The South Western Railway Independent Performance Review

South Western Railway Independent performance review

Our blueprint to help us improve performance

In 2018, South Western Railway (SWR) and Network Rail recognised we weren’t delivering the standard of service customers expected or we wanted to deliver. While several challenges contributed to this, SWR had acted to commission an independent review of performance on the network. 

Chaired by experienced railwayman Sir Michael Holden, the independent report looked at every aspect of performance on the South Western network to establish why it has been in decline since 2011. Through its recommendations, Sir Michael’s report offered a blueprint on how performance could be improved for passengers. 

The report concluded several factors had caused a loss of timetable resilience and a degradation in service recovery capability during and after disruption. It listed growing passenger numbers, the management of train crew, the operation of longer trains, increasing numbers of speed restrictions, and ageing infrastructure as having contributed to the decline. Moreover, the Waterloo works in August 2017 and the move of the joint Control between Network Rail and the train operator to Basingstoke, had exacerbated the situation.

The report made 28 individual recommendations for SWR and Network Rail to address these issues, including: 

  • Making arrangements to review and analyse train service performance, and develop performance improvement plans  
  • Reviewing the Control Centre to ensure we better manage disruption and minimise the effect on passengers 
  • Addressing the inherited shortfalls in driver route and traction knowledge which can hamper service recovery and rostering
  • The potential performance improvement opportunities a consistent suburban fleet would offer, something South Western Railway identified before the start of the franchise 
  • Network Rail investing in technology to better monitor key infrastructure assets to stop them failing, and additional maintenance teams to respond to incidents faster
  • Network Rail safely removing speed restrictions across the network 

At the time of publication, Sir Michael Holden said: 
“Passengers on South Western’s routes have put up with substandard punctuality for too long. However, there is no one silver bullet that will quickly restore SWR punctuality to 2011 levels. 

“Instead, it needs relentless and focused effort over a long period of time, and some incremental funding. All of the parties involved - SWR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport - have a vital role to play in ensuring this can happen. 

“SWR’s passengers deserve nothing less.”

February 2020 – an update
Over the last two years since the publication of the initial report, SWR and Network Rail have, and continue to, work hard to address the factors that have contributed to the decline in performance on the network. 

More information on what SWR and NR has done to achieve and close a number of Sir Michael’s recommendations can be found below in the drop-down menus: 
Performance Management
Contracts and Relationships
Train Operations
Infrastructure Changes
Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewals
Control and Resourcing
Download the full report (PDF, 4.1Mb)

1 Draft determination for Network Rail’s Wessex route budget through Control Period 6, as set out by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). Final budget to be confirmed with publication of ORRs final determination in October 2018.
2 RSSB define Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) as “where the train driver is responsible for door operation and determining that it is safe to start the train, although other auxiliary members of staff may be provided on the train”. SWR has committed to continuing to roster a guard on all services.