Hogrider 164 (January 2022)

South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group Newsletter












A state-owned body, Great British Railways (GBR), is to set timetables, decide ticket prices, sell tickets (in England), and manage the infrastructure in place of Network Rail. Private operators will be contracted to run the specified train service. This is expected to be more like the London Underground model, with multiple operators but a single brand. However, the Informed Sources section of Modern Railways magazine (December 2021 issue) suggests that this is another case of the current government announcing ends ahead of means, with substantial uncertainties and the 2024 deadline already missed.


A feature of the ‘Great British Railways’ brand is that fares should be easier for passengers to understand. The 3.8% increase in regulated fares from 1.3.2022 will certainly help further this criterion.

SWR introduced changes to time restrictions on Super Off-Peak Returns from 6th September. This was supposed to be a simplification but, as presented on the SWR website, the full conditions were anything but clear. Passengers were actually told: ‘Please use a journey planner to check when Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak tickets are valid for travel’.

All restrictions have been removed from Sunday Super Off-Peak tickets. These restrictions were introduced by Stagecoach when bidding for the current franchise, and created fare rises of up to around 20%. Stagecoach claimed that they would allow passengers to make savings by travelling at times when the dearer fares did not apply! We exposed the scam in the Southern Evening Echo of 20.12.2016.

So far, so good, but it is very disappointing that the Saturday restrictions which Stagecoach introduced have apparently just been aligned with the Monday-Friday restrictions. The position, other than on Sundays, appears to be as follows:

For journeys of over an hour, a Super Off-Peak (Period) Return, allowing passengers to return on any day for up to a month, has been introduced. [The position on journeys such as Basingstoke-Waterloo, where fast trains take under an hour and slow trains over an hour, is unclear].

The current Super Off-Peak tickets have been replaced with Evening Out tickets. Although these are available for a wider range of journeys, passengers travelling to Waterloo cannot arrive before 14.01, rather than 12 noon as previously. Return is after 19.00. For local journeys, Evening Out tickets are, rather oddly, available from 12 noon.

Clearly there will be gainers and losers, but some passengers will be likely to face increases of up to around 20%. There are still Off-Peak and Advance tickets, and railcards can still be used with the various Super Off-Peak products. So keep using an on-line journey planner!

Staring into the distance, it will be interesting to see what happens under Great British Railways. A day return ticket from Southampton Central to Brighton (62 miles) by Southern costs £17.50. A day return ticket from Southampton Central to Weymouth (63 miles) by South Western Railway costs £30.90, reduced to £26 on Sundays. Will the Government’s ‘levelling up’ policies apply? And as ‘levelling up’ is presumably intended to be advantageous, shouldn’t it, in relation to fares, mean levelling down?

It would be interesting to know what correlation there is between passenger footfall and fares. Having been the UK’s busiest station for 18 years, Waterloo has dropped to fourth place behind Stratford (London), London Victoria, and London Bridge.


Following a very negative public response, none of the long-distance train operators is thought to be pursuing proposals to make seat reservations compulsory on a permanent basis. Cross Country now recommends reservations, but does not require them.

SOUTH HAMPSHIRE TIMETABLE DEVELOPMENTS AND SETBACKS [For general guidance only – please always check on-line before travel]

[SWR has confirmed that it is following some other operators in not producing printed timetable leaflets. This may be counter-productive as leaflets can give browsers new ideas for leisure travel. They may check on-line information only when they are already considering specific journeys]


Great Western Railway and South Western Railway generally continued to operate their May 2021 service patterns.

On Great Western, Portsmouth Harbour-Cardiff Central remained close to being a 6½ day service, with little activity in South Hampshire on Sunday mornings, and also some cuts on Saturday evenings (See Issue 163 of this newsletter on www.shrug.info).

On Mondays to Fridays, SWR’s 21.35 Waterloo-Bournemouth started calling at Totton (and Ashurst), splitting the gap between the 20.05 and 23.35. Did someone finally take notice of our group’s on-line complaint? The initial response had been that passengers could use the 20.35 from Waterloo and travel back from Brockenhurst! This still offered an exceptionally poor service given Totton’s 30,000 population. The towns of New Milton and Christchurch were treated similarly. Stops by the 22.35 would have been particularly useful for people attending evening events, but this benefit was reserved for the village of Brockenhurst. One wonders what research SWR undertook before determining the service pattern, and why they are content to have such a large hole in their principal main line service.

On Saturdays and Sundays Totton, New Milton and Christchurch departures from Waterloo remained at 20.05, 21.05, 22.05, 23.05, and 00.10 (Sunday morning only). So it’s advisable not to go to evening events in London outside weekends unless you live in Brockenhurst (which most people don’t).

Cross Country continued to serve Hampshire only with double-length trains between Manchester and Bournemouth, generally every two hours and with very limited Winchester and Brockenhurst stops.

This seriously slowed relatively local journeys in alternate hours, with Southampton Central to Oxford, for example, typically taking well over 50% longer. Departure from Southampton Central at 09.00 on Mondays to Fridays gets passengers to Oxford at 11.12, with changes at Basingstoke and Reading. Departure on the direct train at 10.17 gets them there at 11.38.

Southern reverted to running a full service in Hampshire, even though there had been only a token reduction. One change is that the only Monday-Friday trains which normally serve London Bridge instead of Victoria are the 05.28 Portsmouth Harbour – London Bridge; the 08.03 London Bridge – Portsmouth & Southsea; 14.13 Southampton Central – London Bridge; and 17.02 London Bridge – Portsmouth & Southsea. Despite there being so many cuts elsewhere, the final Southern train from Southampton Central on Mondays to Fridays, the 23.12 to Barnham, gained a connection for Bognor Regis.

From the start of November, the long-suspended Island Line services between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin started running daily at hourly intervals. The approximately 80-year old tube trains from London Underground have been replaced with District line trains about half their age, which give a far smoother ride.


[By early January 2022, SWR, GWR and Southern were operating unreliable or ad hoc services because of staff sickness.

