South Western Railway set to increase services as lockdown restrictions ease

Thursday 06th May 2021
  • South Western Railway is set to increase services from 16 May.
  • New timetable will see 244 extra trains every weekday and more than 18,000 extra seats into Waterloo in the morning peak.
  • Timetable change will see an uplift from 71% to 85% of pre-COVID levels on weekdays, with weekends remaining close to 100% .
  • The increase in services will help SWR customers travel with confidence.

South Western Railway is set to increase the number of services it is running from 16 May, in line with the further easing of COVID-19 restrictions. With more parts of the economy opening up from 17 May in line with the Government’s roadmap, the increase in services will help SWR customers travel with confidence.

Weekday services will increase by 19% on current levels and morning peak capacity into Waterloo will increase by 31%, raising overall service to 85% of pre-pandemic levels. On weekends, customers will experience 92% of services on Saturdays and 99% on Sundays, compared to before the pandemic.

While passenger numbers remain relatively low compared to before the coronavirus pandemic, the increase in services will help support the reopening of the economy as more people start travelling again.

SWR’s move supports regional tourism, with the number of services to popular destinations, such as Bournemouth, increasing. The change also supports local pubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues as they reopen, with last trains from Waterloo to most destinations departing after 11pm, and services running even later on Friday and Saturday nights.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, SWR – like all train operators – has been supported by the Government and taxpayers, and so recognises the need to run an efficient service that closely matches demand, while helping facilitate social distancing.

As more people travel, there are likely to be times where trains will be busy and social distancing may not always be possible. Customers are asked to plan ahead, spread down throughout trains to make use of all available space and consider travelling outside the peak. SWR is making it easier for customers to do so by providing information on its website about its busiest services.

Rigorous planning has gone into developing this timetable to deliver the right level of service for the current situation, but SWR will continue to monitor its services to ensure that they continue to deliver for its customers.

Claire Mann, Managing Director for South Western Railway, said:
“We know there are lots of things to feel uncertain about at the moment, that’s why we’re doing all we can to make travelling with us as smooth and safe as possible.

“Alongside our wide-ranging COVID-safe measures, such as our enhanced cleaning regime, increasing services will help our customers travel with confidence.

“As more customers enjoy the freedom of travelling again, it is inevitable that there will be times when trains will be busy. To support social distancing, we ask customers to help us by planning ahead and considering travelling outside peak time - please check our website for information on our busiest services.”

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said:
“Our research shows that social distancing is important to help passengers feel safe as they return to the railway, so South Western Railway’s increase in capacity is welcome as passenger numbers begin to rise.

“Even so, social distancing may not always be possible, which makes information on how busy trains are, such as that provided on the SWR website, vital to helping passengers travel with confidence.”