Improving our performance - Mark Hopwood update

Wednesday 26th February 2020

I want to update passengers on the progress we’re making to improve our performance, so more trains run on time on our network.

As a result of the work we have been doing since I joined SWR in January, there has been a gradual improvement to our overall service.

We’ve seen an improvement in the number of trains arriving at their final destination within 5 minutes of their scheduled arrival time since the middle of January. In the week beginning 12 January this figure was 74.3%, last week it rose to 79.1%.

Whilst this inevitably varies week to week, I am pleased that most weeks are seeing a gradual and consistent improvement.

There remains a lot to do, however. Performance is still a little behind where it was this time last year, albeit we have closed the gap from 13% at the start of the year to 4% last week.

We are working hard to address this, tackling various different issues including:

  • Removing temporary speed restrictions which slow down our trains – seven were removed in one week alone, saving 4,000 minutes from journey times. Compared to last year, this year we have saved 150,000 minutes by removing speed restrictions – the equivalent of 104 days. 

    We are continuing to work with Network Rail to identify more temporary speed restrictions which can be removed more quickly following engineering works. Mark explains further in his video below:

  • Recruiting more guards and drivers – we have 56 more guards and 49 more drivers in our operation this financial year compared to last, and we recruit an average of 12 new drivers every month.

    We also have 285 ‘contingency’ guards, who have other day jobs but can step in when needs be, with a further 28 currently in or soon to start training. All of this means services are less likely to be delayed or cancelled due to train crew being unavailable.

  • Improving signalling at Waterloo – we’re working with Network Rail to improve the signalling in to and out of the ‘throat’ at Waterloo station, through which 223 trains pass every weekday between 7am and 9am, i.e. a train just over every 30 seconds.

    These signal improvements are designed to help to reduce waiting times outside of the station, which I know can be incredibly frustrating.

  • Improving performance on particular lines – changing the types of trains we use on our Shepperton Line since the start of the year has already improved performance of that line by 5%.

    It has also meant trains on average arriving at the main line around 30 seconds earlier, and fewer trains joining the main line late – all of which reduces knock-on delays for our other services.

I know that not all of our passengers will have seen or felt the difference yet, and I am as impatient as you are for further improvements. But the hard work of our staff in the past few months is starting to pay off, and we are continuing to work tirelessly to build on the gradual improvements we have already made.