GWR has wholly or partially removed some services; in South Hampshire this mainly involves trains around the beginning and end of the day, Brighton services, and trains towards Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

SWR has introduced a temporary Monday-Friday timetable with severe cuts. This is very close to the timetable run in 2020 when non-essential travel was actively discouraged and in many circumstances illegal. Some lowlights of the 2022 service: Southampton-Portsmouth stopping services generally operate only between Southampton and Fratton; Waterloo-Poole service reduced to Southampton Central-Bournemouth; fast Waterloo-Weymouth services reduced to token services between Waterloo and Southampton Central or Bournemouth; Waterloo-Weymouth semi-fast services involve change at Bournemouth; many last trains run earlier, for example final service from Waterloo to stations west of Southampton at 21.00, with a later 22.35 just to Brockenhurst and Bournemouth; connectional services between Salisbury and Exeter St David’s run only every two hours.

Southern’s Hampshire services have some minor tweaks on Mondays-Fridays. For example, the first service from Southampton to Brighton is suspended, and evening London trains are diverted to/from London Bridge with connections at East Croydon to/from Victoria; normal London Bridge services, conversely, run to/from Victoria; the 23.16 Southampton-Barnham extends to Littlehampton.

Cross Country’s very restricted timetable not affected.]


Great Western Railway was to switch to what would probably be its revised full timetable. The well-established service pattern between Portsmouth Harbour, Southampton and Cardiff was to resume in full, with the longstanding two-hour gap on Sunday mornings filled by a 10.13 Portsmouth & Southsea-Cardiff. The supplementary services were tweaked to provide new travel opportunities towards the beginning and end of the day.

Supplementary westbound services through South Hampshire: (Mondays-Fridays) 04.50 Fratton-Gloucester; 08.23 Southampton Central-Great Malvern; 08.59 Brighton-Worcester Foregate St; 17.02 Brighton-Bristol Parkway; and 21.23 Portsmouth Harbour-Bristol Temple Meads; (Saturdays) 05.39 Portsmouth & Southsea – Worcester Foregate St; 09.00 Brighton-Worcester Foregate St; and 21.23 Portsmouth Harbour – Westbury; (Sundays) 17.48 Brighton-Bristol Temple Meads; 21.08 Portsmouth Harbour-Bristol Temple Meads; and 22.04 Portsmouth Harbour-Westbury.

Last return services to Southampton and Portsmouth from Cardiff Central daily at 20.30 (20.29 on Saturdays); and from Bristol Temple Meads at 21.45 (Mondays-Fridays); 21.22 (Saturdays) and 21.27 (Sundays).

With weekend travel reportedly holding up much better than commuting, it is disappointing that these services did not include an earlier Sunday connection at Salisbury for the Exeter line. The earliest service connects into the 10.47 from Salisbury, which reaches Exeter St David’s at 12.42. There are earlier trains from Salisbury at 06.54, 08.47 and 09.47. Why no connections from the Southampton- Portsmouth corridor, ranked by the Office for National Statistics as the 7th largest built-up area in the UK?

South Western Railway ended its very limited services between Salisbury, Westbury and Bristol Temple Meads (originally introduced by Stagecoach around the time they withdrew South Hampshire-West of England services). Oddly, SWR had already consulted stakeholders on ending Bristol services from December 2022. With GWR running its normal service levels, this shouldn’t affect South Hampshire passengers significantly. A few SWR services were to continue between Salisbury, Westbury and Yeovil Junction. The 17.05 and 18.05 Waterloo-Weymouth services gained Basingstoke stops.

Otherwise, South Hampshire services were little changed from the September timetable, leaving late evening Monday-Friday services from Waterloo very inadequate for some passengers.

Southern was to continue its September service pattern in South Hampshire. Gatwick Express services were to be reintroduced, running half-hourly between Victoria, Gatwick Airport and Brighton.

Cross Country services were already so severely cut that services from January were to be affected by routine engineering work but not by staff sickness. Cross Country continues to run its very limited Bournemouth-Southampton- Manchester service, with no trains between Southampton and the North East. Other than on Sundays, all Winchester stops before 19.00 will be restored, except by the 05.15 (Mondays-Fridays) Southampton Central-Manchester train. On Sundays, the only northbound calls are at 10.36 and 16.36 to Manchester. Brockenhurst stops are on a token basis and indicated by column notes. So the considerable slowing of many intermediate journeys from September persists.


Reply sent to HCC on 23.8.2021. Members of our group made various points:

Road improvements should generally be limited to essential maintenance, as they lead to increases in road traffic, which causes increased pollution (until electric vehicles take over) and congestion (permanently).

Enhancements to cycle network needed for safety and where demand demonstrated. Cycling unlikely to play major role outside recreation, because of climate uncertainties, with more heat waves and storms predicted. New cycle lanes have not always attracted much use.

Hythe ferry tends to be a fair weather choice.

There is scope for improving bus services, which have become too concentrated on radial urban routes.

Rebalancing needed in favour of public transport. Waterside is an appendage of the Southampton-Havant corridor, ranked by ONS as the 7th largest built up area in the UK. Other built-up areas have much better public transport.

Semi-fast Waterloo trains need to call at Totton, the existing railhead for the Waterside. ORR footfall figures for Totton show a 71.7% increase from 2001-2002 to 2006-2007 when these trains did call, and 1.4% decrease between 2006-2007 and 2011-2012 after the call was removed.

Since DfT has been strongly opposed to third rail extensions in recent years, electrification of Waterside line unlikely, along with proposed extension of Victoria- Southampton services. In any case, these trains terminate at Fareham when running late.

Diesel trains therefore the most likely option with diesel/battery bi-modes later (though any Waterside rail service likely to be at least 4 years away).

Diverting the Romsey-Eastleigh-Salisbury service to the Waterside, with a separate Southampton-Salisbury service is the most straightforward option.

