West Coast franchise fiasco: Review needs to look at all three SWT fiascos

Presenting passengers as cheats: Be watchful for Stagecoach manipulation

SWT allegedly cheating passengers at Guildford

The Olympics – SWT lets down the industry

Mountain face ahead for the SWT/NR alliance?

“Electric spine” to Southampton – the issues

Great Western franchise specification

SHRUG response to DfT’s consultation on the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise

Odd Olympic security contrasts

Huge increase in regulated fares mitigated

Stagecoach defies corporate governance code

Critical RAIB report on incident at Haslemere

“Raging inferno” among latest Stagecoach bus fires


West Coast franchise fiasco: Review needs to look at all three SWT fiascos

West Coast issue

The Government’s decision to axe the transfer of the West Coast franchise to First Group, in the light of Virgin Trains’ application for judicial review, has huge implications. The DfT has admitted that the franchise process was seriously flawed, and two independent reviews are to be held, one of which will look at franchising generally. The fiasco will reportedly cost taxpayers £40m, which doesn’t include possible compensation to First Group for a drop of £240m in the company’s value (shares down almost 20%), or the costs of delays to the three other franchise exercises already in hand.

The crux of Virgin Trains’ complaint is that First Group’s bid (£700m more than its own) was high-risk, and probably not deliverable. Virgin Trains is owned 51% by Virgin and 49% by Stagecoach. So, how much was Sir Richard involved in the company which he part-owned, and did Stagecoach drive the judicial review application?

While Sir Richard was declaring that First Group’s bid would mean cuts in passenger service, Mr Souter was telling the press that Virgin Trains had planned cost savings of £45m a year, against First’s £25m. In addition, he had been reported in the Guardian of 8/12/2011 as complaining, “We have lost bids before like East Coast mainline based on someone overbidding”.

The one thing which Mr Souter didn’t mention is that Stagecoach won the current SWT franchise with a bid which exceeded those of his three rivals by around £600m-£700m, and was widely seen as undeliverable. So he knew the ground.

The case of SWT suggests that the franchise process has always been flawed, with some really bad outcomes for passengers and other taxpayers. See ‘A History of SWT’ (on our website, www.shrug.info) which is essentially a research paper with scores of source references. The following (sourced from ‘Stagecoach’ by Christian Wolmar, except where stated otherwise) provides a brief summary:

First SWT franchise

Stagecoach won by undercutting the incumbent management’s bid by just £200,000. It was perceived as getting a particularly generous settlement of £350 million over 7 years. It then boosted its profits by disposing of so many drivers that it had to cancel services on an ad hoc basis.

Transport Minister Steven Norris later admitted: “Awarding the franchise to Stagecoach was really taking the fight to the enemy… It was the most aggressive decision we could take, and if we had tried to dress privatisation in its most acceptable form, it would have been better to award it to almost anyone else”.

Second SWT franchise

Stagecoach was chosen as preferred bidder for a new 20-year franchise despite SWT being at the bottom of the performance league and its unenviable reputation for abusing passengers. The public outcry was typified by the view of one regular SWT commuter, who e’mailed the BBC’s transport correspondent Paul Clifton that: “The award to Stagecoach is the cruellest betrayal of passengers departing from Southampton since the unsinkable Titanic set sail”.

At that point Stagecoach collapsed financially and there were doubts about the company’s survival. The franchise award went ahead, reduced to 3 years, to give the company a chance to clear up the mess it had created. The SRA, whose chief executive Richard Bowker had strong links with Stagecoach, then provided a £29m bailout.

The Telegraph later commented that it was this deal which “pulled the company out of reverse gear, since when the shares have trebled in value. It turned out to be a licence to print money.”

Christian Wolmar noted similarly that “The interim three-year arrangement agreed by Richard Bowker at the SRA in 2002 … was far too generous to Stagecoach. Under that contract, Stagecoach has been making super-profits at the expense of passengers and the taxpayer, netting a fabulous £58.9 million in the last year on turnover of around £500 million. That’s 12% of turnover. As I mentioned in my book, ‘On the Wrong Line’, a senior Stagecoach executive told me privately that the SRA had been a pushover and the company had been delighted by the deal.”

Stagecoach co-founders Brian Souter and Ann Gloag saw a meteoric increase in their personal fortunes, sharing dividends which totalled around a quarter of a billion pounds, including £65 million in 2004 and £175 million in 2006.

Third SWT franchise

Stagecoach bid £600m-£700m more than its three rivals and set about stripping SWT to the bone. All travel centres were closed except at Waterloo, including the busy facility at Southampton where Stagecoach first got out of the red by selling the bus station for commercial development. The promise of more seats on suburban trains became more standing room through removal of seats. The comfortable stock built specifically for the Waterloo-Weymouth main line was removed in favour of rough-riding Desiros, with outer suburban stock substituted on many services between Waterloo, Portsmouth, Southampton, Poole and Weymouth. The original service requirement was ignored with some point-to-point journey times doubled.

The DfT’s ‘expectation’ of cheaper season tickets on shoulder-peak trains was replaced with 20% fare increases on off-peak morning trains to London. A leaflet declared that passengers who made genuine mistakes when buying a ticket would be penalised, and guards were instructed to be ruthless even to families with children. Charges at station car parks soared, and the extra cost of first class travel rose from 50% to 80%.

SWT is not only now in revenue support, but has managed to squeeze a further £68m out of taxpayers through a flaw in the contract which meant the support provisions kicked in earlier than the DfT intended.

West Coast history

The DfT’s initial decision to award the West Coast franchise to First Group polarised public opinion. A celebrity bandwagon grew up in support of Virgin, while the railway press generally agreed with DfT’s decision.

Virgin has enjoyed the advantages of a major infrastructure upgrade at public expense and introduced ‘walk-on’ service frequencies, yet its Anytime fares are astronomic and it has corralled its less-affluent passengers into shortened off-peak periods. This has caused particular misery on Fridays, when there is less business travel and commuting, and off-peak periods could reasonably be widened.

Data for 2011 in the New Statesman show 266 complaints per 100,000 passenger journeys on Virgin’s West Coast, compared with 86 on First Great Western. Some passengers have spoken of quality service on Virgin whilst others, such as Andrew Gilligan and Lena Ainscow (see Hogrider 133, Part 1 on www.shrug.info), have suffered a degree of abuse which bordered on obscenity.

Virgin retaliation

After the announcement of the franchise transferring to First Group, Sir Richard appeared to be switching to Mr Souter’s practices. He announced the introduction of thrice-daily flights between Manchester and Heathrow from March 2013, at the relatively cheap fare of £95 return. This would inevitably extract some custom from West Coast, just as Mr Souter’s sleeper road coaches between Scotland and London will extract custom from First Group’s Anglo-Scottish sleeper train.


Long-term forward projections are notoriously unreliable, yet the Government has been favouring longer franchise periods. It would appear, therefore, that almost any award could be challenged. Challenges are likely to involve large and widespread costs for operators and public funds alike. The Labour Party is already open-minded on whether it would end franchising.

If franchising goes, there could be huge advantages. Cities such as Southampton, Portsmouth and Salisbury are currently under threat because Stagecoach has been shortlisted for both the Thameslink and Great Western franchises. Would anyone want their station served by two or three Stagecoach franchises given the company’s shameful history on SWT?

Presenting passengers as cheats: Be watchful for Stagecoach manipulation

“When I normally have to suffer the ‘every passenger is a criminal’ attitude employed by South West Trains in Southampton, I find that First Group’s friendly and proactive approach makes a huge difference.” James Pritchard – Railnews, June 2011)

The past

“Ethics are not irrelevant, but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed.” – Stagecoach co-founder, chief executive, and prospective chairman Brian Souter.

The History of SWT on our website (www.shrug.info) surely provides irrefutable evidence of the deep frustration which politicians, regulators and the public too often experience in their dealings with Stagecoach, for whom South West Trains has long been a principal cash cow. The company’s manipulations and deceptions have become less gung-ho, but persist nonetheless.

In 2006, for example, SWT’s live on-line poll showed that only 30% of respondents thought Stagecoach deserved to have won the franchise a third time. However, SWT published a figure of 61% and their ‘independent’ Passengers Panel (which is tightly controlled by Stagecoach non-executive director Sir Alan Greengross) declared that a ‘huge majority’ of passengers were pleased with the outcome.

The present

SWT’s mainline and suburban performance scores appear on their website, prefaced by the sentence: “For a true and accurate account of our latest period results, simply identify your route area from the options below”.

On 26 July, the performance scores for the 4 weeks to 26 May were still shown. By 29 July, the scores for the 4 weeks to 21 July were shown. Data for the 4 weeks to 23 June were obviously omitted because SWT missed its suburban route area ‘punctuality’ target. So “latest period results” now mean results for the latest period that SWT met all its targets. Whether this will be a permanent feature, or is just while Stagecoach is bidding for new franchises, remains to be seen.

Let’s turn to SWT’s six-monthly Webchat events, which are designed to respond to passengers’ concerns. Originally, each question was allocated a number, and it was clear that a significant number of questions were omitted. Latterly, only the answered questions are numbered, so there is no public record of those which SWT chooses to ignore.

