How franchising has changed in a seven year period

SWT’s performance crash: passengers pay the price

Paying the earth / being treated like dirt on SWT

NINE more South West Trains prosecution farces

Gunpoint robbery at Brockenhurst station

New GB Rail Timetable

Stagecoach bus within seconds of causing high speed rail disaster

Disabled man mistakenly left on Stagecoach bus parked overnight

One of six more Stagecoach bus fires dismissed as ‘extremely rare’!

Stagecoach branded “arrogant” and “insulting” by local authority

Stagecoach taken to court in US for anti-competitive activity

When passengers in the SWT area still mattered


Acknowledgements / Contact details

How franchising has changed in a seven year period


The Press Release to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s report ‘Passenger Rail Franchising’ stated:

“The system of passenger rail franchising is a complex, fragmented and costly muddle which is unlikely to provide the innovation and investment needed for the passenger railways of the future. The system has had a decade to prove itself, but has failed to achieve its core objectives.”

The South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group’s substantial memorandum (Appendix 1 to the report), stated:

“Some aspects of the rail franchising process remain opaque. We had no idea how franchise bidders were chosen at the pre-qualifying stage until “Rail” magazine recently reported that 80% of the available score is awarded for “demonstrating a proven track record of service delivery and sound financial management”.

On this basis, it is remarkable that Stagecoach has pre-qualified to bid for the South Western Franchise. Recent reports indicate that over the past decade the franchise has received £499m from public funds whilst building up the highest performance penalty for any franchise, of £54m. In 2002, confirmation of the second SWT franchise period was delayed when Stagecoach shares dipped to 10p and SWT’s performance continued to deteriorate.”

Our memorandum concluded:

“There are issues around the integrity of the franchising process. The evidence suggests that Stagecoach was unfairly favoured by the SRA in the first South West Trains re-franchising exercise and is seeking advantage in the current exercise by re-writing history and manipulating public perceptions.”


The West Coast fiasco. The franchise awarded to First Group and then returned to Virgin Trains, huge sums of public money squandered, and the franchise process found not fit for purpose.

The Virgin/Stagecoach partnership, from the start of bidding for West Coast, asked for more emphasis to be given to good customer service. Despite Sir Richard Branson’s celebrity bandwagon, such a change should have had the opposite effect from that which they wanted. Data for 2011 in the New Statesman show 266 complaints per 100,000 passenger journeys on Virgin’s West Coast, compared with 86 on the much greater range of services operated by First Great Western. Passengers have lost out again.

The outcome of the Virgin/Stagecoach challenge has resulted in Stagecoach, which long but unsuccessfully sought to take over National Express, starting to take over bus services from First Group, which has been seriously weakened. Stagecoach Chief Executive Brian Souter, unsurprisingly, is asking for other franchising exercises to proceed quickly.

Laidlaw report

The interim report of the Laidlaw inquiry quickly highlighted the following issues:

* The terms of reference of the inquiry did not cover the period between the award of the contract and the point at which DfT realised they couldn't defend against the Virgin court case, resulting in the extraordinary late night franchise cancellation. [para 1.3]
* DfT issued its own version of events to the bidders without reference to the inquiry tasked by the Secretary of State for Transport with working out what actually happened. [para 1.4]
* The inquiry wasn't given access to all the DfT documentation. [para 2.4.1]
* The suspended civil servants would be going through disciplinary proceedings before the inquiry worked out what happened with the result that the people who had already been identified as key individuals might not provide any information to the inquiry. [para 2.4.2]
* Franchising is apparently useless, transferring profits to the private sector while retaining risk in the public sector. [Para 4.7]
* DfT had not considered the impact of a future economic downturn on franchises previously granted. [para 4.20]
* The quality of the staff regulating franchises was well below that of staff employed by the franchising companies. [para 6.4.4] Members of our Group were well aware of this after a meeting with DfT and SWT at which SWT was allowed to get away with doubling off-peak journey times between the two biggest intermediate towns on the Southampton-Bournemouth route.
* Government cuts contributed to this sorry mess. [para 6.4.5]

Action by the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group

The third edition of our evidence-based document “A History of South West Trains” (to be posted on our website, www.shrug.info) was submitted to, and acknowledged by, the Brown Review of franchising (which will look at wider issues than Laidlaw). Copies also went to rail Ministers.