With SWR planning to split the Waterloo-Poole stopping services into separate trains on either side of Southampton, would it be feasible to terminate the Waterloo-Southampton service at Eastleigh off-peak (with 12 minutes for turnaround) and at Portsmouth (via Hedge End) in the peaks? Could a Waterside- Eastleigh (or Chandlers Ford, with extra signalling capability) then run on the opposite side of the hour from the Waterside-Romsey service? This could reduce the 40-minute gaps (almost hourly on Sundays and on Mondays-Fridays in the morning peak) in the Southampton-Eastleigh service. Southampton-Eastleigh has long been a busy passenger flow, but this is not reflected in the service level.

Free parking at Hythe and Fawley Parkway could incentivise passengers to switch to rail. The argument that free station parking attracts non-rail users shouldn’t apply at Hardley as it does at urban stations.

[Note: The most favoured option for a Waterside rail service was extension of the Portsmouth-Southampton stopping service, but this had been specifically ruled out (for scheduling reasons) in the consultation]


Backburner Britain

In 2009, the former Association of Train Operating Companies suggested restoration of passenger train services along the Totton-Fawley branch, with construction work in a five to ten year timescale, at a cost of £3 million. The Government has now allocated £7 million just for development of the scheme over a 3-year period, and only as far as a Hythe & Fawley Parkway (site of the former Hardley Halt), but apparently with no commitment as to the outcome. In any case, a general election is likely to intervene, increasing the uncertainty.

On the positive side, this was the only ‘Restoring your Railway‘ line reopening proposal to get funding under the latest round of announcements (along with restored mainline stations at Wellington and Cullompton, which would be a further stage in the development of Exeter St David’s as the major rail hub in the South Western peninsula). This is against the background of big cuts to the scope of HS2 and Northern Power House Rail, along with extended timescales and delays to other schemes such as reopening the line to Portishead as part of a Bristol Metro.

So developments generally are at a very slow pace. This is unsurprising, given that the Government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that Brexit will cause twice as big a hit to the economy as the Pandemic. Put otherwise, things will be three times as bad as they need be. Discarded no-brainer schemes such as a tram system for Leeds and extension of Midland Main Line electrification from Kettering to Nottingham and Sheffield are revived after long time lapses (though not closure of the gap in Great Western electrification between Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads, Bath Spa and Chippenham).

How Totton-Fawley scheme is clinging to the backburner

The Government’s exact thinking on a Waterside scheme is unclear. However, the line is already in situ and used as far south as Marchwood, a reconstruction fillip which gives it an advantage over some other schemes. The Campaign for Better Transport identified services to Fawley as a top priority for restoration, and reopening has been staunchly supported by Hampshire County Councillor David Harrison, and more intermittently by the County Council generally as circumstances changed.

Some MPs are less enthusiastic. The Daily Echo reported New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis as opposing the £7 million allocation, with historic arguments about extraction of custom from bus services (what about flexible, integrated transport and severe road congestion and pollution between Totton and Southampton?) and obstacles to running the train service all the way to Fawley (what about the proposed Parkway station at Hardley?).

Government gloss on the proposed Solent Freeport may be relevant. The Solent is presented as the Nation’s Global Gateway, with Freeport initiatives providing job opportunities to help level up a number of coastal communities including New Forest Waterside. So the railway could be a useful adjunct to Freeport development.

This would presumably be unwelcome news for Dr Lewis, who staunchly opposed the proposed development of a container port at Dibden Bay which John Prescott eventually rejected in 2004. The UK was a prosperous EU member state then. Economic arguments are likely to carry greater weight with the current government.

The UK’s import levies are relatively low, and there has been media comment that freeports therefore have very limited advantages for the economy, but will lead to greater concentration of international trade. In other words, traffic-swamped South Hampshire will need to absorb yet more traffic. It seems at least possible therefore that the Fawley branch is also perceived by government as a potential means of compensating for increases in road traffic rather than just in lowering existing levels.

Political diversion?

The history of South Hampshire’s rail infrastructure after World War II has scarcely been progressive, especially given that the Office for National Statistics now ranks the area as the seventh most populous built-up area in the UK.

In recent years, plans for tramways and improved train services seem to be blossoming like one-day lilies. They tend to look like something scribbled on the back of an envelope and divert attention from serious improvements.

The latest idea, for a ‘Solent Metro’, is perhaps the most surprising, as it comes from the Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership which is a well-established campaigning group. So are they just trying to redirect rail investment from Totton and Hythe to their existing base around Salisbury, Romsey, Southampton, Eastleigh and Bursledon?

Under the extraordinary Solent Metro scheme, there would be two stopping trains per hour (in both directions) between Southampton, Eastleigh, Fareham and Southampton. This awkward service configuration would weave around some 20 existing passenger services per hour plus freightliner trains, and involve reversing four trains per hour at both Eastleigh and Fareham, and running them through the single-track Fontley tunnels.

There are already four weekday trains per hour in both directions between Southampton and Fareham. The new services would increase this to eight. There are two, badly spaced, trains per hour between Southampton and Eastleigh, though the transfer of service planning to Great British Railways might facilitate the introduction of an Eastleigh stop by the Cross Country Bournemouth -Manchester trains, which could greatly improve the position. Half-hourly services between Eastleigh and Fareham would appear feasible as this frequency already operates briefly in the early morning, running to and from Portsmouth and avoiding reversal at Fareham.

The Transport Secretary has heavily prioritised punctuality, and Network Rail is insisting that service levels shouldn’t be ambitious to the extent of prejudicing punctual running. Some planned new mainline service patterns, for example from Kings Cross, are being delayed while their deliverability is reconsidered. In the case of reopening the Waterside line, Network Rail found few opportunities to extend any services beyond Southampton Central.

In all the circumstances, the complex ‘Metro’ service somewhat stretches credibility. Is it a political good news smokescreen? Other built-up areas have much better rail services, but in most cases there is an element of devolution. Hampshire County Council shunned the opportunity of a Solent Super Authority, and many councillors seem more interested in minor initiatives such as new road lanes, despite the Government’s declared recognition that climate change needs to be tackled urgently.

