South Western Railway 'not sustainable' in the long term

South Western Railway 'not sustainable' in the long term

Published by George Sharpe at 11:52am 22nd January 2020. (Updated at 4:58pm 22nd January 2020)

South Western Railway's 'not sustainable' in the long term according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

In a letter to parliament, he said the operator's financial performance has been "significantly below expectation", since the franchise began in 2017.

It's been put down to 'poor operational performance' and 'slower revenue growth'.

The train operators hasn't failed to meet it's financial commitments but the government's brought in contingency measures.

South Western Railway Class 444

Mr Shapps said even though South Western Railway have not yet failed to meet their financial commitments' the Department for Transport are preparing measures to make sure they're held to their financial obligations.

Those include:

  • A new, short term contract with SWR.
  • Tightly defined perfomance requirements.
  • Transferring the operation to a public sector operator owned by the Department for Transport.

The Transport Secretary also raised questions over the viability of the current franchising model of rail services, as many across the country are failing to provide reliable services. 

South Western Railway Train 2018

Mr Shapps said:

"Modernisation of the railways must come with reciprocal modernisation of the way the railway is operated. Passengers on SWR have already suffered significant disruption from industrial action by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), and this week the RMT are balloting for further strikes."

He went on to say:

"The railway is a public service. People rely upon it to support their way of life, livelihoods, education and healthcare, and it is why this government has committed to introducing minimum service levels during times of strike action."

A spokesperson for FirstGroup/MTR said: 

“As we indicated in the statutory accounts for SWR released earlier this month, we continue to be in ongoing and constructive discussions with the DfT regarding potential commercial and contractual remedies for the franchise and what happens next, as we seek to ensure the right outcome for our customers, our shareholders and the Government. We will be responding to the Government’s request for proposal in the coming weeks.”

A spokesperson for South Western Railway said:

“Together with Network Rail, we are working hard to improve our performance and have set up a joint performance improvement centre to address specific issues head on. Our new £895m Class 701 trains will begin running on suburban routes from the middle of this year and we are confident they will make a real difference for customers, helping to improve punctuality and providing extra capacity.”