In the March 2012 Webchat, our Group asked about a promised principal benefit of the current franchise. This question and SWT’s automated acknowledgement are below, but the question was swept under the carpet.

“The DfT press release of 22 September 2006, which announced the award of your current franchise, stated: “It is expected that many regulated season tickets into London will be discounted for passengers travelling outside the height of peak times”. This could have a useful effect in spreading peak loadings, but has not happened. Passenger Focus’ surveys show that the percentage of peak passengers who consider that you provide value for money has fallen from 23% to 21% in the intervening 5 years, and the percentage satisfied with capacity has fallen from 34% to 31%. Can you please explain why you are taking so long to introduce this change?

Thank you, your question has been submitted”

Q.46 of the September 2012 Webchat concerns the major, longstanding, complaint about use of outer-suburban coaches with 2+3 seating on the Waterloo-Portsmouth main line. The answer includes the following: “The webchat provides an opportunity for passengers to raise questions about all areas of our service and we want to provide enough opportunity and enough time to ensure that we can answer all of these questions. We will therefore not be answering any further questions on the Class 450 trains during this webchat as our position has already been made very clear.” Either they do want to answer every question or they don’t! Interestingly, the number of questions answered in the two-hour slot was 128, compared with 210 in the March Webchat.

Even more interestingly, the answer to Q.46 states that the class 458 units are being changed from 2+3 seating to 2+2, because this is “more suitable for suburban type duties”. If 2+2 is best for suburban duties, how can cramped 2+3 seating be suitable for longer-distance duties, such as Waterloo-Portsmouth, which were ranked as “Inter City” in BR days? Or does this mean class 458 seating will be of sub-standard width for 2+2 accommodation, with more room to stand?

More generally, the big range of issues raised in every Webchat is depressing, given that the SWT franchise has been in the hands of one operator longer than any other. Q.97 asks why SWT rarely publicises the activities of its Passengers Panel. The reply is that the Panel is independent and has its own website, but can be found via the ‘Contact us’ link on the SWT website. Fine: after clicking on the link, you have to scroll through sections on Customer Relations, Ticket Sales, Assisted Travel, Lost Property, Group Travel, Business Travel, Media Enquiries and Meet the Manager, before you reach Passengers Panel at the end.

As usual, there are concerns about the dichotomy between big annual fare rises and huge Stagecoach dividends, a problem which is only likely to be mitigated with a change of operator. There are also the usual complaints about the attitudes of some SWT staff – there is clearly a wide gap between the really good staff and the really bad. Typical is Q.85, which refers to ticket office staff talking to each other instead of serving passengers, guards who shut themselves in driving cabs or make sarcastic announcements, and revenue protection staff shouting at someone for asking a question.

Q.75 states that guards are never seen issuing penalty fares. The reply ignores the fact that they don’t have powers to do so, but states instead that SWT is going to introduce posters showing how much people are fined when prosecuted. This would complement the further lists which have appeared in Hampshire and Dorset newspapers (and no doubt elsewhere) of people taken to court simply for boarding a train before purchasing a ticket.

This new initiative looks like a snub to Passenger Focus, which has expressed serious concerns about innocent passengers who get caught up in the penalty fares system. Our Group’s response to the DfT’s consultation on penalty fares (See Hogrider 126 Part 1 on www.shrug.info) outlined many cases of passengers being abused, principally by SWT. Similar concerns were expressed at the February 2011 meeting of the Passengers Panel, but never reported. With just hourly services at many stations outside the Greater London area, a daunting array of fares, and ticket machines which can be difficult to use and not provide the full range of options, it is unsurprising that some passengers board trains without tickets.

As an ethically limited company, would SWT try to manipulate public opinion through planted questions? Its former e-motion magazine specialised in ‘frequently asked questions’, which were as heavily loaded as they were imaginatively crafted, such as:

“I think that South West Trains has done a pretty good job recently and deserves a new franchise, and I’m not alone in this. Before all of you at the Panel groan and consign my letter to the waste-paper basket as just a note from another sycophant, let me hasten to add that there are a number of my fellow passengers who would not agree, which is exactly why I am writing. What can the ordinary passenger do to make his or her views heard by whoever awards the new franchises?”

Here’s an oddity, then. Very few questions were posted to the latest Webchat during the morning which preceded the event. One timed at 09.06 asked why Southern provided much cheaper fares from Fratton to London than did SWT. This was followed by a batch of questions timed between 09.58 and 10.03. These asked, for example, about rising fares, future use of the international platforms at Waterloo, and preparations for winter weather, issues where SWT was no doubt happy to get information into the public domain. But note this one:

“Question: 47

I think many of your customers are getting heartily sick of paying ever-increasing fares while seeing more and more travelling, quite openly, without a ticket.

In view of the fact that you seem to have virtually no fare enforcement, how would you dissuade me from joining this growing throng?

Do the other companies which seem to manage the ticket checks that you find impossible get less generous handouts from the taxpayer? Posted 27/09/2012 10:02:11

Answer: We have recently introduced a department dedicated to managing our approach to Revenue Protection. Over recent months the team has become far more active across the network, both on train and at station - and this will become increasingly more obvious over time.”

A bit loaded and imaginative? What does ‘quite openly’ mean? Do passengers march through trains chanting, “Look, no ticket”? No doubt SWT would deny the question is planted, but when is a plant not a plant? Could it come from the ‘independent’ Passengers Panel or from anyone connected with someone working in SWT, or even from a lobbyist? If the question sounds like familiar ground, note this past article by Erik Pedersen in the Nottingham Evening Post:

“What’s the absolute worst thing you can imagine about travelling with [Stagecoach] 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.”

Just one week after the Webchat took place, the transcript had vanished from SWT’s home page. The search box advised “No results found [for ‘Webchat’]. Try the FAQs section or Site Map”. Sure enough, at the very end of literally scores of links on the Site Map was a link to the transcript. Interestingly, SWT’s home page did retain easily accessible links to ‘Latest news’ items, such as preparations for the Olympics.

SWT allegedly cheating passengers at Guildford

[Letter from a Surrey rail user to Anne Milton MP]

“I wish to update you on SWT's performance over the past week during the Olympics.

Firstly, many morning and evening services have been exceptionally busy as you may know. What is worrying is the lack of provision (i.e. no provision from Guildford at least) for increased passenger numbers. On Friday evening (3rd) the 21:30 from Waterloo was grossly overcrowded and I witnessed the doors being closed while passengers were trying to board. SWT were running a five coach train on a route that sees a reduced frequency after 9pm. The last comparable service to depart was some thirty minutes before. The train was full and standing by the time it reached Wimbledon where additional passengers tried to board. Several elderly passengers had to stand for at least twenty minutes.

This is not exceptional by any means. I heard staff joking on the evening of the opening ceremony at Farnham that the company was preparing by running a shorter than usual (four carriage train) to Waterloo. No additional carriages have been evident at any time in the past seven days.

The posters indicating ticket validity at Guildford (i.e. Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak) were taken away just before the start of the Olympics. This occurred on or before Thursday 26th July and the posters have not been replaced. As I am sure SWT will point out, in their place is a poster that shows just how few additional services are running during the whole Olympic period (eleven, I think I am correct in stating, over a period exceeding two weeks). And I was under the impression that the unions were demanding additional money for performing more duties resulting in an overtime ban. Farcical.

The ticket machines at Guildford are no longer offering Super Off-Peak tickets that include Underground/bus travel in time for the 10:58 or 11:08 services. Furthermore I have not witnessed any staff assisting customers in the ticket hall after 11am during the past week. I have twice seen passengers mistakenly selecting Off Peak tickets after 11:30 when they have said they would not have been returning till after 7pm. On one occasion they were able to cancel the selection and on another occasion the customer joined the queue to obtain a refund. Those travelling in groups risk being overcharged or face excessive queuing.

Queues have consistently exceeded the queuing standards in the last seven days at Guildford, Clapham and Waterloo. A passenger asking for help to become available at the counters was spoken to abruptly by the manager at Guildford. Today, Saturday 4th and last Saturday (28th) only two counter positions were open at Guildford and three were closed. A similar situation was evident at Clapham Junction on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. Queues of 20 or more people were evident when only two positions were open in the main hall. Again, no staff were assisting customers in using the machines and I am certain many thousands are overpaying (it is almost impossible to pay too little).

I would also like to add that advertisements for loan shark companies and images of a dog that had been attacked by its owner with a hammer are unsuitable viewing for children. Where these posters are displayed used to be valuable information such as a map of the travelcard zones. No such maps exist now on SWT trains – they are present on Southern, Chiltern and South Eastern services. How are people, especially tourists, supposed to know such valuable information without a map?

In contrast to the sheer greed and opportunism displayed by SWT, volunteers helping visitors in the city are showing how welcoming and hospitable the British people are. It makes me proud to see these people at train stations and across the capital and I now wish I had volunteered myself. It’s just a shame many visitors also have to witness the exploitation of unregulated private train companies who are making the UK less competitive as well as less welcoming.”

The Olympics – SWT lets down the industry

The rail industry generally coped well with the Olympics and gained widespread praise.

