the all-clear to resume its journey.”


Fantastic news from Southern. They have now analyzed the 164 responses (including SHRUG’s) to proposed changes to the Coastway East timetable and have decided not to implement them. This means that direct hourly trains between Brighton and Ashford will continue. These trains connect in both directions with the Brighton-Southampton trains.

Southern say they were surprised by the outcome. It just shows the value of consultation. Perhaps SWT will now consult on their review of the Waterloo-Poole services. In particular, will these be accelerated to meet the DfT’s Service Level Requirement - thus providing Totton (the fourth largest town between Southampton and Weymouth) with London services which are not severely delayed for faster trains to overtake? Or will they simply be re-scheduled in a way which facilitates SWT’s day-to-day timetable changes to cover for West of England trains which are axed east of Basingstoke?

Southern developed the proposed changes because of capacity problems with their limited diesel train fleet. This problem might be addressed by a small rolling stock reshuffle. SWT operates class 158 diesel trains in the peaks over wholly electrified routes in the Basingstoke-Southampton-Portsmouth triangle, and is soon to switch the Lymington branch to diesel traction on five days a week. A few SWT class 158 units could therefore be transferred to Southern. In return, Southern might apply to take over the Southampton-Portsmouth local services, releasing several electric units for use elsewhere on SWT. This is logical, because Southern is already the major operator between Fareham and Southampton.


Many thanks to Network Rail for providing us with copies of these substantial documents, which we are happy for interested parties to borrow.


South Hampshire is on the fringes of the area considered. The option of a fast Brighton-Portsmouth or Brighton-Southampton service is examined. This is not considered to represent value for money because many existing passenger journeys on the West Coastway line are local in nature. However, doubling the length of the evening Brighton-Worcester service is recommended to help address peak capacity in the Brighton area.

Overall, the service changes recommended for Sussex are generally not substantial, apart from initiatives like expansion of the Thameslink network. However, the case is made for some services to be lengthened and some line speeds increased.

Great Western

Much will be changing on Great Western with the advent of Crossrail, electrification, and a greatly expanded station and track layout at Reading.

In terms of local interest, a case is made only for minor revision of the Cardiff-Portsmouth service, with 9 additional vehicles to lengthen 5 morning and evening peak services. Removing a number of stops and introducing one extra local service in each peak is seen as a longer-term possibility. In addition, Network Rail has established a joint Cardiff to Portsmouth Route Improvement Project Group with FGW to help improve performance and possibly reduce journey times. [It’s probably fair to say that the history of this route has been one of much debate and little action. Had the SRA’s strategy been implemented, we would have had an all-day, half-hourly service between Southampton and Bristol for the past 5 years.]

To improve connectivity, it is proposed that alternate Newcastle-Reading trains should extend to Southampton. This would provide 6 additional daily services each way between Reading and Southampton. Extending these trains to Southampton every hour is discounted because of predicted freight requirements. There is also interest in routeing the trains via Leeds and Coventry, rather than the current route via Doncaster and Solihull.

[Note: unlike the Manchester services, these trains would connect at Winchester with existing Portsmouth trains.]

[The RUS is silent on connectivity between the Brighton / Southampton-Portsmouth urban areas and the West of England. An hourly semi-fast service is envisaged between Paddington and Exeter via Westbury, enabling Plymouth and Cornwall services to be accelerated. This would mirror the Waterloo –Salisbury-Exeter service. It seems that nobody living south of the Paddington-Bristol mainline is deemed to need direct access to Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall. The only easy route between South Hampshire and the far west is via Cross Country trains to Reading. To that extent, the famous “Great Way Round” jibe against the Great Western Railway surely deserves to live on.]


Southampton Tunnel works ‘completed a year early’

Network Rail has announced that work to lower the tracks through Southampton tunnel for the passage of larger containers is complete. There will not now be a further period of disruption in 2010-2011.

Waterloo International platforms closed until 2015

The Evening Standard of 21/01/10 reported that Waterloo International will remain out of use until 2015, while a supermarket is built. In the meantime, safeguarding the structure will cost a further £15m.

Excessive peak fares on Virgin Trains create overcrowding

The Herald reported on 21 February that Virgin Trains (49% Stagecoach-owned) would like to reduce the huge differential between unregulated peak and regulated off-peak fares on a cost-neutral basis, to spread passenger loadings. Passenger Focus has pointed out that Virgin could reduce its peak fares straightaway if it wanted.

No refreshments to Cardiff on Sundays

Refreshment facilities on First Great Western services to and from Hampshire and Sussex ceased on Sundays from the start of the current timetable. It’s a pity to see FGW downgrading to the standards which Stagecoach passengers have always endured on Sunday trains between Poole or Bournemouth and Waterloo

. Restraining order on Fareham-Gosport bus road varied The Appeal Court has varied the restraining order on Hampshire County Council so that work on the bus road can proceed, to avoid loss of funding. However, the latest appeal against construction had not been heard at the time this newsletter was closed. [It remains to be seen whether converting 3 miles of rail route to a bus road will attract enough extra bus custom to justify the £20m cost.]

More coaches between Southampton and London

Following the example of First Group’s Greyhounds, National Express has introduced new coach services between Southampton and London. Tickets start at 99p. This obviously raises the question of whether South West Trains’ market will contract as a result of its huge fare increases on off-peak tickets between the two cities.