Some councillors have now welcomed the considerably over-egged Solent Metro scheme even though they probably don’t all appreciate the operational complexities involved. Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen, was reported to be “very pleased” to hear of the proposals. He said, “The fact that there will be frequent trains and no need for vast infrastructure upgrades, will allow for a more cost effective rail upgrade in the local area.” The use of ‘will’ looks amazingly optimistic.

The extraordinarily poor ‘Waterside Wanderer’ Day Ranger ticket

The Three Rivers CRP has worked with South Western Railway, Bluestar Buses and the Hythe Ferry Company to produce a one-day travel ticket. For £13.50 (adult) and £6.75 (child), or £11.80/£5.20 with a railcard.

Holders can have a day’s unlimited travel on SWR trains between stations bordered by Winchester, Romsey and Bursledon after 09.00 (all day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays). They can use Bluestar route 8 or 9 buses to the Waterside area all day. They can have one return journey on the Hythe Ferry and Pier Railway; one return journey on the Quayconnect bus between Southampton Central station and Town Quay, and another return journey between the station and quay using Unilink U1A and U1C buses.

Tickets can be purchased from the SWR stations where they are valid, from train guards when the booking offices are closed, or online from southwesternrailway.com (in which case a postage and administration charge applies)

So who will benefit from this new product? Passengers living east of Southampton Water or the River Test will in effect get a rail Ranger ticket with bus and ferry add-ons. The leaflet suggests that they visit Hythe Pier or Calshot Spit. Eling’s ancient Water Mill isn’t mentioned, even though it’s the major attraction in the area. Passengers can walk to the mill from the centre of Totton in 10 minutes, but they must go to Totton by bus (but only the No 8 or No 9) as the town’s station isn’t included in the scheme.

Increasing footfall at Totton station, which would considerably enhance the case for reintroducing passenger trains to the Waterside area, clearly isn’t in mind, despite the town’s 30,000 population. Although residents wouldn’t need the Ranger ticket for bus trips to the Waterside, they might well like to use it for hopping around local towns and cities by train. To do this, they must apply online for the ticket and then use a no 8 or 9 bus into Southampton to catch a train. The number 8 bus runs hourly on weekdays and provides only a token service on Sundays. The number 9 does not serve Totton town centre. There are plenty of other Bluestar buses between Totton and Southampton, but the Ranger ticket is apparently not valid on them.

It might be argued that this is just a case of the ticket being a poorly designed product. But are there political motives at play, for example to reduce investment by attempting to switch aspirations from a Waterside rail service to the almost certainly non-starter Hampshire Metro scheme?

Presumably, the purpose of a Community Rail Partnership is for rail users to influence local and national government, not the other way round.

Two killer questions: (1) Is Totton within the Three Rivers Partnership area? Note their website: “Why Three Rivers? The rail routes which the partnership covers run alongside, or cross the Avon, Itchen and Test rivers – hence ‘Three Rivers’ ”. Trains from their area cross the River Test to reach Totton, just as buses to Hythe and Calshot do!

(2) The Romsey-Chandlers Ford – Eastleigh - Southampton – Romsey - Salisbury trains are effectively the Three Rivers CRP’s core service. The original service was Romsey-Chandlers Ford – Eastleigh - Southampton – Totton. If that remained the case, would the Ranger ticket still have been valid at all stations on the route except Totton?


[Shortly after the consultation closed, the October edition of ‘Modern Railways’ included the following observation from veteran columnist Alan Williams: “The avowed intent of First Group’s South Western Railway not to consult the public at large, but only stakeholders, on proposed permanent timetable changes, is worrying. It is supposedly about providing the best for passengers while saving bucket loads of taxpayers’ cash. What happened to democracy?”]

Response sent on 31.8.2021:

We are grateful for the opportunity to comment. Responses to the ten questions posed in the consultation are below. Our comments end with an appendix on the concerning history of service cuts and increases at Totton, which illustrate how passengers are sometimes denied stability and reliability in their train service levels, even when demand is soaring. The current proposals for Totton, outside the commuting peaks, put the clock back beyond 1967.

1. We are a Passenger Group, with a focus on improved rail services in South Hampshire. Several of us contributed to the stakeholder meetings held in Southampton after the franchise transfer to First/MTR was announced. We had previously responded to DfT’s franchise consultation, robustly supporting a transfer.

2. We are interested in the South Hampshire area generally, and note that ONS ranks it the 7th most populous built-up area in the UK. It has not enjoyed the level of investment in public transport seen in areas where devolved powers operate. The abandoned South Hampshire Rapid Transit scheme, and unfulfilled recommendation for better rail connectivity from Michael Fallon, as Minister for Portsmouth, illustrate the problem.

Totton, and the Waterside area for which its station is the railhead, are a geographical appendage of the South Hampshire area, accounting for an additional 75,000 inhabitants. Our appendix on Totton illustrates how rail service levels and qualities continually rise and fall while the town’s population has doubled to over 30,000 and continues to grow. Passengers need an enhanced and stable service, especially given the high levels of road congestion (motorway link and two container terminals), pollution, and accidents on the parallel Southampton-Totton road route.

Southampton-Eastleigh (at the western end of the ONS South Hampshire area) was once reported to have the second heaviest (after Worthing-Brighton) local rail passenger flow on BR’s Southern Region, outside the London suburban area. In recent years, there has been a 40-minute gap in the Southampton Central-Eastleigh service in most hours, with no Monday-Friday service between 07.37 and 08.35.

3. The main suburban routes are remote from our core area of interest. However, concentration of cuts where there are alternative services operated by Southern obviously raises the question of whether these Southern services have enough spare capacity. It is not clear how far this issue has been explored.