Not so South West Trains. With a fortnight’s notice, the company announced that non-folding cycles would be banned from its trains during the Games, even in the most rural areas, because of expected capacity shortfalls. This was typical of Stagecoach’s modus operandi, which commonly involves bad news, such as missed stops and journey curtailments, being withheld from affected passengers until the last minute so that there is little time for protest.

Anyone could see that the cycle ban would cause serious problems for some commuters paying the company thousands of pounds to get to work. It had to be lifted almost at once, in the face of considerable opposition. Such was the confusion that the Southern Daily Echo published a complaint about the ban days after it had been lifted.

Just over a week before the Games started, Stagecoach’s failure to arrange extra trains for the Weymouth sailing events became high profile. Supported on TV by their lobbyist Barry Doe, the company advised passengers to drive to the park and ride, with the usual excuse that the current supply was too weak for extra electric trains. The Dorset Echo reported that this advice came after months spent by Dorset County Council and the Olympic Delivery Authority asking people to consider public transport because roads would be congested.

David Thrower was moved to write from distant Cheshire (Modern Railways, September edition) “Is there an Olympic award for catastrophic public relations? If so, perhaps I could nominate South West Trains, which on 18 July managed to generate the lead story on BBC South Today urging visitors to Olympic events in Weymouth to go by car!”

Given that diesel trains are hired on a regular basis to take passengers from Scotland to cruise ships in Southampton Docks, it’s difficult to believe that SWT couldn’t have hired a few extra trains, especially as the 80,000 additional daily passengers they expected for the London events represented a massive financial windfall. Instead, ten diesel carriages were raided for standby use from busy SWT peak services, such as the 06.55 Basingstoke-Southampton and 07.51 Southampton-Portsmouth, which were reduced to 2 coaches on a daily basis.

Unsurprisingly, given the mix of alarming messages, there were far fewer Olympic visitors to Weymouth than expected. The Borough Council had expected 50,000 a day, but the daily numbers at the Nothe Gardens viewing point were around 4,600, and the related Bayside Festival closed after one week, with debts exceeding £800,000. Even with such low visitor numbers, SWT services from Weymouth were advertised as ‘full and standing’ evening after evening.

Arrangements got off to a miserable start. On Sunday July 29, Cross Country duly ran their special 08.51 Olympics service from Southampton to Weymouth. The principal feeder service should have been SWT’s 07.48 Basingstoke-Poole stopping service, but this ran 40 minutes late because of defective rolling stock.

Mountain face ahead for the SWT/NR alliance?

RAIL, Issue 703, has clarified that the core of the ‘deep alliance’ proposition is that it ends the system of fines and incentives of the previous relationship. SWT’s Managing Director, Tim Shoveller, has admitted that the old system ‘drove operators’ to stop the trains and collect compensation from Network Rail when there were infrastructure problems! In other words, SWT’s readiness to dump, delay and strand passengers has in part been to fuel Stagecoach profits.

Meanwhile, Passenger Focus’ Spring 2012 statistics give SWT a 37% satisfaction rating for the way they deal with delays as compared with 40% five years earlier. This is an indictment both of a franchise that has been in the hands of one operator longer than any other, and of the SWT/Network Rail joint control at Waterloo, which was supposed to deliver better operational outcomes for passengers.

There must therefore be doubts about whether passengers can expect much from the new alliance. SWT’s policy of omitting stops at the drop of a hat, in order to improve performance statistics by getting trains into position for their next run, continues apace. A related problem for passengers is the company’s habit of not holding connections, even for a few seconds. The irony is that a missed connection can turn a minor delay into a very major delay. How many motorists would bother about getting somewhere a couple of minutes later than expected, and how many would bother about wasting an hour because of a hold-up en route?

An apology would have been nice! From SWT’s website: “12:30 London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour due 14:07. This train is being delayed at Haslemere and has been further delayed at Petersfield and is now expected to be 159 minutes late. This train will be terminated at Havant at 16:28. This train will no longer call at Fratton, Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour. This is due to electrical supply problems. Message Received: 30/07/2012 16:22”

“Electric spine” to Southampton – the issues

The Beeching report was widely seen as the beginning of the end of rail travel outside niche markets. Almost half a century on, the Government’s plans for 2014-2019, including electrification and reinstatement of lines, is great news. It represents one of the biggest boosts for the railways in living memory.

If the plans are realised, the main line between Basingstoke and Southampton will be converted to overhead electrification. Wires will stretch across Britain from Southampton container port, via Basingstoke and Reading, to Paddington, Heathrow, Bristol and Swansea, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Leicester and Nottingham/Sheffield.

These plans are largely an amalgam of prior proposals, focused on improving passenger services from Paddington and St Pancras, and reinstatement of the Oxford-Milton Keynes/Bedford route. The Southampton link is the major surprise element, and appears focused on container traffic. So, what are the issues?


* Will hard-pressed passengers be expected to subsidise the cost of electrification for freight trains, rather than taxpayers generally, who all potentially benefit from the movement of goods?

* Will freight operators be prepared to buy electric locomotives while many of their diesel locomotives are relatively new, especially as the diesels will still be needed when the electrified route is closed for mishap or engineering work?

* Will diversionary routes be electrified from 2020 as “infill schemes”? This could involve wiring from Southampton to Basingstoke via Romsey and Andover, and perhaps even from Salisbury to the prospective wires at Chippenham and Bath, incidentally providing an all-electric route from Portsmouth to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea.)

The initial response from the freight operators is less than enthusiastic. RAIL (Issue 703) reports that:

* Freightliner considers the Government’s plans will primarily benefit passengers;
* DB Schenker wants infill schemes from the outset; and
* GB Railfreight considers that electrification from the Midlands to Felixstowe should have much greater priority than the route to Southampton.

[It was announced in September that a £150m expansion of Southampton’s container port is to go ahead. Southampton is Britain’s second busiest container port after Felixstowe, and the fourth largest port after Grimsby, London and Milford Haven. Southampton handled 1.6m containers and 38 million tonnes of freight last year.]


SHRUG has previously confirmed that Network Rail considers its plans for four freight paths an hour to Southampton as manageable. However, there are likely to be major “pinch points” such as Southampton tunnel and the junction between the Basingstoke and Newbury lines to the west of Reading, probably with increased competition for passenger train paths.

* So, how will increased freight traffic impact on passenger services with similarly rising custom? SWT differs from Southern and South Eastern in not maximising capacity by running dual-portion London trains all day. So is a new, more efficient off-peak timetable in prospect?

* Will the Eastleigh-Southampton route retain third rail as well as overhead electrification, so that Portsmouth and Sussex trains can still run via Hedge End when the direct Fareham-Southampton route is closed? This issue also impacts on the existing plan for Brighton-Southampton trains to operate via Southampton Airport.

* Trains from a wide area converge on Basingstoke, so extending its local Reading services to Heathrow would have considerable strategic value (though this does not feature in the current announcements). But will there even be capacity for a local service? Might Cross Country trains have to serve the intermediate stations of Bramley and Mortimer, leaving Reading West for the Newbury electrics?

* Network Rail has spoken in the past of worthwhile time savings from re-routeing the Bournemouth-Manchester trains from Oxford to access the West Coast main line at Milton Keynes. This would mean bypassing principal destinations such as Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Could the issue be resolved with a service which splits at Oxford, with half running to Manchester via Milton Keynes and half to the West Midlands?

* The routes through Oxford will all be wired. Will bi-mode or dual-voltage units be used, so that trains can run between Southampton and Bournemouth on diesel or live rail power?

* How will any additional trains on the West Coast main line (as were proposed in First Group’s franchise bid) affect planning for future Cross Country services to and from the South Coast?

* What future for services between Hampshire and the North East? Will the proposal to equip some of the diesel Voyager trains with an electric motor coach go ahead? Electric trains could get as far as Sheffield via Oxford, Bedford, Leicester and Derby. Beyond Sheffield, there will be a gap in the wires on the routes to Leeds and Doncaster, pending any infill schemes. They could theoretically reach York and Newcastle via Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria, but the routes around Manchester are likely to remain congested despite prospective capacity improvements.

* Will the suburban and quasi-suburban Desiro trains be converted to dual voltage, enabling them to take power from the overhead wires, or will the Waterloo-Weymouth service get a new fleet of trains suited to longer-distance services?

[BBC4’s recent repeats of the ‘The Age of the Train’ documentary are a useful reminder of how Mark III carriages on the Inter-City 125 trains transformed perceptions of rail travel in Britain. These carriages are expected to remain in service until 2025.

The Mark III carriages for the class 442 electric units were built about 12 years later (though with 20-year-old second hand motors) and should therefore remain in service until around 2037.

The class 442s were transferred from the Waterloo-Weymouth main line to Gatwick Express duties in a reshuffle designed to reduce Stagecoach’s leasing costs after the company massively overbid for a third South West Trains franchise. Their limited luggage capacity is causing problems on airport duties.

So why not a further reshuffle, with the class 442 units provided with dual voltage traction and new air-conditioning units, and re-deployed on Waterloo-Weymouth services?]