SWT’s performance crash: passengers pay the price

SWT missed three of its four peak-service performance targets in the 4-weekly period to 8/12/2012. The scores, with Charter Standards in brackets, were:

Main line punctuality: 86.3% (89%)
Main line reliability: 99.1% (99%)
Suburban punctuality 79.7% (92%)
Suburban reliability 98.2% (99%)

As usual with Stagecoach, passengers were to pay a high price. For example, when Network Rail introduced a local speed restriction, three morning peak Epsom-Waterloo trains had all stops after Motspur Park (including Wimbledon and Clapham Junction) axed for several days, and services from Chessington started their journeys five minutes early. This attracted numerous angry tweets, especially when passengers weren’t told about the axed stops and were carried past their destinations. More generally, numerous booked stops continue to be axed across the SWT network, on a daily basis, in a desperate attempt to bolster punctuality.

It’s not as though SWT is an efficiently timed operation. The following excerpt from SWT’s website says it all: “10:30 London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour due 12:07. This train has been delayed at London Waterloo by 10 minutes and is now 1 minute late at Guildford.”

So what hope from the Deep Alliance between Network Rail and SWT? Twitter revealed anger at its failure to cope with snow flurries and low temperatures on 5/12/2012. It seems pretty clear that the network wasn’t properly prepared with de-icing measures. Speed restrictions were imposed, and many trains were axed, delayed, terminated short of destination, or had stops omitted. SWT then produced an on-line survey asking “how we affected you yesterday”, knowing full well there was massive havoc.

Too often SWT doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing. From mid-afternoon on 4/11/2012, the twice-hourly dual-portion trains between Waterloo and Basingstoke/Alton were all reduced to 4-coach services between Waterloo and Basingstoke, with separate shuttles between Alton and Woking. For some eight hours this doggedly remained “due to a problem currently under investigation”!

It’s easy to see why SWT’s Portsmouth line was scored 76th best out of 77 routes in a Passenger Focus national survey. Disruption is endemic. On 5/11/2012 there were widespread major delays because of yet another SWT train failure. Passengers on the 18.15 from Waterloo took 5 hours to get to Portsmouth. On 21/11/2012, SWT’s website showed that the 22.30 Waterloo-Portsmouth Harbour was reduced from 8 to 4 outer-suburban coaches, and was “full and standing”. Off-peak overcrowding doesn’t seem to bother Stagecoach or Network Rail. Note posted on SWT’s website on 25/10/2012:

“On Sunday 28 October, engineering work is taking place between Guildford and Haslemere until 15:40 affecting South West Trains services between London Waterloo and Portsmouth. Work is also taking place between Barnham and Havant all day affecting Southern services between London Victoria and Portsmouth. Customers travelling to and from the Great South Run in Portsmouth on Sunday 28 October are advised to check the National Rail website before travelling as journey times are likely to be extended due to diversions or bus replacement services.”

Unsurprisingly, some of SWT’s Southampton-Portsmouth and circuitous Waterloo-Winchester-Portsmouth trains were advertised as ‘full and standing’.

SWT didn’t exactly provide the best possible service for people travelling home from London’s New Year celebrations either. Their website announced: “Please note that a queuing system will be in place at London Waterloo following the celebrations, and that queues of up to 2 hours can be expected prior to boarding trains.”

Paying the earth / being treated like dirt on SWT


Media reports suggest that steep increases in rail fares in recent years are close to a tipping point at which some commuters will be forced off rail travel with likely political backlash.

They might at least expect decent treatment in return for their huge outlays, but the opposite is too often the case. Twitter is further exposing how far Stagecoach’s ethos is diametrically opposed to that of people, such as Sir Herbert Walker, Sir Bob Reid and John Prescott, who believed that the interests of passengers should be paramount.

Passengers’ voices on SWT

“I’ve come away from the experience [of being interviewed after losing season ticket] feeling like absolute scum and totally dejected and disillusioned… For me, this experience has to be by far the worst customer experience I have had the misfortune to be on the receiving end of. If there was another train carrier I would have had no hesitation in switching there and then, but we are all restricted to one carrier per line. Things must change. Customers pay so much money and we just can’t be treated in this way.” [A commuter’s comments on the SWT Passengers Panel website]

“I can’t remember the last time I was so angry and upset. I was physically shaking, emotion choking my voice, a sense of genuine rage… He had publicly humiliated me, he had publicly degraded me and he had made me feel like a worthless piece of dirt... it was quite simply the most disgusting way to treat another human being, let alone a disabled one.” [Quadriplegic Geoff Holt on his treatment by a SWT employee]

The Southampton issue

When Lord Adonis undertook a nationwide fact-finding tour of the railways, he dubbed Southampton Central the low spot of his travels.

Is the station such a blot on the rail industry because fiercely anti-competitive Stagecoach resents running a station served by three other train operators and three other bus companies?

A passenger commented in Railnews, June 2011: “When I normally have to suffer the ‘every passenger is a criminal’ attitude employed by South West Trains in Southampton, I find that First Group’s friendly and proactive approach makes a huge difference.”