4. Turning to the main line, the proposal to split the Weymouth semi-fast trains at Bournemouth rather than Southampton Central (the change devised by SWR at one of the said stakeholder meetings) is surprising, and appears to have very limited cost savings. The original plan would provide a half-hourly fast service between Waterloo and Bournemouth, in line with trying to boost leisure travel. ONS ranks the Christchurch-Bournemouth-Poole conurbation as the 16th largest built-up area in the UK, ahead of areas such as Cardiff and Reading. The area notably lost both its inland routes (to Bath Green Park and Salisbury). It more recently gained and lost direct services to Victoria via Gatwick Airport. This leaves a poor service choice given that Bournemouth is one of the UK’s few resorts of international standing. Getting to Southampton Central quickly for onward connections is the most attractive available possibility for many journeys.

Another advantage of splitting at Southampton Central is that the Poole portion could serve Totton. As our appendix shows, in the five years before the semi-fast services lost their Totton stops footfall at Totton increased by 71.7% (ORR data), against an average increase of 22.1% for all intermediate stations between Southampton Central and Weymouth. In the 5 years after the Totton stops were cut, the average footfall growth at these stations was 16%, while Totton was the only station with a footfall decrease (minus 1.4%).

By way of example, when the semi-fast services stopped at Totton, its footfall figures overtook those at Pokesdown. ORR figures for 2018-2019 show that Totton has been left behind while footfall figures at other stations on the line pull further ahead. Splitting at Bournemouth benefits only Branksome and Parkstone passengers. The 2018/19 footfall estimates for those stations are 286,162 and 234,380 respectively, against 291,220 at Totton. Interesting that in 2006-07 Totton’s footfall (282,542) was more than double that at Parkstone (139,383), illustrating how its service cuts have restrained growth. It’s also not clear why Branksome and Parkstone need ‘additional journey opportunities’ when they are already much better served than Totton.

The proposal to run a Southampton Central-Bournemouth stopping train without the current 25-minute layover at Brockenhurst (which extraordinarily doubles journey times from Totton to New Milton and Christchurch) is very welcome. However, as pathing constraints mean that it is likely to leave Southampton Central around the hour, this could increase connectional times for Victoria/Brighton/Eastleigh – Totton passengers by about 30 minutes. This downturn would be avoided by stopping the semi-fast trains at Totton as above.

Outside the peaks, Totton would effectively be left with the 1967 Waterloo-Bournemouth stopping service level, but with the trains running only between Southampton Central and Bournemouth. So this could reasonably be described as its worst service since the steam era. This is extraordinary given the area’s population growth. Plans are under consideration for restoring passenger services to the Waterside (Marchwood/Hythe/Fawley) via Totton, but this may not happen, and in any case would not be completed before 2025.

It is not clear how far other operators have been consulted. Cross Country reportedly intends to revert to its normal timetable. It would require only one additional Voyager unit to extend the Newcastle-Reading service to Southampton Central every hour instead of in alternate hours. This could provide hourly ‘same-platform’ connections at Winchester to/from Fareham and Portsmouth, again consistent with boosting leisure travel. If the Manchester-Bournemouth services could then call at Eastleigh there could be a much better spacing of trains between Southampton Central and Eastleigh.

5. The Windsor lines are well outside Hampshire. As a general comment, cutting journey opportunities in the inner suburban area may change some people’s travel habits. Any switch to road transport would be contrary to the capital’s priorities, so is politically sensitive.

6. Introduction of the Waterloo-Bristol services coincided with withdrawal of direct services between South Hampshire and the West of England. While it seems logical to leave the Salisbury-Bristol route to GWR, it is disappointing that no direct services are proposed from South Hampshire to anywhere in the South Western peninsula north of the Southampton-Weymouth line or west of the Southampton-Bristol line. If discrete trains are not possible, at least some through carriages attached / detached at Salisbury could encourage leisure travel. When the Waterloo-Exeter route was first reduced in capacity, one off-peak Exeter train in each direction ran to/from the South Coast instead of Waterloo. At other times, Great Western’s predecessors have operated direct services from Portsmouth via Westbury to Plymouth and Penzance.

7. The concept of balancing performance with cost control appears something of a non sequitur. Surely supply and demand is key?

8. Who can say whether capacity at 93% of pre-Covid levels is an appropriate target? The proposed services will affect many individual passengers in many different ways and to greatly varying extents, and is just an example of treating people as amorphous statistics rather than individuals. Virtually all the timetable changes which First/MTR had identified as a great deal for passengers have been discarded. In addition, nobody can be sure how demand will develop. Ninety three per cent may look like a reasonable target at present, but a lot can change by December 2022 and there needs to be flexibility to meet demand.

9. The pros and cons of maximising capacity while running a slightly reduced service frequency in the interests of reliability depends on local circumstances. For many passengers a few minutes delay is not a serious issue. How many car drivers plan to complete a journey at 09.22 or 15.57? It’s only when connections are involved that a few minutes can be crucial. Many rail journeys rely on connections, and this consultation avoids raising questions about them. In these days of on-line timetables, it would seem a simple matter to provide proposed timetables rather than lists of stopping patterns.

10. Beyond concerns already expressed, it is unclear what services are planned for Saturdays and Sundays. It seems that the Sunday Salisbury-Reading trains are to be discontinued. They have been the only SWR services on the Basingstoke-Reading line and the consultation says that Monday-Thursday evening Reading-Salisbury services are planned in order to maintain crew competency on the route.


* Totton has doubled in population to over 30,000 in the past 50 years, and continues to expand. It’s the fourth largest intermediate town on the Southampton-Weymouth line after Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch.

* It’s also the railhead for the urban corridor to the west of Southampton Water: Hampshire County Council’s transport consultation for the area gives the total population as 75,000.

Q: How has Totton’s train service kept pace with these developments?

A: It increased when the route was electrified; succumbed to subsidy reductions; increased when the Network South East brand was launched; decreased in the run-up to privatisation; increased when Stagecoach was trying to block Anglia Trains from reaching South Hampshire; decreased after footfall increased by over 70%; continues to decrease outside the commuting peaks and is now probably the poorest service at any urban station in the South East and may soon have a worse service than when electric trains arrived 54 years ago.

