- major improvements planned to tackle overcrowding and provide better, more convenient journeys
- responses from 12-week public consultation will shape government’s plans for rail services between London and the south-west
Rail passengers in parts of the south-west and south-east can have their say over the future of their rail services by taking part in a government consultation launched today (12 November 2015).
Passengers, businesses and local councils are being asked for their views on how the next South Western franchise — which serves parts of Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight — can deliver the rail services that people want.
Major improvements to tackle overcrowding, boost punctuality and deliver better journeys are planned during the next franchise, which is due to start in 2017 when the current South West Trains contract comes to an end. Around 14% of all passenger journeys in the UK are made on the South Western network.
Rail Minister Claire Perry said:
We are determined to make journeys better for the growing number of customers who use these services, and this consultation will ensure passengers are at the heart of this process.
It is really important that people tell us what they think so we can take their views into account as we develop our plans, and ensure we deliver the improvements that passengers rightly deserve.
The consultation sets out the expected improvements for the next franchise, including the completion of planned major work at London Waterloo to lengthen platforms 1 to 4 and bring the former international platforms back into use, allowing for longer trains and more space. From 2017, a new fleet of 30 five-car trains is also planned to tackle overcrowding, in addition to the 108 extra carriages being introduced during the current franchise as part of a £65 million government scheme.
It also asks for passengers’ views on a range of other improvements including how the next operator can:
- improve journey times and punctuality, with new financial penalties for delays and cancellations
- significantly increase the take-up of smart ticketing, providing passengers with more convenient and smoother journeys
- take steps to improve customer service and compensation arrangements for passengers
- improve facilities for customers on board trains and at stations
- ensure that free Wi-Fi is provided across the network
- work more closely with TfL and Network Rail for the benefit of passengers
The next operator will be required to work with the council, community and stakeholders to develop plans to turn the Island Line, which serves the Isle of Wight, into a separate and self-sustaining business during the life of the next franchise. This will help deliver the services that local people need, while putting the line on a more sustainable footing for the future and reducing costs.
The work of the Peninsula Rail Task Force — which is looking at improving the long-term resilience of the rail network in Devon and Cornwall — will also be taken into account as the government develops its plans for the franchise.
The 12-week consultation closes on 9 February 2016 and is available on GOV.UK.