[Watch our website (www.shrug.info) for the leaflet “Highs and lows of a passenger train service: a history of diesel and electric trains from Southampton, with numbers operating at the summer peaks”]


Great Western franchise specification

The next Great Western franchise is to be broadly based on the current timetable, and will run from July 2013 to July 2028. It will include new express trains to replace the Inter City 125s, and a new early morning service from Paddington to Plymouth, but possibly fewer direct services between Paddington and Penzance. Bidders are invited to offer priced options on providing more trains between Salisbury and Swindon, and between Westbury and Weymouth, and improved local services around Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth, including restoration of services between Bristol and Portishead, Exeter and Okehampton, and Plymouth and Tavistock. The proposed hourly semi-fast Paddington-Exeter service, calling at stations beyond the Newbury electric route, appears to have been dropped.

There is nothing specific on services to Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton. However, the chosen operator will have the option of running services over the Southampton-Poole route. This would allow a direct train to operate between Bournemouth/Poole and Bristol, South Wales or the West of England. Our Group’s response to DfT’s consultation on the franchise highlighted how awkward it is currently to travel between the Bournemouth area and the West of England. Unfortunately, these running rights over SWT territory won’t start until early 2017, when the current Stagecoach franchise ends. There’s a surprise!

SHRUG response to DfT’s consultation on the combined Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise

(Sent to DfT and copied to PassengerFocus)


I attach a response to the Consultation on behalf of the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group. We are grateful for the opportunity to comment.

We trawled for thoughts and comments in issue 135 of our newsletter, which was posted on our website (www.shrug.info) in early July. This website is linked with Railfuture’s website, the Campaign for Better Transport’s website, and the community website of Hampshire County Council (e.VOLve). Our newsletters are therefore widely available to interested members of the public.

Our Group was founded 19 years ago to promote the interests of rail passengers in South Hampshire through information gathering, sharing, analysis and dissemination, and putting forward constructive criticisms and suggestions. For example, we had memoranda published in the Transport Committee’s two reports on franchising. We now operate principally by e-mail.

Clearly, such a large franchise will affect the travel experiences of huge numbers of people, and can potentially exert a big influence over the public perception of rail travel generally. In the wider context of current public perception, there may be political backlash if the future operator has a record of putting short-term private gain ahead of long-term public interest. Some operators have a good record of listening to their passengers (for example Great Western has, against the odds, met aspirations for improved rural branch line services, and ridership has soared; and Southern abandoned its contentious plans to re-cast the Coastway East timetable).

Implementation of the plan to absorb Southern several years after the new franchise starts will be contentious if the former is performing much better, and/or has better satisfaction levels, than the latter at the time of absorption.

Our main interest in the Combined Franchise lies in the current Southern services to Hampshire. Southern manages only two stations in the county (Emsworth and Warblington), and generally operates three trains an hour to Portsmouth (two on Sundays), and two trains an hour (one on Sundays) to Southampton.

These operations will be on the margins of the Combined Franchise, but the trains are well-used, particularly for travel between Southampton, Fareham, Portsmouth and Havant in Hampshire, and Chichester, the Sussex Coast and Gatwick Airport.

The route between Cosham (a busy Portsmouth suburban station) and Southampton is used by the services of three operators: Southern, Great Western and South West Trains. These operators provide a distinct group of services, each with well-established and sensitive connections, which provide a wide range of journey opportunities and concomitant revenue enhancement.

This route is allocated to the South West Trains franchise but, because Govia has proved a more ambitious operator than Stagecoach in terms of timetable development, Southern is now the principal service provider over most of it.

This has had the curious effect that the direct services between Southampton and Chichester, which were virtually non-existent in the past, are better-spaced and therefore more attractive than the services between Southampton and Portsmouth. Southampton-Portsmouth is the South Coast’s major urban corridor, yet arguably has the South East’s worst inter-urban rail service. The parallel motorway is frequently congested and recent data have produced a relatively poor score for deaths and injuries on the roads of Southampton, and of Hampshire generally.

These issues are considered in detail in the Annex to this submission.

Consultation questions

Many of the questions you have raised are not directly relevant to South Hampshire. The responses below are accordingly limited. In a few instances, we have illustrated points with what happens on SWT, the major operator in our area. This seems appropriate, because we don’t know which company may operate the Combined Franchise, and the points are of general relevance.

Q.1 What improvements do stakeholders believe could be made on the combined franchise through partnership working between Network Rail and the new operator?

A. Realistically, improvements are likely to be achievable only in limited areas, such as minimising ‘bustitution’ and ensuring that disruption from infrastructure work is minimised on days of exceptional demand (for example, when there are major sporting events). Partnership working won’t provide things such as ‘gold plating’ of tracks close to London termini (promised for Waterloo, but abandoned when Stagecoach’s second SWT franchise was reduced from 20 years to 3 through poor performance) or rescue locomotives – the existing SWT/Network Rail ‘deep alliance’ didn’t prevent the 12.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth becoming 159 minutes late on 30/7/2012).

Q.2 Do consultees have any other specific aspirations for the new franchise that they wish to bring to the Department's attention?

A. Please see the Annex.

Q.3 Are consultees aware of any other rail or non-rail development schemes that might affect the new franchise?

A. Southern aspires to divert Brighton-Southampton services via Southampton Airport Parkway station. Some 20% of airport users come from that geographical axis. Other train services are diverted that way when there are train failures or infrastructure problems between Southampton and Fareham. However, the main line through Southampton Airport Parkway has been earmarked by the Government for conversion to overhead electrification. This has implications for rolling stock.

Q.4 What increments or decrements to the specification would stakeholders wish to see and how would these be funded?

A. Please see the Annex.

Q.5 Which aspects of the specification, other than for those services operating through the Thameslink core route, would stakeholders wish to see mandated and which aspects of the specification could be left to the discretion of the operator?

A. In South Hampshire, we would wish to see at least the current level of Southern’s services mandated, with no loss of direct trains to Gatwick Airport, or of connectivity between Southampton and Ashford trains at Brighton. It should be borne in mind that travel via London can be less attractive, particularly for the high percentage of older people living in the South Coast region.

Q.7 What changes to services would stakeholders propose, what is the rationale for them and would these provide economic benefit?

A. Please see the Annex.

Q.9 What steps might bidders be expected to take to meet passenger demand and what might be the most appropriate mechanisms for managing demand?

A. A general aspect of some franchises is that longer-distance peak services are faster and more frequent than shoulder-peak services. So a commuter may leave home much earlier but not get to work much sooner. Widening the hours of peak services could help flatten peak demand.

Q.14 Do respondents believe Great Northern trains which do not serve the Thameslink core route should remain as part of this franchise or be transferred to the new Inter City East Coast franchise?

A. Since operational advantages are seen in merging Southern and Thameslink services on the Brighton Main Line, there should logically be disadvantages in splitting Great Northern services between two franchises.

Q.16 What services would be appropriate to serve the Airport market?

A. Please see reply to Q.3 and Q.5

Q.20 What improvements would respondents like to see made to Coastway East and West services, the rationale for such proposals and the economic benefit expected to be delivered from these changes?

A. Please see the Annex. As Southern is the principal operator between Cosham (a suburb of Portsmouth) and Southampton, there is a good case for the Southampton-Portsmouth route to be transferred from South West Trains to the Combined Franchise, with integrated service improvements.

The rationale is that:

* The varied range of services using the whole or part of the Southampton-Portsmouth route is inter-dependent but currently the route has three operators and services along the full length of the route between Southampton and Portsmouth are not attractively spaced.

* Southampton-Portsmouth is the South Coast’s principal urban corridor, but arguably has the worst inter-urban service in the South East.

* The parallel motorway suffers congestion.

* Southampton and Hampshire have scored poorly in recent data on road traffic accidents involving death or serious injury.

* Substantial population growth in the corridor is ongoing.

* The Southampton-Portsmouth route provides many connectional journey opportunities, so any service improvements will tend to boost ridership and revenue widely.

The former Strategic Rail Authority, Hampshire County Council, and Network Rail have, in the past, each individually identified a case for an improved service.

Q.21 What improvements would respondents like to see made to other Southern services as part of the combined franchise from 2015, what is the rationale for such proposals and the economic benefit expected to be delivered from these changes?

A. On Sundays, a direct Southampton-Gatwick Airport service is desirable. Airports are busy 7 days a week and PassengerFocus’ research has found that having to rely on connections is a disincentive for travellers. If necessary, this improvement might be achieved by attaching a Gatwick portion to the Southampton-Brighton Sunday services. Also, connectivity (eastbound) at Brighton between Southampton and Ashford services needs to be improved on Sundays. Passengers are unlikely to use rail at all if one leg of a return journey involves poorer Sunday services, and this must lose revenue.

Q.22 What are respondents’ views on the practice of splitting trains at stations such as Haywards Heath?

A. Passenger preference means that it is better to retain through portions to a range of destinations, than to make passengers rely on connections which may not be held, which can be a curse for example on SWT.

Q.24 How would you like to see performance information published?

A. Performance information should be published by an independent body such as PassengerFocus or ORR. This would avoid the kind of manipulation which was noted in late July on SWT’s website, where the ‘latest’ performance figures were updated from May to July (presumably because they missed their ‘suburban punctuality’ target in June).

Q.25 How frequent should its publication be?

