Environment

Customers continue to bemoan South Western Railway service

Photo: Jarek Zaba

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.

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.

Photo: Jarek Zaba

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.

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.

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