It has been two years since South Western Railway took over the South Western rail franchise, which covers services that stretch from London and its surrounding suburban areas to Dorset.
Yet the company is still plagued by issues such as punctuality and customer satisfaction that were often associated with its predecessor, South West Trains.
February marked another month of severe delays and cancellations across the network, with its Twitter feed inundated with angry passengers bemoaning the service.
@SW_Help @swtrains_watch another bloody breakdown .., on the 16.50 from Waterloo to andover …. CRAWLING along as train further down line is knackered … it just gets worse and worse … shambles of an operator, why so many breakdowns!!! Totally fed up with this shower now!!
— Johnathan Herbert (@JohnathanHerbe1) February 25, 2019
@SW_Help @SW_Railway I am genuinely sick of your useless service. It’s beyond a joke now. Completely unacceptable. Time to admit defeat and give up the franchise #SWFAILway #FailingFranchise @transportgovuk @swtrains_watch @railandroad @CommonsTrans @TransportFocus
— Susie Surrey (@SusieSurrey) February 25, 2019
Another day on terrible @SW_Railway-7:19 train from Hersham to Waterloo short-formed and no announcements as to why this is or why it was slow-moving as well, cramming us in like cattle for 10 extra minutes!Why do we pay for this so-called “service”? @SW_Help @swtrains_watch
— Jacqueline Holman (@jacquelinemh85) February 26, 2019
In a public apology to its customers, the rail operator identified the cause of disruption on 25 February and 26 February as being a train hitting an obstruction in Berrylands, south west London, and a points problem at Vauxhall.
Among those lamenting the service are prominent Liberal Democrats Siobhan Benita, the party’s 2020 mayoral candidate, and Ed Davey, the MP for Kingston & Surbiton, who himself has campaigned for improvements in the service.
More terrible service from @SW_Railway at Waterloo this evening with passengers waiting on delayed trains, no information and not a staff member in sight.
— Siobhan Benita (@SiobhanBenita) February 25, 2019
Their continued inability to recover the train service quickly after something goes wrong is lamentable.
— Ed Davey (@EdwardJDavey) February 25, 2019
Last year it was revealed that punctuality had declined in South Western Railway’s first year operating the franchise: 56.2% of services arrived exactly on time, compared to 61.3% in South West Trains’ final year (if defining ‘on time’ as within five minutes of stated arrival, than the figures are 83.4% and 86.2% respectively).
In an interview with Londonmultimedianews, Jeremy Varns of campaign group SWR Watch explained that such issues were leading to increasingly dissatisfied train travellers, both on South Western Railway and more widely in the UK.
Mr Varns believes that one of the foremost factors behind the poor performance is a lack of investment in the rail infrastructure and stated his belief that customers would benefit greatly if given a choice of a competing operator.
SWR Watch campaign for a properly funded transport infrastructure which they see as essential to the country as a whole; however Mr Varns is sceptical about whether Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s core policy of renationalisation will help to alleviate some of the issues on South Western Railway and further afield.
The latest bad press for South Western Railway comes at a time when it has been revealed that the company is one of three commuter operators who are facing a legal claim of almost £100 million due to allegedly overcharging millions of customers.