Passenger footfall at intermediate stations between Southampton Central and Weymouth (ORR data), showing the effects of the 2007 cuts at Totton

Town stations (in order of town population)

Entries/exits 2001-2002

Entries/exits 2006-2007

% increase 2001-02 to 2006-07

Timetable change from 2007

Entries/exits 2011-2012

% increase 2006-07 to 2011-12





























New Milton







Dorchester South





















Suburban stations (in alphabetical order)
























































Village stations (in alphabetical order)





















Hinton Admiral







Holton Heath










































Station for ramblers and cyclists







Beaulieu Road















From 1967: Hourly Waterloo-Bournemouth stopping trains every day

Totton served by hourly London Waterloo-Bournemouth trains calling at Surbiton, Woking and then all stations except Southampton Airport. Totton-Waterloo journey time about 133 minutes southbound and 125 minutes northbound. Time reduced to around 85 minutes in peak periods, and in alternate hours off-peak, by switching to/from fast Waterloo-Weymouth trains at Southampton Central. One direct semi-fast train morning and evening for Totton’s London commuters. From 1974, connections with fast trains at Southampton Central increased to hourly all day, but the direct evening commuter train from London was withdrawn.

From 1977: Replacement Sunday service comprising hourly Waterloo-Bournemouth or Weymouth semi-fast trains and hourly Eastleigh-Lymington Pier stopping trains

On Sundays, subsidy restraints resulted in the fast Waterloo-Weymouth trains being withdrawn in the afternoon and the Waterloo-Bournemouth stopping trains being withdrawn completely. Totton was then served hourly all day by semi-fast London trains calling at Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Eastleigh, Southampton Airport, Southampton Central, Totton, Brockenhurst and all stations to Bournemouth. In the afternoon these continued to Weymouth, calling at all stations except Holton Heath, Upwey and Radipole. London-Totton journey times increased to about 90/95 minutes, but with the advantage for passengers of not needing to rely on connections. These trains were supplemented by an hourly Eastleigh-Lymington Pier service, calling at all stations except Southampton Airport. So Totton had its best service on Sundays.

From 1978: More stopping trains in commuting peaks

Start of small incremental increases in stopping trains serving Totton.

FROM 1980: Revised replacement Sunday service comprising hourly Waterloo-Bournemouth or Weymouth semi-fast trains and hourly Waterloo-Bournemouth stopping trains

Totton’s semi-fast trains were accelerated by removing the Sway, Hinton Admiral and Pokesdown stops. The Eastleigh-Lymington trains were discontinued, and the Waterloo-Basingstoke stopping trains extended to Bournemouth, calling at Wimbledon, Surbiton and all stations except Esher, Byfleet & New Haw, and Southampton Airport. So Totton continued to have more departures on Sundays than on other days.

1982: Sunday service returns to hourly Waterloo-Bournemouth or Weymouth semi-fast trains, and hourly Eastleigh-Lymington Pier stopping trains

Sunday services at Totton returned to the 1977 pattern.

1987: Later evening train from London

The 21.44 semi-fast Waterloo-Bournemouth service started calling at Totton on Mondays to Saturdays, as it had on Sundays since 1977.

1988: Start of building towards half-hourly fast or semi-fast London commuter service. Monday-Saturday off-peak service replaced by hourly Waterloo-Poole semi-fast trains and hourly Southampton-Wareham stopping trains. Sunday’s semi-fast Bournemouth trains extended to/from Poole.

Electrification was extended from Bournemouth to Weymouth. London and South East services had been re-launched as Network South East. Director Chris Green’s rule of thumb was that villages should have at least an hourly service and towns at least a twice-hourly service. In the Monday-Friday peaks, one fast and two semi-fast services from Totton reached London before 09.00, with two stopping services being overtaken en route. One fast, one semi-fast and one stopping service ran from Waterloo to Totton between 17.00 and 18.00. On Mondays-Saturdays outside the peaks, there were hourly Waterloo-Poole semi-fast trains from Totton throughout the day, usually operated by inter-city style Wessex Electric units. Journey time between Totton and London was about 90 minutes. Stopping pattern was Clapham Junction, Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Eastleigh, Southampton Parkway, Southampton Central, Totton, Brockenhurst, New Milton, Christchurch, and all stations to Poole.

Outside the peaks, these semi-fast services were supplemented by hourly Southampton Central-Wareham stopping trains, with 12-13 minute stops at Brockenhurst in both directions. These trains connected out of the fast trains from Waterloo, but had no corresponding connection in the opposite direction. On Sundays, the hourly semi-fast Wessex Electric services called additionally at Sway and Hinton Admiral, continuing to Weymouth in the afternoon with calls at all stations except Holton Heath, and terminating at Poole in the morning and evening. The hourly Eastleigh-Lymington Pier stopping trains were retained. So Totton’s basic service was 2 trains per hour in each direction.

1989: Later morning peak service to London, but Sunday service downgraded to hourly Waterloo-Poole stopping trains

An additional semi-fast service to London left Totton at 07.45 on Mondays to Fridays. With the Wessex Electrics’ doors malfunctioning because of excess weight through water ingress, units were withdrawn for concentrated weekend maintenance. Totton’s Sunday service was downgraded to hourly slam-door Waterloo-Poole trains calling at Clapham Junction, Woking, Basingstoke and all stations except Millbrook.

1990: Additional semi-fast commuter service from London, and Southampton Central-Wareham stopping services extended to/from Portsmouth Harbour

The 17.54 Monday-Friday stopping service from Waterloo was replaced by the Poole portion of a 17.56 Waterloo-Poole/Portsmouth Harbour semi-fast service. With electrification from Southampton to Portsmouth, the Southampton-Wareham stopping service became Portsmouth Harbour-Wareham, still with the long stops at Brockenhurst and directionally inconsistent connections at Southampton. The Sunday Waterloo-Poole stopping trains ceased to run beyond Bournemouth.