A. Monthly is fine, but something like quarterly might be acceptable in an administrative trade-off for a much greater degree of disaggregation.

Q.26 What level of disaggregation of performance do you believe is reasonable?

A. Services at some stations are much less satisfactory than statistics suggest. On SWT for example, trains such as the hourly daytime Waterloo-Poole service, and the slower Waterloo-Portsmouth (via Guildford) service have significant layover time en route. This means that the services may be late at intermediate stations (with connections missed) and yet still recorded as on time at the end of their journey. Another SWT manoeuvre is to omit stops to get rolling stock in place for its next journey, and this disproportionately affects some stations. These issues potentially affect all franchises, and therefore every station needs to have its own performance data with actual number of late trains, and trains cancelled/stops omitted, as well as percentages.

Q.27 What are the priorities that respondents consider should be taken into account to improve the passenger experience of using these services?

A. Abusive use of penalty fares against passengers who make genuine mistakes or are not sure what type of ticket they need should end. Permit to travel machines should be compulsory at all stations in penalty fare areas. If operators don’t comply, they should be statutorily excluded from the penalty fares scheme. Given the hugely confusing range of tickets on the railways, and reduced staffing of ticket offices, travel without a ticket should be an offence only where there is proven intent to avoid payment.

Q.28 What do stakeholders see as the most important factors in improving security (actual or perceived) and addressing any gap between the two?

A. There has arguably been an industry ‘own goal’ here. With the exception of occasional crime hotspots, passengers are likely to worry much more about being fined big amounts for getting the wrong ticket, or about missing connections, than about being the victim of crime. The constantly high profile given to security cameras, secure station awards (on the basis of subjective criteria) and ticket gates (which help safeguard revenue but are often left open when fewest people are around and passengers most vulnerable, to reduce staffing costs) conspire to create the perception that rail travel is much more dangerous than it is.

Q.29 What is important to stakeholders in the future use and improvements in stations?

A. Staffing of ticket offices. Reliable up-to-date information, including alternative travel options when there is disruption to services.

Q.30 What priorities would respondents give to car parking and cycling facilities at locations where these are fully used?

A. This will depend on local circumstances. Cycling is a less attractive option in bad weather, so passengers may switch between car and bicycle over the year. Some stations will have high local demand whilst others, such as Southampton Airport and Brockenhurst on SWT, have generated disproportionate parking demand because services from stations with a much greater local population have much slower and/or less frequent services. Southern has done well in achieving walk-on service levels at a considerable number of stations.

Q.31 What sort of ticketing products and services would you expect to see delivered through ‘smart’ technology on this franchise?

A. Whatever else happens, it is hoped that ranger tickets such as Southern’s Daysave range will be retained. These offer excellent value, avoid the restrictions often imposed with Advance tickets (which can cause many kinds of problem for users), and facilitate longer-distance commuting for people who travel fewer than five days a week.

Q.33 What environmental targets would stakeholders like to see within the franchise specification?

A. The new franchise will be largely electrified. Two short extensions of electrification (Ashford-Ore) and Hurst Green-Uckfield) would eliminate diesel trains.



History of service development

Fifty years ago, diesel trains operated an approximately half-hourly “Coastway-style” service between Southampton and Portsmouth, with extra trains in the peaks. The busier local stations of St Denys, Woolston and Netley were served by at least 2 trains per hour, seven days a week, augmented in the commuting peaks. There were several daily trains between Portsmouth and Bristol or Cardiff, with a single daily Plymouth-Brighton train providing Southampton’s only direct link with Havant and Chichester.

One of the hourly local Southampton-Portsmouth services was “suspended” in 1983 during long-term single line working, for wall strengthening, in Southampton tunnel, but never restored. Instead, sectorisation in BR incrementally produced what became today’s hourly Great Western service between Portsmouth and Cardiff.

Electrification of the Southampton-Portsmouth line brought a new hourly service between Southampton, Hove, Gatwick Airport and Victoria from 1990. The Sunday service was achieved by extending the Victoria-Portsmouth service to Southampton in place of the local Portsmouth-Southampton stopping service; the Southampton-Victoria Sunday service was lost when SWT took over the Portsmouth-Southampton route.

In view of the huge population growth in the Southampton-Portsmouth corridor, Hampshire County Council aspired to convert the Southampton-Fareham line to frequent rapid transport operation, with trams joining the Fareham-Gosport-Portsmouth rapid transport route which was approved in 2001. Existing train services were therefore in limbo until the tramway scheme was abandoned in 2004.

Southern doubled its Southampton services from 2008, with the Southampton-Victoria trains diverted to run via Horsham, and a new Southampton-Brighton service connecting with the Brighton-Ashford trains. The Brighton service was a reasonable alternative to a major recommendation of a report for the South East England Development Agency, that there should be direct coastal services between Southampton and Ashford.

Current Southampton-Portsmouth line services

The former “Coastway-style” service has evolved into three distinct service groups, each with a separate operator. There are five weekday services each hour which cover all or some of the route. Each service has its own range of sensitive connections. Sunday services are sparse. Southern is now the major operator over most of the route, but the line falls within the SWT franchise.

The five hourly weekday services are as below. Principal connections are shown where they apply in both directions. For brevity, not all places connected are shown.

(1) Great Western service between Portsmouth and Cardiff.

Provides connections which link:
- Portsmouth and Southampton with Exeter via Salisbury.
- Portsmouth with Bournemouth and Weymouth via Southampton.
- Portsmouth with Manchester via Southampton.
- Cardiff and Bristol with Chichester and Gatwick via Fareham.

(2) Southern service between Southampton and Brighton.

Provides connections which link:
- Southampton with Ashford International via Brighton.
- Weymouth and Bournemouth with Chichester and Brighton via Southampton.

(3) Southern service between Southampton and Victoria.

Provides connections which link:
- Southampton with Petersfield and Guildford via Havant.
- Weymouth and Bournemouth with Chichester and Gatwick via Southampton.

(4) SWT service between Portsmouth and Waterloo via Fareham.

Provides connections which link:
- Basingstoke and Winchester with Chichester and Gatwick via Portsmouth.
- Waterloo, Basingstoke and Winchester with local stations from Swanwick to Netley via Fareham (it is assumed that passengers for stations west of Netley would travel via Southampton).

(5) SWT stopping service between Southampton and Portsmouth.

Provides connections which link:
- Local stations between Southampton and Fareham with Bournemouth and Weymouth via Southampton.
- Local stations between Southampton and Fareham with Petersfield, Guildford and Waterloo via Portsmouth.
- Stations from Portsmouth to Bitterne with Eastleigh, Chandlers Ford and Romsey via St Denys.

Problems with the current service

Whilst trains on the Southampton-Portsmouth line provide for a huge range of journey opportunities, the core service between the major stations of Southampton Central and Portsmouth & Southsea is very poor, given the size and importance of these cities, not to mention Portsmouth’s ferry links with Gosport (largest rail-less town in Britain) and Ryde (largest town on the Isle of Wight).

The direct twice-hourly services from Southampton arrive at Portsmouth & Southsea at 42 and 46 minutes past each hour, and return at 27 and 38 past. This could well be the South East’s worst inter-urban service.

It is also possible to leave Southampton at 13-past on the Victoria train and change at Fareham, but passengers reach Portsmouth 25 minutes later than if they had left Southampton 8 minutes earlier at 05-past. Similarly, they can leave Portsmouth at 04-past and change to the train from Victoria at Fareham, but then reach Southampton only 9 minutes earlier than if they left Portsmouth 23 minutes later at 27-past.

These connections are not announced, and the 14 minute turnaround time at Southampton of the Victoria trains means that, when delays occur en route from London, they turn back at Fareham. Late running trains from Cardiff may also turn back at Fareham, which makes the very limited Southampton-Portsmouth service even worse.

Of the local stations, St Denys, Woolston and Netley in particular have considerable untapped potential.

St Denys is the major station for eastern Southampton, and close to the residential areas convenient for students at Southampton University. It is near the important Portswood shopping centre. There are no buses towards Fareham or Portsmouth from this part of Southampton.

Woolston is at the eastern end of the Itchen road bridge where numerous bus routes converge, and would provide an excellent interchange facility, but for the very limited train service. Big residential developments are underway nearby on the site of the Vosper Thornycroft shipyard, and Southampton Solent University and student accommodation are across the Itchen bridge.

Netley has seen very substantial residential developments in recent years, and bus services stop outside the station, linking with a wide area.

Of these stations, only Woolston has buses to Portsmouth, and they take about 90 minutes, almost exactly twice as long as an all-stations train. Southern provides a very small number of stops at these stations at peak times, whilst SWT staggers the timings of its early morning trains for the benefit of London commuters, but provides no evening enhancements. This produces some odd results. For example, there are five Monday-Friday trains from Netley to Southampton between 07.02 and 08.34, but the return evening service is just hourly.


Southern’s services from Southampton are well used, particularly to Chichester, the Sussex Coast and Gatwick Airport. As illustrated above, any changes could disturb a wide range of connections, and thus reduce journey opportunities and profitability. So there is a good case for broadly maintaining the existing service. However, the complementary services along the full length of the South Coast’s major urban corridor, between Southampton and Portsmouth, have declined to the extent that they are arguably the worst inter-urban service in the South East, despite the parallel motorway suffering frequent congestion. Here, there could scarcely be a stronger case for improvement.

