South West Trains Announces £50m Improvements

South West Trains has announced a £50 million package of improvements.

It's under an amendment to the current South West Trains franchise agreement between Stagecoach Group and the Department for Transport.

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.

South West Trains says planned improvements will include:

More space for passengers:
·        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
·        Additional 1,400 parking spaces will be created at up to eight of some of the busiest car parks across the network by the end of 2017.  The first station to benefit will be Andover which will be completed by early January 2016

Improved technology and better ticketing:
·        New website and mobile app will make buying the best value tickets easier
·        A new online booking system and an expansion of our smart ticketing programme will allow joined up journeys with London's bus and Tube network.  Working closely with Transport for London (TfL) South West Trains is testing its Smart Card on the Oyster infrastructure. Some 15,000 smart cards have been issued to staff and their families for testing and a customer pilot is planned for this autumn when passengers renewing their annual season tickets on the Portsmouth direct line (travelling from any station between Rowlands Castle and Farncombe inclusive to London Terminals or London Travel Card Zone) will be contacted and offered the opportunity to be part of a customer smart ticketing pilot for travel into and around London

Enhanced customer service:
·        New Customer and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy including introduction of mystery shoppers, online customer service satisfaction surveys, further investment in community engagement schemes and NVQ qualifications in customer service for employees
·        Some 170 new easy-to-use ticket machines, including 90 with a facility for customers to ask for help via a video link, will help passengers get the best value fare for their journey
·        More visible staff on station concourses to help passengers face to face
·        More fare promotions and marketing campaigns will enable passengers to get access to the best value fares available

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 of 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 and 73 new services on suburban and mainline routes across the network.”

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.”

These new benefits follow a number of enhancements already underway to deliver a better service to South West Trains passengers. These include:

·        the roll-out of a £65m investment in 108 refurbished train carriages for the network
·        plans for a £210m fleet of 30 new five-carriage trains
·        collectively, these two projects will deliver a total peak-time capacity increase of around 30% by 2018
·        major infrastructure improvements at London Waterloo to accommodate the new trains
·        bringing the remaining four platforms of the former Waterloo International Terminal back into full use and then extending London Waterloo Platforms 1-4 to accommodate longer 10-carriage trains
·        a £7m upgrade to the railway through Wimbledon, improving reliability and punctuality for hundreds of thousands of passengers

Other changes include:

·        Two additional trains per hour between Basingstoke and Waterloo on Sunday afternoons (one from Salisbury and one from Portsmouth via Eastleigh)
·        Over 4,000 additional seats between Basingstoke and London on Sunday afternoons
·        10 minute faster journey times between Poole, Bournemouth, Southampton and London on Sunday afternoons
·        Over 1,600 additional seats between Poole, Bournemouth, Southampton and London on Sunday afternoons
·        New early morning train from Southampton to London at 05:20 and 0703 from Waterloo on weekdays
·        Half-hourly service on the Hounslow loop on Sunday afternoons
·        Half hourly connections through to Hampton Court until the end of service Monday to Saturday

The current South West Trains franchise will end in February 2017.  The DfT and South West Trains are seeking to negotiate an extension to April 2019 of South West Trains operation of the franchise.

Stagecoach has operated the South West Trains franchise since 1996, doubling the number of passengers using its services and driving forward a number of innovations to help customers. It has delivered a more joined up railway, improving integration between track and trains.

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