LTUC welcomes re-think by South West Trains

14 March 2003

In its summer timetable starting in May, South West Trains is making some changes to its peak hour services to improve punctuality. SWT consulted LTUC and we concluded that in most respects the package is sensible and would be to the overall benefit of commuters.

However one aspect was not acceptable to LTUC - a proposal to withdraw two morning peak calls at Whitton - the 0750 and 0849 to Waterloo. In the new timetable these services will be worked by new trains which are slightly longer than the platform at Whitton. As a result of representations by LTUC, SWT have now identified a way of modifying the platform to enable the trains to continue to call. They tell us that the works may not be completed in time for the new timetable, so they are now looking for a temporary method of working to cover the interim period. LTUC will be pressing SWT to ensure that this is achieved so that Whitton commuters do not suffer even a temporary loss of service.

These changes in May are quite separate from changes in SWT London area off-peak services next September, which were recently announced by the Strategic Rail Authority. These are being imposed by the SRA without consultation and will result in significant loss of service for stations between Surbiton and Guildford and between Croydon and Guildford. They have been planned in haste and treat high frequency services to villages and towns in Hampshire and Wiltshire as being more important than services in London and Surrey.

Suzanne May, Chair of the London Transport Users Committee said, "Resolution of the problem at Whitton is a good example of how effective consultation between a train operator and LTUC can identify problems and lead to solutions. This is in stark contrast to the September changes where the SRA is imposing cuts and claiming (without providing evidence) that these will improve punctuality. LTUC is as keen as anyone to see train punctuality improved, but it cannot support it being done by making hasty and arbitrary cuts. Punctuality is a very complex business. SWT's plans for May seem well thought out; the SRA's for September do not. However we hope that our very real concerns about September will be given careful consideration before any final decision is taken. It would be unacceptable for passengers at stations such as Walton-on-Thames, Weybridge and West Byfleet to have service cuts which would leave them with poorer off-peak frequencies than they had at the time of privatisation."

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