This need for improvement has been recognised, for example by Hampshire County Council’s abortive plans to convert part of the line to rapid transport operation; discussion of an additional hourly Southampton-Portsmouth train in Network Rail’s consultation on the Solent and South Hampshire RUS (which accompanied their London and South East RUS); and the aspiration in the former SRA’s 10-year plan for half-hourly services between Portsmouth, Southampton and Bristol by 2006. The following is tentatively suggested as a minimum:

(1) The Southern franchise should take over the section of the Portsmouth-Southampton route between Cosham and Southampton from South West Trains. Southern is already the major operator, and SWT has shown no interest in developing its services on the route.

(2) A new hourly electric service should be introduced between Southampton and Portsmouth, to form a roughly half-hourly service in conjunction with the Great Western Cardiff-Portsmouth service, and with the same stopping pattern. This would require three additional units but, with promotion, the increased service has enormous potential, given that there are approaching one million people living in and around the Southampton/Eastleigh/Totton and Portsmouth/ Fareham/Havant/Gosport conurbations, and bus services in the area are generally tortuous and slow. There is also a case for any additional Southampton-Portsmouth trains to make more stops than we suggest, but operators would probably see this as less commercially attractive.

(3) The Victoria-Southampton trains should call additionally at Netley, Woolston and St Denys, which have significant traffic potential and good bus links. Based on the timings of the few Southern trains which already stop at these stations, the effect on overall journey times would be minimal. The extra stops would provide these stations with roughly half-hourly services in conjunction with SWT’s Southampton-Portsmouth stopping service. Since the extra stops would slightly shorten the already fragile 14-minute turnaround of the Victoria trains at Southampton, it is suggested that the Victoria trains inter-work with any additional Southampton-Portsmouth services. Removing the trains to sidings during layover at Southampton would ease congestion at the station.

Odd Olympic security contrasts

An extraordinary incident occurred at Heysham Port during June. This station has only one passenger train a day (connecting with the Isle of Man ferry) and is therefore an obvious magnet for railway photographers. A New Forest senior citizen, his friend and another passenger were innocently taking snaps of the train. They were pounced on by police, who brusquely asked how they could be ignorant of the on-going UK security threats, the forthcoming Olympic Games being one of them; accused them of wasting police time; and cautioned them not to take photos in what they described as a high risk security area.

The passengers were also asked what they had written in their note-books and were cautioned “not to break the law again” by taking photos and making notes. This was despite their having pointed out that there were no notices on the station to say that photography was not permitted. Far from being a terrorist, the New Forest resident had public-spiritedly agreed to let a friend from the rail industry run a computer from his home during the Games, to provide one of the regional train service monitoring and trouble-shooting centres.

Less surprisingly, since SWT has a reputation for treating its passengers like criminals, we have heard of interference with photographers at stations such as Weymouth and Wool. In Weymouth, well-known local author and transport historian Brian Jackson received an apology after being told by Olympic officials to stop photographing buses.

These incidents fit rather well with a Guardian writer’s comment (13th July) that: “over-zealous, churlishly administered security is the one event in which you could expect modern Britain to take gold every time”.

By way of contrast, in mid-July Wightlink ferries distributed leaflets over a wide area, asking people to enter their competition for free travel vouchers by taking inspiring “by day” or “by night” pictures or videos of their Lymington-Yarmouth service. These could be “from ship to shore, shore to ship, the ship itself, local towns and landscapes, people and wildlife”.

Huge increase in regulated fares mitigated

The Government has again withdrawn the threat of an increase of RPI + 3% on regulated fares, with the Prime Minister promising a cap of RPI + 1% as the Conservative Party Conference began. It’s easy to overlook the fact that any increases are compounded over the years and, unsurprisingly, there had been pressure for the threatened increase to be reduced. The Guardian of 18 August (prior to the Cabinet reshuffle) reported:

“Rail fare hike sparks Tory and Lib Dem revolt : George Osborne urged to make policy U-turn as parties fear 'tax on commuting' will destroy support in marginal seats.

Coalition MPs from marginal seats fear if ministers do not back down, they'll be 'hit hard in the ballot box'. George Osborne is facing a mass revolt by Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs over soaring rail fares, amid warnings that above-inflation increases will destroy remaining support for the coalition among commuters in marginal seats. The chancellor will come under intense pressure to perform yet another policy U-turn when MPs return to parliament next month, after it was announced last week that many fares would rise in January by up to 6.2% – 3% above inflation – with some rising by up to 11%.

Conservative and Lib Dem MPs said they would lobby the chancellor and the transport secretary, Justine Greening, to cap increases at 1% above inflation at most. Rises at that level are written in to franchise agreements, but all of the extra 2% above that flows directly to the Treasury – prompting MPs and commuters to complain of a tax on commuting.

Government sources say Greening is sympathetic to MPs' calls, but Osborne – under heavy pressure to keep to his deficit reduction targets and to pay for new investment in the railways – is said to be less so.

Several MPs in commuter seats said they had to act after they returned from holiday to find their postbags and inboxes inundated with complaints from furious constituents.

One Kent MP – Sir John Stanley, the member for Tonbridge and Malling – accused ministers of "exploiting commuters" and using rail fares as "a disguised form of taxation".

The Conservative MP for Harlow in Essex, Robert Halfon, said: "I have already written to Justine Greening. It is a simple cost-of-living issue. Many people in my constituency are on below-average earnings and commute into London, and they cannot afford these rises."

Tracey Crouch, the Tory MP for Chatham and Aylesford in Kent, said: "A lot of Tory MPs will be seeking meetings with ministers as soon as we return. Household living standards are already squeezed and people who have to commute are feeling very aggrieved."

The Tory party deputy chairman, Michael Fallon, has also registered his concern, telling his local paper that rail operating companies must show restraint, while Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley in Yorkshire, said big rises would choke off economic revival.

"It is absolutely essential that this decision is changed. Government should be on the side of the people – not hitting them where it hurts most. It is very difficult to see how we can get out of a recession when these kinds of increases leave people with even less money to spend."

With Lib Dems also calling for Osborne and Greening to back down, the issue is a further headache for the chancellor, who has already performed several U-turns since the budget in March.

Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "With so many Conservative MPs in marginal 'commuter' seats, it is pretty clear that if ministers do not back down, they will be hit hard in the ballot box."

While ministers are standing firm so far, the rebel MPs remain optimistic, having succeeded in getting Osborne to cap fares at inflation plus 1% in last year's autumn statement.

Meanwhile – apparently sensitive to suggestions that rail chiefs might walk away with big bonuses irrespective of performance while commuters are stung for higher fares – the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) is seeking assurances from Network Rail that it will limit payouts in the event of missed targets.

In an extraordinary development, Richard Price, chief executive of the ORR, has felt it necessary to write to [former Stagecoach director] Graham Eccles, chairman of Network Rail's remuneration committee, seeking assurances that "in the event of a catastrophic accident for which Network Rail was culpable, no bonuses would be paid".

Unions and MPs have expressed concerns that it has been left to the regulator to push for such assurances as Network Rail, which receives almost £4bn a year from the taxpayer, seeks to introduce a possible £12m bonus scheme for its six top directors. As chief executive of Network Rail, Sir David Higgins already earns over £560,000 a year.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "It beggars belief that the rail regulator has had to explain that bonuses would be inappropriate in the event of a catastrophic accident or, as is currently the case, a failure to meet performance targets."

In June, the regulator announced that Network Rail missed many of its punctuality targets last year, especially for long-distance services. "Passengers facing 11% annual fare rises will be staggered that Network Rail bosses have the front to haggle over yet another round of bonuses," Eagle added.

"There is something morally repugnant about executives of what is in effect a publicly funded company having to be told by a regulator to forgo their huge annual bonuses in the event of a fatal crash they bear responsibility for," said Manuel Cortes of the TSSA rail union.”

Stagecoach defies corporate governance code

Stagecoach co-founder Brian Souter intends to step down as chief executive of the company and assume the post of chairman, with effect from May 2013. His family’s stake in Stagecoach is worth £400m.

With typical contempt for anything akin to regulation [See our History of South West Trains on www.shrug.info], this move defies a UK Corporate Governance Code recommendation that the chief executive of a company should not become its chairman. Shareholder advisory body Pirc says moving roles from chief executive to chairman raises the danger of "back-seat driving".

Critical RAIB report on incident at Haslemere

(From the RAIB website - Crown Copyright material)

“At approximately 03:00 hrs on Saturday 10 September 2011, a hand trolley ran unattended for a distance of 2.9 miles (4.6 km) along the Portsmouth main line near Haslemere. The incident occurred within an overnight engineering possession and there were no casualties.

The trolley operator did not know he was on a long falling gradient when he let go of the trolley and the brakes on the trolley failed to apply automatically. The brake mechanism probably jammed with the brakes in the ‘off’ position due to a combination of factors including inadequacies in the design, risk assessment and acceptance processes, and in the subsequent maintenance of the trolley.