So perhaps the following Twitter dialogue should be no surprise. What is surprising is that Government tolerates people being treated like dirt years after the World in Action’s ‘Cowboy Country’ programme, which condemned and ridiculed Stagecoach, was allowed to be broadcast by the High Court on public interest grounds. If the police shouldn’t have to put up with abuse from Andrew Mitchell, why should rail passengers so often have to put up with abuse from Stagecoach?

[Caller] 15yr old stranded ALONE at S'ton Central, ticket mis-sold, staff REFUSED to spk to Horsham to verify new ticket! DISGUSTING!!

[Response] Hi, are they still there?

[Caller] It took 3 HOURS to convince 2 stations to TALK to each other & get him away with a ref number they kept arguing the validity of!!

[Response] Really sorry about that. Why did it take 3 hours?

[Caller] QUITE! S'ton refused to speak with Horsham. Ticket bought, ref given, argued over no. of digits, took 3 missed trains to sort!

[Response] That's really bad. Do you know who he was speaking to at Soton?

[Caller] Not till he gets home - staff signed ref sheet to allow boarding. Can you check roster for Soton? Will be complaining with names.

[Response] I can't from here I'm afraid. I would drop customer relations an email to explain situation http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/contact-us.aspx

[Caller] Thanks. Staff were 'too busy' to speak with us on HIS phone! He's only 15, how can you be 'too busy' to help a child?? Awful.

[Response] Once again, sorry. Hope you get things cleared up.

[Caller] not your fault personally, but sorry isn't good enough till he walks through the door! Can I have a mngr name to contact please?

[Response] Customer relations will be able to contact the manager on your behalf.

[Caller] Thanks. Will contact here again if no joy. What's the average response time to complaints?

[Response – note the lack of urgency] 1-2 weeks. Not good I know but we have had quite a few things go wrong recently! [Caller] No, not good at all really! He's still not home. We have to go to Horsham to 'vouch' for the ref no. Soton said was fake! Wow.

Assault by staff, rudeness, dangerous trains and stations, disregard for safety, no first aid, stops repeatedly omitted without prior notice, generally poor performance etc. etc; allegations tweeted against SWT reveal huge passenger confidence deficit

A few other comments raised on Twitter in recent weeks (with some abbreviations expanded and punctuation added for easier reading):

Priceless SWT horror stories

[Caller] Staff around to help & when I ran to the ticket office the man said he couldn't leave until the train did. Absolutely disgusting..

[Response] Have you spoken to the ticket office again (train looks to have left now)?

[Caller] There is no one available to help. It could be a matter of life or death due to your lack of / incompetent staff.

[Response] I agree, where was the dog when you spoke to ticket office staff?

[Caller] He had just jumped up onto the platform from screaming pain after he was electrocuted and a woman was trying to hold him down.

[Response] OK, I would have expected them to try and help in that situation. Sorry that wasn't the case.


[Caller] Someone stabbed at Wimbledon platform 8. Staff stood and watched - left public to first-aid victim. No trained first-aiders there?....... Are there always staff on site at Wimbledon trained in first aid? Three of them and they didn't even supply a blanket……. Since you won't respond I am writing formally to SWT customer complaints and will take it up with passenger group. Shocking.


[Particularly disturbing that this is from one of SWT’s many female tweeters]

[Caller] Says it all. Staff member 5ft8, bald, stocky. Richmond station. London bound platform. 3 minutes before I tweeted. Next to the café……. Why not? Are you afraid that if you look into it you might have to hold the individual accountable?....... Why can't you deliver it? Very poor. We have little enough faith in SWT as it is. You need to be open. #SWTcoverup……. Ah, the classic SWT fob off. Are they actually going to give me a real answer? Or just more platitudinal BS?.......Complete madness. Obviously staff assaulting passengers isn't really a pressing concern for @SW_Trains….Yes you have. And if you read my tweets instead of being rude you would see I have provided it…… So you're a manager and you don't know the process of accountability of your own company? That explains so much…….. Interesting... So staff assaulting members of the public is a regular thing???

[Caller] E’mailed you last week about an incident with a member of staff at Richmond, can someone please respond??

[Response] This gives you the response time scales. Please have a look at it.

[Caller] How about instead of that you actually respond, maybe look at what I do for a living. Maybe I should just sue for abuse?!


[Caller] Basingstoke to London Waterloo. The gentlemen needed help getting off at Woking but no-one was there…….. Don't really think a heavily pregnant woman should be the one having to help a blind man with a heavy suitcase get off his train.


[Caller] Your staff at Waterloo are BEYOND rude. Where can I direct my letter of complaint? SHOUTED at me not to go through Underground entrance that was left wide open - no sign saying shut. 0854 train to Epsom filthy too.


