When I started my job at South Western Railway two weeks ago, I promised I’d regularly report back to you on the commitments I made on day one. That’s because I know it's been a very tough couple of years for everyone who uses our services and I want to be clear about what we’re doing to improve.
Here are some updates on what’s happened in the last fortnight and what’s coming up:
- Performance – I know there are still too many ‘one-off’ problems that cause you disruption, and I have to be honest and say I was incredibly frustrated that one such event took place on the first morning I was at SWR.
To address such problems, we’ve set up a new system so that every day we undertake a detailed review of what happened the previous day.
For example, if there is major disruption on a Monday evening, on Tuesday morning we review every detail of why it happened, including looking at how decisions were made. That means we can change how we operate the railway that very day if needs be.
- New and refurbished trains – as of last week, all our fully refurbished ‘Desiro’ trains are now running again on the long distance routes to Weymouth via Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole, and to Portsmouth via Woking, Basingstoke, Winchester and Fareham, Guildford and Haslemere, and stations in between.
That means if you’re travelling on those trains, you’ll now have brand new seats, tables, carpets etc, and WiFi throughout, providing more than 5,000 additional standard class seats.
We’ve also reintroduced some of our ‘Class 442’ trains, providing similar improvements for passengers on the London to Portsmouth route via Guildford, Haslemere and Petersfield & London to Poole route via Winchester, Southampton Central and Bournemouth.
- Open and honest about challenges we face – we’ve been lucky with the weather so far this winter, apart from some flooding before Christmas. But we know we’ll get snow and ice at some point, and it will cause problems. And that’s why we’ve put in place a winter preparation plan to head off any potential issues. You can read more about this on our website.
- Enabling our staff to help you – we’re looking at how to get better ‘real-time’ journey information and alternative route options to our station staff so that they can help you get where you need to be, when you need to be there. I hope to be able to tell you more about how we’ll do that in the next few weeks.
- Approachable and accountable – I’m planning to continue giving these updates every few weeks, so that you know what we’re trying to do and can see the impact it is having. But please do continue to flag up issues when you see them, and we’ll do our best to get them fixed.
I come to this post having had experience of running other railway operations. I believe that some of the things we are now doing with Network Rail will help us make some noticeable difference quickly. However, that experience also tells me that I have to be realistic about the challenges we face, and I will be honest with you about aspects of delivery we will find it harder to change and why.
I hope that some of you are starting to see small improvements, and our focus remains on making changes for the better as quickly and as safely as possible.