The RAIB has made five recommendations to Network Rail. These relate to the training and competence of trolley operators, the product acceptance process, reviewing the actions it has taken since the incident, alternative means of communication in areas of poor mobile phone reception and the process for reviewing RAIB recommendations made to other operators. One recommendation is made to Torrent Trackside, the maintainer of the trolley, to improve the competence of its staff to maintain equipment.

As a learning point from this incident, the RAIB has also identified that duty holders should have effective processes for making sure their staff are made aware of changes in the Rule Book which are relevant to the work they perform.

[Given the widespread surveillance operations in the UK today, one wonders why vulnerable sections of track aren’t covered by CCTV. The following RAIB investigation refers to an incident in Northern Ireland, where soil was washed from beneath the track on an embankment:

“The RAIB is investigating an incident that took place at around 07:05 hrs on 28 June 2012, at Knockmore. A passenger train that was scheduled to operate between Belfast and Portrush ran onto a section of track where the formation below had been washed-out. The driver observed the failure and applied the brake, but he was unable to stop before the first of the six coaches had run onto an unsupported section of track. The train came to a stand immediately after the leading bogie had passed over the unsupported section. The train did not derail and was reversed away.”]

“Raging inferno” among latest Stagecoach bus fires

Stagecoach bus fires have become a feature of public transport in Britain in recent times, with blazes now averaging around one every six weeks. The majority occur when passengers are on board. There are some horrific internet video clips of Stagecoach buses ablaze, and not only in Britain. This gives special cause for concern at a time when Stagecoach is seeking to expand its bus and coach operations.

Some recent incidents

January 2010 - Manchester
June 2010 – Invergowrie
June 2010 - Tealing
September 2010 - Monifieth
September 2010 - Letham
January 2011 - Peterborough
March 2011 - Aylesham
March 2011 - Killingworth
May 2011 - Sheffield
May 2011 - Carlisle
July 2011 - Freckleton
August 2011 - Herne Bay
December 2011 - Inverness
December 2011 – Cambridge
April 2012 – Aberfeldy
May 2012 – Blackburn
July 2012 - Blyton

Latest incidents:

21 June 2012 – Dronfield

>From the Public Transport Forum website:

“Amazingly, no-one was injured after a Stagecoach Single deck bus caught fire on Saturday 21 June in Coal Aston, Dronfield.

The bus, Optare Excel 2 35005, YN51VHO, was stopped automatically after the gearbox exploded. This then ruptured the fuel tank, which sent fuel into the engine, which subsequently caught alight. During this time, the driver was on the phone to the depot.

Shortly afterwards, passengers noticed flames coming from the back of the bus, and the bus was evacuated. Being plastic, the fire spread across the roof, and burnt out the entire bus.”

5 July 2012 - Cheadle

Article in the Stockport Express:

“Passengers escape after bus catches fire in Cheadle

Passengers were forced to evacuate a bus when it caught fire. The Stagecoach single-decker was on Schools Hill, Cheadle, on Wednesday afternoon when smoke began to pour from the engine. A passenger told the driver who pulled over and found an overheated fan belt had caused a small fire. The bus was emptied and firefighters from Cheadle station used a hose reel to unsure the fire was fully extinguished.”

6 July 2012 - Peterborough

Article by Stephen Briggs, in the Peterborough Telegraph:

“Passengers had to be evacuated from a Peterborough bus after a starter motor overheated today (Friday). The Stagecoach bus was stopped at a bus stop on Westfield Road, Peterborough at 11.15am when the incident happened.

Andy Campbell, Stagecoach Cambridgeshire’s managing director said: “As the passengers were getting off the bus the driver noticed the engine warning light flashed on. The driver noticed smoke was coming from the engine compartment, and quickly made sure all the passengers were safely alighted. He then took the fire extinguisher to the back of the bus to put out the fire. It turned out to be a faulty starter motor that had overheated. We are now carrying out a full investigation with the auditor. A replacement bus was sent to pick up the passengers.”

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said a crew from Dogsthorpe Fire Station had attended. He said: “The driver and passengers had evacuated the bus on arrival of firefighters. Firefighters used a hose reel and a foam extinguisher to extinguish the fire, and returned to their station by 11.40am.”

11 August 2012 – Ordsall

>From the Retford Times:

“A 'RAGING INFERNO' that engulfed a double decker bus near Ordsall led to the evacuation of passengers and the driver. The fire is thought to have started on the Stagecoach service 43 after an engine failure. The quick-thinking driver pulled over to the side of the road after seeing smoke coming from the rear engine compartment and immediately evacuated the 15 passengers, Stagecoach said. No one was injured.

"Our driver acted professionally and in accordance with our procedures in evacuating the bus and ensuring the safety of all passengers and other road users," said Stagecoach's Dave Skepper. "The bus, which was one of our modern low floor fleet, has been extensively damaged by the fire and we are investigating the cause. Early indications are that the vehicle suffered an engine failure."

The incident happened at 10.14am on Saturday, August 11, on the A620, just past the mini roundabout turnoff to Ordsall Road. Witnesses described seeing a plume of acrid smoke billowing from the scene that could be viewed across town.

Eye witness Mark Scott saw the incident. "It was a raging inferno," he said. "It was horrendous to see it happen and I can't believe it's not caused more damage to the tree line and road. To be fair to the fire brigade, they must have got there very quickly because it was still well alight when they started dowsing it."

Two engines from Retford Fire Station and one from Worksop, as well as police, attended the scene and the road reopened at 11am.

Faulty Stagecoach bus blamed for accident

(North Devon Gazette, 21 June)

“A vehicle defect is being blamed after a double-decker bus crashed outside Barnstaple bus station yesterday evening (Wednesday). The Stagecoach bus left the road by the mini roundabout at Belle Meadow Road and came to rest on shrubbery next to the main bus station building.

Police said the driver wan uninjured and that bus was out of service at the time of the incident, which happened at 7.05pm. The road was closed for around 40 minutes to enable recovery of the vehicle.

Shaking Stagecoach bus driver allowed to continue journey, leaving public to clear up smashed bus shelter

(Gloucestershire Echo, Monday 16 July)

“Anger as Stagecoach crashes into Cheltenham bus shelter

Shards of glass were left scattered all over a Cheltenham road after a double-decker Stagecoach crashed into a bus stop. Bystanders looked on in shock as the number 46 service collided with the shelter outside the Exmouth Arms pub in Bath Road.

Nobody is understood to have been injured in the incident, which took place at around 11.30am today. But traders were furious after being left to clear up the mess. They also say the driver - said to be "shaking like a leaf" - continued on his route without being relieved of his duties.

Mike Huysinga, landlord of the Exmouth Arms, said: "I was there and saw it happen. The bus took too tight an angle into the bus stop and collided with the top of it, pushing all the glass out. Luckily no one was sitting in the bus shelter at the time otherwise it could have been nasty."

However, Mr Huysinga said it was the response from Stagecoach which left him enraged as he was left to sweep up the glass from the bungling driver. He added: "We all understand that accidents happen. But it's how you respond to them that is often the most important thing. The driver was obviously shaking like a leaf after what had happened but he was told by head office to just carry on his route. I'm no doctor but I would have thought after something like that he should have been relieved. And to just leave glass scattered all over the pavement and road is unacceptable. I have had to sweep it out of my porch and cars were still driving over bits of glass half an hour later. It's not good enough."

Stagecoach Megabus tragedy in Illinois

(From Associated Press report)

On 2 August, a double-decker Stagecoach Megabus crashed into an overbridge support near Litchfield Illinois, allegedly after blowing a tyre. A 25-year-old female graduate student in health administration was killed, and at least 38 people, nearly half of those on the bus, were taken to hospitals, with at least five transported by helicopter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement it was monitoring the investigation "to determine if there are safety implications that merit agency action."

“Bus passengers gave harrowing accounts.

The impact of the accident was so powerful that it flung 16-year-old passenger Baysha Collins from the upper-level seat where she was resting to a stairway leading to the lower level. From there, she heard moaning from her fellow passengers on the double-decker bus, the front end of which was so mangled from the collision that emergency crews had to use ladders to rescue those trapped inside. "There was a lot of screaming and crying," said Collins, of Minneapolis, who was on her way to St. Louis to visit relatives. "There was blood everywhere. I was just in shock." Collins, who was among the three-dozen passengers taken from a crash site to a community center in Litchfield, said she first heard a "big boom," as if the wheel was skidding. "It felt like the bus was going to tip over," she said.

Janis Johns, transportation director of Litchfield Community Unit School District 12, said the passengers brought to the community center were either uninjured or mildly injured and included some children. By evening, many of the uninjured passengers already had been taken by bus from the community center to St. Louis. Others were picked up by relatives, including 27-year-old Megan Arns of St. Charles, a St. Louis suburb. Her parents made the 70-mile trip to get her. Arns was on the top deck of the bus near the back talking to a woman next to her when "all of a sudden it felt like the bus ran over something really, really big." She said she could feel the bus lose control as it rolled into the median and toward the pillar. "Absolute panic. People were screaming," said Arns, who got away with just a scrape on her head.