1991: Evening commuter service from London slowed

Monday-Friday evening services from Waterloo amended. The 17.45 semi-fast train from Waterloo no longer served Totton, and the Poole portion of a new, slower, 17.32 Waterloo-Poole/Portsmouth Harbour called instead. Journey time increased from 89 to 99 minutes.

1992: Semi-fast London services restricted to the Monday-Friday commuting peaks, early morning and late evening on Mondays to Saturdays, and winter Sunday mornings. Big increases in local journey times

With privatisation in prospect, rail managers started trimming services in preparation for competitive bids. On Mondays-Saturdays the semi-fast Waterloo-Poole trains left Waterloo eight minutes later to space main line departures more evenly. Totton stops were axed to increase recovery time. This meant journeys in both directions between Totton and New Milton/Christchurch increased by about 15 minutes, because of Brockenhurst layovers by the remaining Portsmouth Harbour-Wareham services. On Sundays, big winter cuts were introduced, with smaller stations closed until mid-afternoon. Up to this time, hourly services from Waterloo, operated by the Wessex Electric trains, served Clapham Junction, Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Eastleigh, Southampton Parkway, Southampton Central, Totton, Brockenhurst, New Milton, Christchurch, Pokesdown, Bournemouth, Branksome, Poole, Wareham, Wool, Dorchester and Weymouth.

1993: Changes for London commuters, Monday-Saturday semi-fast London services restored and stopping services cut instead

The earliest Totton-Waterloo commuter service was advanced from 06.17 to 05.57. In a reversal of the 1991 change, the 17.32 from Waterloo was terminated at Eastleigh and the 17.45 had its Totton stop restored. The Portsmouth Harbour-Wareham services were cut back to Southampton Central-Wareham. From October, they were withdrawn, and the Waterloo-Poole semi-fast services called additionally at Totton, Sway and Hinton Admiral. Virtually no off-peak services were left at Millbrook, Redbridge, Lyndhurst Road, or Beaulieu Road. 1994: Compensatory two-hourly Southampton Central-Brockenhurst services introduced on Mondays to Saturdays

A two-hourly all-stations service was introduced between Southampton Central and Brockenhurst on Mondays to Saturdays, to restore a skeleton service at Millbrook, Redbridge, Lyndhurst Road, and Beaulieu Road. With an hourly stopping service introduced also between Brockenhurst and Poole, the Waterloo-Poole semi-fast trains ceased to call at Sway and Hinton Admiral but continued to call at Totton.

1997: Evening commuter service change and Southampton Central- Brockenhurst trains extended to/from Winchester

Within a year of franchising, services had become famously unreliable because Stagecoach disposed of too many drivers in order to boost profits. However, the 17.56 from Waterloo ceased to include a Poole portion, and Totton was served by a faster 18.05 from Waterloo. The two-hourly service between Southampton Central and Brockenhurst was extended to and from Winchester, to improve crew utilisation.

1999: Fast hourly Monday-Saturday Waterloo-Wareham trains replaced the Poole trains. Slow hourly Waterloo-Poole trains (with station layovers) replaced the Winchester-Brockenhurst service. Hourly Waterloo-Bournemouth stopping trains all year, almost all day, on Sundays

Stagecoach introduced quarter-hourly Monday-Saturday daytime services between Waterloo and Southampton Central to thwart Anglia Trains’ plans to operate Norwich-Southampton trains via the North London Line. Totton was served by Wessex Electric trains leaving Waterloo on the hour for Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport Parkway, Southampton Central, Totton, Brockenhurst, New Milton, Christchurch, and all stations to Wareham.

It was also served by the 45-past from Waterloo, formed of old rolling stock and calling at Clapham Junction, Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester, Eastleigh, Southampton Airport Parkway, Southampton Central (10 and 15 minute stops in alternate hours), Millbrook (alternate hours), Redbridge (alternate hours), Totton, Ashurst (alternate hours), Beaulieu Road (alternate hours), Brockenhurst (18 and 22 minute stops in alternate hours) and all stations to Poole. Towards London, the slower Poole-Waterloo services stood for 19 or 24 minutes at Southampton Central. They were timed to wait alongside the corresponding services towards Poole, maximising the blockage of two tracks through the busy station.

On Sundays, Totton lost almost all its faster winter Sunday morning services, being served instead by additional Waterloo-Bournemouth stopping services all year.

2003: Hourly Totton-Romsey service all week. Daytime Waterloo services on Mondays to Saturdays halved.

An hourly Romsey-Totton service was introduced, serving a new Chandlers Ford station, promoted by Hampshire County Council. Totton now had three departures per hour on Sundays and five on Mondays to Saturdays. However, from September, the Strategic Rail Authority imposed a simplified timetable to mitigate the congestion and delays caused by Stagecoach’s blocking tactics. During Monday-Saturday daytime, Totton was served by the Romsey service and an hourly Waterloo-Poole service calling at Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton Airport, Southampton Central, Totton, Ashurst, Brockenhurst, New Milton, Christchurch, and all stations to Poole. On Sundays it was served by the Romsey service and hourly Waterloo-Bournemouth trains calling at Clapham Junction, Woking, Basingstoke, Micheldever, Winchester, Shawford, Eastleigh, Southampton Parkway, Southampton Central, Totton, and all stations. Totton now had three departures per hour every day.

2004: Morning commuter service reduced

Fast or semi-fast morning peak services were now leaving Totton for Waterloo at 05.45, 06.05, 06.36, 07.16 and 07.48 on Mondays to Fridays. From December, this was reduced to 05.48, 06.44, 07.16 and 07.45. The big gap was filled, extraordinarily, by a 06.06 Totton-Yeovil Junction, with a 15- minute wait at Southampton Central for a London connection.