No Stagecoach sewage for Olympics

Interesting items from the (Glasgow) Herald: 12 February - Stagecoach chairman Brian Souter opines that fat from London sewers could provide fuel for a large part of the Olympic bus fleet. 15 February - First Group wins contract to transport spectators around the Olympic games; Stagecoach does not return the paper’s calls for comment. Sharecast states that the contract is worth £20m and will include coaches to Weymouth for the sailing events. It seems we’re not the only ones who had doubts about transporting passengers to Weymouth in suburban Desiros and dumping them en route for operational convenience!

Stagecoach actions cost National Express dearly

The Evening Standard of 25/2/2010 reported that National Express spent £7.2m fighting takeover bids from First Group and Stagecoach. Press reports at the time indicated that Stagecoach’s actions were by far the more prolonged and aggressive.

Stagecoach grabs bonuses before taxes rise

The Herald reports that Stagecoach is paying full-year bonuses before the new tax year, thus reducing tax liability. The paper calculates that Chairman Brian Souter is in line for another £7m.


The Group was grateful for the opportunity to be represented.

* Bus re-tendering is underway. The budget is the same but tenders are higher, so cuts are being considered. Nothing final yet, but the thinking is that Wilts & Dorset route 35 (Southampton-Ringwood) could go in view of the new Southampton-Ringwood-Bournemouth X5/X55 service. Route 112 (Hythe-Beaulieu-Lymington) could be rationalised, and the operating hours of New Milton local services could contract. Changes would happen in April.

[Background note: a serious problem with X5/X55 is that it doesn’t serve the 60,000 residents of Totton and the Waterside. David Wallis has asked the operator whether the service could be re-routed via the Totton bypasses, serving the stop at Rushington roundabout, where Waterside and Lymington services converge.]

* Use of the Lymington-Brockenhurst community rail line is up and services are to be re-timed to connect with trains at Brockenhurst rather than with the ferries at Lymington. The cost of reopening Ampress Halt is prohibitive at £2m; the scheme would entail purchase of woodland and relocation of an electricity sub-station.

[Background notes:

Network Rail has been re-wiring Lymington Town station, and has raised the station’s low platform to standard height.

The new Wightlink super-ferries on the Lymington-Yarmouth route are raising fears about environmental damage, and are entering the Lymington River so slowly that the rail “connections” are being lost. The High Court has ruled that the way the ferries were introduced was unlawful but has conceded that they should stay. It’s interesting that, whilst the new ferries were supposed to cater for additional traffic, Wightlink’s summer timetables suggest that the service is to remain permanently reduced from previous levels.]

* The County Council is considering proposals by the Association of Train Operating Companies for new passenger train services. Restoration of the line from Brockenhurst to Ringwood, with a new parkway station at the latter looks attractive, but the consensus of opinion is that it won’t happen, for example because of the environmental considerations linked with building across New Forest land. Bordon-Whitehill is being studied. The longstanding aspiration to restore passenger services from Southampton to Hythe is being re-visited. However, the £3m estimated cost is unrealistic (less than the cost of re-building Chandler’s Ford station). In addition, there is no longer any service terminating at Totton which could be extended to Hythe, so rolling stock costs have increased. Chandler’s Ford station was funded from the central government Rail Passenger Partnership (RPP) but that scheme has since been withdrawn.

[Background note: The Southern Daily Echo of 1/2/2010 reported that a Waterside Community Rail Partnership has been established, and is interested in reopening beyond Hythe, to a new Fawley station, possibly in the vicinity of the Hardley roundabout. A £15,000 feasibility study is in prospect. Hampshire county councillor David Harrison expressed very positive views about the scheme in the Echo of 3/3/2010.]

* A question was raised about the re-scheduling of Waterloo-Weymouth services from December 2010. The SWT representative wasn’t aware of this but said that they were looking at accelerating the Waterloo-Poole service as well as re-timing the Brockenhurst-Lymington service. People also raised the question of the poor services and facilities at Totton (the fourth largest intermediate town between Southampton and Weymouth, with a considerably bigger population than any town or city in Cornwall).


First Group introduced much-reduced services in Southampton during January and February. The Southern Daily Echo records the predictable public outcry against the operator, whilst the First Group timetable firmly puts the blame on Southampton City Council. Schoolchildren and elderly people are likely to be particularly hard hit, and the route 4 Totton-Southampton General Hospital service is further reduced and no use for even early-evening hospital visits.

The Salisbury Journal reported similar anger that changes to Wilts & Dorset service X7 to Southampton from 22 March would leave villagers in Nomansland and most of Landford stranded. As this newsletter closes, we understand that this change has been abandoned.

The probable cessation of Wilts & Dorset route 35 as above, will similarly remove Burley’s last link with Southampton, and strip Totton and Lyndhurst of their residual Ringwood services.

Better news is that Bluestar 9 between Southampton and the Waterside has increased to half-hourly during Sunday shopping hours. Also, hourly buses from 00.05 to 03.05 have been restored on Saturday and Sunday mornings on Bluestar 12 (Southampton-Calmore); these buses now extend to West Totton. Bluestar is training its 170 drivers to give passengers a warm welcome, recommend tourist attractions and restaurants, and understand other cultures. The Stagecoach-style war between Bluestar and Velvet is over, with the two operators co-operating in provision of the disputed Eastleigh area services, with inter-availability of tickets.

Overall, though, services are becoming heavily concentrated on a few commercial, or partly-commercial routes, increasing social exclusion. It will be interesting to read Passenger Focus’ findings, as Southampton is the subject of one of their pilot bus studies.