Arns and 22-year-old Enrique Villaroel of Chicago said passengers began helping each other almost immediately after the wreck. "Panic at first, then total calm," Villaroel said. "Some people were carrying other people off the bus." Villaroel said he also was on the upper level of the bus sleeping when he was awakened by screams. "I flew out of my seat and a little girl flew past me," he said, adding that the child appeared to be OK and he escaped with a few bruises.

A string of crashes involving low-fare buses in recent years have prompted calls for tougher regulation. Four passengers were killed in September 2010 when the driver of a double-decker Megabus smashed into a low bridge outside downtown Syracuse, N.Y. The driver was acquitted earlier this year of homicide in the deaths.”


Road deaths increase

1,901 people died on Britain’s roads in the past year, the first annual increase for 17 years. Councils are being encouraged to extend 20mph zones.

Southampton was named as one of the UK’s worst performing cities for road safety, with 154 deaths or serious injuries in 2011 compared with 123 in 2010.

816 cyclists were injured on Hampshire’s roads, up from 690 in 2010; this was more than in any other police force area except London.

The reasons for Hampshire’s poor performance are not clear, but could include factors such as the number of heavy vehicles on the roads, and additional congestion arising from the contraction of local public transport.

It seems to be the general case that the greenest forms of travel, such as walking and cycling, need to be made safer. Ironically, while Olympic security measures were heavily focused on possible terrorist threats, including cybercrime, the only tragedy attributable to the Games was the death of a cyclist in collision with an Olympic media bus. Just a thought, but are security scares being exaggerated because there is so much money being made in the security industry, and could some funding be diverted to green transport measures such as cycle paths, and pavements on less-remote country roads? The Ashurst-Lyndhurst cycleway in the New Forest is an example of a well-used new facility.

High level of failure to staff SWT ticket offices continues

In the past three months, SWT’s website has advertised failures (in some cases prolonged and/or repeated) to staff ticket offices during opening hours at Aldershot, Alton, Ashford, Bagshot (ticket machine out of use at same time), Barnes, Brockenhurst, Dorchester, Earlsfield, Farncombe (ticket machine out of use at same time), Farnham, Fleet, Malden Manor, Micheldever, Parkstone, Petersfield, Poole, Richmond, Shepperton, Southampton Airport Parkway, Strawberry Hill, Swanwick, Swaythling, Tisbury, Upper Halliford, Weybridge, Weymouth, Winchester, Windsor, Winnersh Triangle, Witley, Woking and Yeovil Junction.

High level of SWT station lift failures continues

Lift failures (in some cases prolonged and/or repeated), have recently occurred at Basingstoke, Bracknell, Brentford, Clapham Junction, Farnborough, Feltham, Fratton, Haslemere, Havant, Kingston, Portsmouth & Southsea, Richmond, Southampton Central, Staines, Surbiton, Waterloo, West Byfleet, Weybridge, Wimbledon and Woking.

Clapham Junction fare rip-off

The Kingston Area Travellers Association reports that Southern charges £3.90 from Coulsdon South (end of the London Travelcard area) to Gatwick Airport. At Clapham Junction ticket office, run by Stagecoach, passengers are charged £4.40 for this add-on, even though Stagecoach does not run services to Gatwick.

Southampton Central station

Following the limited renovation of Southampton Central station, Stagecoach has imposed a 20p charge for using the toilets. A spokesperson is quoted in the Daily Echo of 24/9/2012 as saying “The 20p charge … will allow us to continue to provide a high quality facility for passengers and should help to encourage users to treat the facilities respectfully and with consideration for others”. However, at 20/9/2012, the upside Gents was as neglected and decrepit as it has been for years. How unsurprising that, like so many of SWT’s other shortcomings, it’s the fault of disrespectful passengers rather than Stagecoach greed.

Charges are imposed at the few major stations, such as Waterloo, which are managed by Network Rail, but these toilets have dedicated maintenance staff. Elsewhere, facilities are mainly free. Gloucester Central station has been virtually rebuilt, yet First Group does not charge for its excellent facilities.

[One very cheap improvement which could be made at Southampton is an update of the onward travel poster. This, for example, tells passengers to catch the 56/56A bus for Lyndhurst, which has not been the case since February 2011. Better 21 months late than never, even on SWT?]

Waterloo station

All amenities have been pushed off the central concourse at Waterloo, but the new raft has a somewhat oppressive effect. Removal of retail outlets from the concourse was supposed to improve passenger circulation, but the additional space is cluttered with ugly banks of ticket machines. These presumably help reduce staffing and increase unemployment, yet do nothing for tourism, which is vitally important to London’s economy. Many praised the helpfulness of London’s Olympic volunteers who were seen as making a real difference to people’s enjoyment of the events, but the reassurance of face-to-face contact with ticket clerks at Waterloo presumably has to be reduced to boost Stagecoach dividends.

One other really annoying feature of Waterloo is the constant drone of announcements which each refer twice to the ‘South West Trains’ service. SWT is the only operator, so why doesn’t Stagecoach or the Stagecoach/Network Rail alliance do something about it? Ironically, lobbyist Barry Doe devotes most of his columns in RAIL, issue 705, to unfavourable comparisons with SWT’s ‘precise and professional’ announcements.

Rolling stock shortage

>From SWT’s website. Why should short trains be ‘busier’ (as opposed to ‘more crammed’) than long trains?

“We are currently carrying out essential maintenance work on the wheelsets of some of our Class 450 trains. As a result, some services will be made up of fewer carriages than normal. We have put in place plans to minimise disruption for passengers, however some Hounslow and Windsor services are likely to be busier than normal. We are sorry for the inconvenience this has caused and we will return to our full service as soon as the maintenance work has been completed.”

Timetable changes in Southern Hampshire from 9 December 2012

As this issue closed, only Cross Country had informed us of their plans, which involve no significant changes in our area. It is, however, possible to check for individual journeys on the National Rail website. A full check would be hugely time-consuming, but it appears from a cursory glance that the main change will be Southern’s new Mondays-Fridays service at 23.12 from Southampton Central, calling at St Denys, Fareham, Cosham, Havant, Chichester and Barnham.

South West Hampshire bus services

At the County Council’s New Forest Transport Forum in July, it was reported that subsidised bus services in the New Forest, Romsey and Waterside areas are being re-tendered. Grant support will remain the same, so there should be no changes to service levels. Go Ahead’s Bluestar was looking at the problems which last year’s cuts caused for Marchwood, which lost its Sunday and evening services. It was also taking a positive attitude to the halved services on routes 10/11 to Cadnam, by allowing passengers to stay on buses and reach their destination on the return journey (buses go out from Southampton on one route and return on the other).

Note 1: First Group subsequently introduced an hourly daytime service (route 11) between Southampton and Hythe, via Marchwood, seven days a week from 7 October. Bluestar then announced that they would restore a 30-minute weekday daytime frequency between Southampton, Marchwood and Hythe from 4 November, with alternate buses running to Calshot. There will be an hourly Sunday service to Calshot, plus weekday evening services to Marchwood. Services between Southampton and the Totton suburbs will be increased to every 20 minutes on weekdays, and Cadnam will in future be served by a circular service from Totton. It is clear that First and Bluestar are competing for more custom in the Southampton and Totton areas, and it will be interesting to see which improvements survive.

Note 2: The New Forest National Park Authority has some funding for sustainability and accessibility initiatives. They have been looking, for example, at improvements for cyclists and walkers; extension of the operating period for the tour buses; a new coastal tour route; and rail station links with tourist attractions such as Beaulieu, Paultons Park and Exbury. The existing New Forest Tour buses have already been extended by 4 weeks to 14/10/2012, with a two-hourly timetable; the buses carried a record 15,000 passengers during August.

Note 3: DfT has initiated a one year trial in which concessionary bus passes can be used as a senior railcard between Westbury and Weymouth, and Swindon and Worcester (via Stroud).

Fareham-Gosport bus road

Reports indicate that the new rapid bus link is operating far below capacity, with passengers in single figures on many services. Local residents say vibrations are causing damage to their properties, and some resurfacing of the bus road is already in hand. HCC claims that ridership is up 16% compared with the previous services. [Source: BBC TV South 12/9/2012]

Some new facilities do take time to build up custom, and it will be interesting to see whether this scheme proves a good use of £24m of taxpayers’ money. It’s unfortunate, though, that the new ‘rapid’ service is slower than the one it replaces, on paper at least. It’s clear from numerous overheard conversations on the new First X4 route, between Southampton and Portsmouth, that people really appreciate the quick run into Portsmouth along the motorway link.

Acknowledgements / Contact details

As always, thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to contact us. Without your support and input, this newsletter would not be possible. The newsletter is produced in good faith, based on reports and information from many individuals and sources including information identified from press and website research. Contributions are always welcome. We aim for accuracy at all times, because our good reputation depends on it. We do not use material which could be offensive or which appears unlikely to be correct.

Address for correspondence: Denis Fryer, 19 Fontwell Close, Calmore, Southampton, SO40 2TN (denis@fryer1491.fsnet.co.uk). Contact details of Government and transport bodies and the media are on the Group's website, www.shrug.info

[For environmental reasons, Part 2 of this issue, which provides daily samples of SWT’s multitude of delays, cancellations and operational-convenience measures is no longer being produced in hard copy, but will be available on our website in both Word and HTML formats as usual.]