2007: Romsey service ended. Monday-Saturday daytime downgrade, with slower replacement services overtaken by faster trains at Southampton and Brockenhurst (westbound) and Eastleigh (northbound)

When Stagecoach was seeking a third franchise period, it bid about half a billion pounds more than its rivals and withdrew the comfortable Wessex Electric trains, substituted cramped outer-suburban trains on many long-distance services, and increased overcrowding. A supposed benefit was to run two trains hourly between Waterloo and Weymouth on Mondays to Saturdays, but this has caused scheduling problems, reintroducing some of the congestion which the Strategic Rail Authority had sought to eliminate.

On Monday-Saturday daytimes, Totton’s hourly Waterloo-Poole trains were replaced by services calling at Clapham Junction, Farnborough, Fleet, Basingstoke, Winchester, Shawford, Eastleigh, Southampton Airport, Southampton Central, Totton, Ashurst, Beaulieu Road (occasionally) and all stations to Poole. These wait for a total of over 40 minutes on Southampton Central and Brockenhurst stops westbound. In the opposite direction, they just wait 6 minutes at Eastleigh. London to Totton journey times have grown from 84 minutes to 116 minutes.

This journey time can theoretically be reduced to 90 minutes by changing at Southampton Central, but the connections have always been very unreliable. In the event of late running, the Totton train will be sent to stand at signals along the line for the faster train from London to overtake. Totton-New Milton/Christchurch journeys take 50/59 minutes, but the return journeys 23/32 minutes.

Dr Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East, called the changes an ‘appalling outcome’ for the people of Totton. On 16.11.2007, DfT granted two members of the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group a meeting to look at possible remedies, but the Stagecoach representative was intractable.

The Sunday service pattern is little changed. The Waterloo-Totton direct journey time is 105 minutes, 11 minutes quicker than on Monday-Saturday daytimes. Totton-New Milton/Christchurch journey times are 25/34 minutes, 25 minutes quicker than on other days of the week.

The Totton-Eastleigh-Romsey service became Salisbury-Eastleigh-Romsey, with the exception of the train which formerly ran to Yeovil Junction, and continued to replace a popular Totton stop by a fast London commuter service.

2017 onwards: Prospects grow increasingly depressing

With a change of franchise much celebrated by regular rail users, Totton was promised better services. In particular, First Group agreed at a stakeholder meeting that the semi-fast Waterloo-Weymouth trains could split at Southampton Central into fast Weymouth and semi-fast Poole portions, the latter serving Totton. In addition, Bournemouth stopping services would run to and from Portsmouth to avoid delays of around 50 minutes for cross-Southampton passengers.

In the event, little happened because of strikes over guards’ duties on new trains which had not even been built, and which weren’t even destined to run in South Hampshire.

2020: Pandemic brings very limited ad hoc timetables on Mondays to Fridays

Saturday and Sunday services remained near-normal, but Mondays-Fridays saw a skeleton commuter service at Totton, and generally hourly Southampton-Bournemouth services during the daytime. The trains towards Bournemouth switched to the opposite side of the hour from normal, usefully eliminating the 25-minute stops at Brockenhurst but reducing connectional opportunities at Southampton Central.

2021:Reasonable London commuter service; truncated daytime service, and two-hour evening service gaps

The hour’s gap in the morning Totton-Waterloo commuter service has been filled after 14 years, with the substitute Romsey train now running as a standard service from Salisbury. The abysmal 2007 Waterloo-Poole daytime service operates from Winchester to Bournemouth on Mondays to Fridays and from Winchester to Poole on Saturdays, far enough to include all the long station layovers.

While many smaller towns and villages now have hourly evening services or better, the ever-growing town of Totton was apparently considered not to need any late evening services on Mondays to Fridays between the 20.05 and 23.35 from Waterloo. When the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group raised this issue, we were told passengers could catch the 20.35 from Waterloo and backtrack from Brockenhurst! However, the 21.35 from Waterloo now stops additionally at Totton and Ashurst, though not the 20.35 or 22.35 – in other words Totton is singled out for a 2-hourly service.

Sunday services and Saturday evening services are virtually normal.

2022: Retreating beyond 1967

The proposed peak service looks satisfactory. The proposed Monday-Friday daytime service is an hourly Southampton Central-Bournemouth stopping train, with no Brockenhurst layover. This is essentially the corresponding 1967 service, cut back between Southampton Central and Waterloo. The proposed Saturday and Sunday service hasn’t even been outlined. Totton, as so often in the past, looks likely to have a better service on Sundays than during the rest of the week outside the peaks.


National Express has reached an agreement to take over Stagecoach. Subject to approval, this is expected to happen before the end of 2022. Only bus services will be affected in Hampshire, as Stagecoach has already lost its rail franchises. It was also expected to lose its concession to run Sheffield Supertram from 1st April 2024.

Following the demise of the Darlington Bus Company in 1994, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission described Stagecoach’s behaviour as “deplorable, predatory and against the public interest”. The High Court refused to issue an injunction against broadcasting of The World in Action’s programme ‘Cowboy Country’ about Stagecoach’s business practices on 1st July 1996. Stagecoach’s legacy in Southampton is no bus station and no information office at Southampton Central station.


As always, thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to contact us. Without your support and input, this newsletter would be much less comprehensive. It is produced in good faith, based on reports and information from individuals and sources including the press and news websites.

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.

We do not process information of a personal nature and, in view of GDPR, we will maintain our approach that the names of those who contribute news items or articles will be acknowledged in newsletters only where they have indicated that they consent to this. So, when submitting articles or items for collation, please indicate if you would like them to be attributed to you.

Railways are a public service and our Group is open to any interested parties. This newsletter will be available on-line. Newsletters are e’mailed to recipients involved in the Group, and individuals or organisations who have asked to be included in the circulation list or otherwise have close links (for example, through HCC’s New Forest Transport Forums). If you receive the newsletter and do not wish to receive further issues, please let us know.

Address for correspondence: Denis Fryer, 19 Fontwell Close, Calmore, Southampton SO40 2TN. E’mail: denisfryer44@gmail.com