On Sunday 10 December 2017 a revised timetable will be in effect across the South Western Railway network. This will replace our current autumn timetable.
We work extremely hard to reduce the delays caused by autumn and winter conditions, in particular leaf-fall and ice. However, services may still need to be re-timed or altered. We strongly encourage you to check your journey before travelling. For more information please visit our journey check page here or speak with a member of station staff.
Please click here to download any of our new winter timetables (from 10 December).
Winter Weather Conditions
Winter weather such as snow and ice can cause disruption to all forms of transport, including road, rail and air services.
This presents a raft of new problems when it comes to our ability to operate the train service and Network Rail’s ability to maintain the rail infrastructure. From malfunctions on our trains to Network Rail signaling problems, and the issues created by snow drifts, the challenges to running a busy and effective train service in winter are varied and significant - but both we and Network Rail are doing everything we can to combat it.
No transport service can operate 100% in all weather conditions, but we understand that any disruption is frustrating for you. Here we answer some of the most frequent asked questions about the impact of winter weather on our services – and outline what we are doing to keep trains running and provide you with prompt and accurate information about your train service.
Our Network and Trains
We operate one of the most complex commuter rail networks in the UK. We operate nearly 1,700 trains a day, covering more than 600 miles of track and serving nearly 180 stations across South West London, Surrey, Hampshire and parts of Wiltshire, Berkshire, Devon and Somerset. The track infrastructure we use – as well as the signalling, points and third rail power supply - is owned, operated and maintained by our partners at Network Rail. Together, we run a dedicated 24 hour, 7 day a week operational Control Centre where we work to keep trains on our network running as smoothly as possible, as and deal with any disruption that occurs. We also keep you updated with the latest information on our services here.
Most of our trains – as well as trains operated by other operators south of the River Thames including Southern, Southeastern and Thameslink/Great Northern – are powered by electricity from a track-level third rail DC electrical system. This relatively low-cost system was introduced in the 1920s and 1930s and is different to the system used by trains which draw power from overhead lines. During normal weather conditions, the third rail system works extremely well and we are able to deliver a punctual service to our customers. In addition, we use a small number of diesel trains largely on the London to Salisbury and Exeter route which run without any requirement for electrical power supplies to move them.
The basic design of the electrification system used in South London, Kent and Sussex as well as our area means that it will never work perfectly during icy conditions. Replacing this system would require massive investment and long term planning due to the large area that uses it. These investment decisions would need to be taken by the Department for Transport in conjunction with South Western Railway and Network Rail.
We take your safety and the safety of our staff very seriously and we would never operate a train service unless it were safe to do so. Our focus is to ensure our trains and our stations can be used by our customers safely and with confidence and to do everything we can to minimise the impact of severe weather on our customers
Your safety is our top priority, and a huge effort goes into keeping the busiest areas of our network, such as platforms, stations and footbridges, as clear of snow and ice as possible. We have a large stockpile of ice treatment chemicals at stations and at suppliers. We have also updated all of our station snow and ice-clearance arrangements, buying new equipment where our internal review suggested gaps. Finally, we also have a “station adoption” snow and ice clearance scheme, whereby stations are adopted by back-office staff who live locally.
Some areas of our network have higher concentrations of trees close to the tracks. Embankments and cuttings can also cause accumulations of leaves, which can increase the likelihood of the problem occurring. Windy conditions and train turbulence also cause leaves to be blown onto the railway from other areas.