Rail passengers on South West Trains, the UK’s busiest commuter network, will benefit from a £50 million package of improvements after the Department for Transport reached an agreement with the operator Stagecoach Group.
The agreement means millions of pounds worth of passenger improvement initiatives will be introduced between now and February 2017. Passengers will not have to wait for a new franchise to benefit from these initiatives and taxpayers will gain better value from public investment.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said:
As we spend record amounts on modernising our railways as part of our long term economic plan, our franchising programme is also unlocking considerable investment from train operators.
This package of improvements from South West Trains, with its strong focus on customer service, is very welcome and will make a huge difference to passengers on the many busy routes served by this franchise.
Planned improvements will include:
- more services and seats: More than 57,000 additional seats will be created through the introduction of 73 new evening and weekend services on suburban and mainline routes and through additional seating on existing services
- increased car parking: an extra 1,400 spaces by end of 2017 to accommodate growth at the busiest stations
- smarter journeys: a new online booking system and smart ticketing, allowing joined up journeys with London’s bus and Tube network
- improved customer information, marketing and fares promotions: a new website and mobile app, a customer relationship management programme to better understand passenger priorities, and promotional campaigns
- easier ticket purchase: 170 new easy-to-use ticket machines, including 90 with facility for customers to ask for help to ensure they get the best fare
- enhanced customer service: more visible staff on station concourses to help passengers; customer service NVQ qualifications for employees; mystery shopping and online surveys
Chief Executive of the South West Trains-Network Rail Alliance, Tim Shoveller said:
These exciting changes will deliver the biggest package of customer focused benefits for years. As well as the expansion to our smart ticketing scheme we are also introducing more staff to our concourses so that they are able to help passengers, face to face.
We’re also creating hundreds of new parking spaces across the network and introducing more than 57,000 additional seats to nearly 40 improved and extra weekday and weekend services on suburban and mainline routes across the network.
These new benefits follow a number of enhancements already underway to deliver a better service to passengers. These include:
- the roll-out of a £65 million investment in 108 refurbished train carriages for the network
- plans for a £210 million fleet of 30 new 5 carriage trains
- major infrastructure improvements at London Waterloo to accommodate the new trains
- a £7 million upgrade to the railway through Wimbledon, improving reliability and punctuality for hundreds of thousands of passengers
The current South West Trains franchise is due to end in February 2017. Negotiations have begun to extend the company’s operation of the franchise to April 2019.