[Caller] Hi SW_Trains. I'd like to make an initial complaint about 'revenue protector' M-P- [full name shown on Twitter] He was very rude and aggressive.


[Caller] 2nd time I've heard guards shouting at passengers, the guy on plat 17 gate at w/loo just shouted 'shut up you f***ing...' Nice.


[Caller] Loving our super-miserable @sw_trains guard. Keeps advising we get off his overcrowded train, no apology, just advice to get off. Genius PR.


[Caller] Yes, I emailed again on the 24th of October and once more on the 8th of November. On all occasions, I got nothing……. I find it hilarious that @SW_Trains’ method of customer service is to ignore, especially when they are compared to another train company!

Daily misery

* Should this door on this Woking train be open whilst the train is moving?!?
* Waterloo to Portsmouth. Also known as the place that barely warranted a mention during Wednesday's chaos.
* Wide open revenue gates at Southampton Central. Think of all money you’re losing, but it's not commuting time is it?
* 17.37 Waterloo to Hounslow via Brentford 4 coaches instead of 8, 18.32 Waterloo to Basingstoke 8 instead of 12, and 19.00 Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour 9 instead of 10.
* Dangerous overcrowding again on South West Trains, empty first class, no bike space. Renationalise.
* Teddington to Shepperton. Not been on time for two weeks straight!
* No ticket office open at Farnborough this morning...? Why...?
* Do you have any update on the broken down train outside Cobham? My husband is stuck on board and no-one knows what is going on.
* Perhaps more ticket machines needed!!! Have missed three trains!
* Don’t bother Justine. You’ll only get a bog standard reply worth less than the postage stamp it’s sent with.
* So ruining my evening with a 2 hour journey last night wasn't enough for SWT. Train this morning is late with NO explanation!!
* Why lie on announcements? "Local buses will accept train tickets" - not if you don't tell them, or even your staff.
* Hello, might you think about putting on the heating on your trains? It’s rather chilly now.
* Do you know when ticket assistant is going to be back at Upper Halliford station? Buying extension ticket is impossible on the machine.
* Another delay, another train chucking us all off onto a very crowded platform.
* Was meeting passengers at Clapham 2 hours late from Exeter because you failed to put them on train to Paddington.
* [refers to extra trains run for sporting events] Yes, but you normally reduce services elsewhere to compensate. Worst train company in UK in my opinion. [after denial from SWT] Well, it does happen because I have experienced it. Why are passengers treated so badly by this train company?
* I'm not impressed today. Your customer sign said one place and your train went another!
* Twice in 2 months your ticket machines have short changed me. If no reply this time I have no choice but to start legal proceedings.
* Aware of bus replacement but Weybridge station didn't have proper directions to the location of the bus service.
* Paid twice for my return ticket from Leatherhead to Ashford cos your self -serve machine only gave my out ticket. How can I reclaim my money?
* Thanks for the reply. Southern staff were really helpful at Leatherhead but your conductor embarrassed me in front of all the coach...
* Please can you get the lights on the raised walkway at North Sheen fixed. Very dark & intimidating!
* 0550 to Waterloo cancelled!!! This happened last week too. Quite simply not good enough!!! [Reply: I am sorry about this. The 04.52 Southampton Central to Waterloo was run fast from Basingstoke, delayed by signalling for 19mins]
* Here we go again - departure board at Ewell West 'delayed'. I guess I should be thankful - 1/3 trains have been on time this week. [Reply: The train was delayed by a service with door problems ahead of it. This train has moved. 9.5 late at Ewell West.]
* I've been late for work 12 days in a row and it's starting to make me look bad. [Reply: Delays up to 12 minutes between the Raynes Park - Wimbledon - Clapham Junction - Waterloo corridor. Due to 2 earlier train failures.]
* Get your act together. You cancelled the 16:24 Epsom train and now you don't have a driver for the 16:39 ... It's a joke !
* It never stopped let alone opened its doors.
* It stopped on platform 7 but had no lights on and no one got on or off. Now on very slow Windsor service from Clapham.
* This train needs to make up its mind where it’s going. First it was Barnes and Waterloo and now it's going through all stations!!!
* Absolute rubbish from @SW_Trains again, signal failure so can't get to Waterloo.
* On the packed 17:35 from Waterloo to Poole and Weymouth. Any idea when it will leave?
* I do suppose you know the 19.12 is currently outside Waterloo full up but without any power going nowhere! Just checking !! [rescue train attached about 90 minutes later]
* So we don't have to go to Vauxhall, back to Waterloo, then find another train? That's what we're getting told.
* Still sat in the station in Dorset, but now no info about signal failure. Has it been fixed?
* Tremendously unpleasant journey to work courtesy of @SW_Trains train rammed (dangerously?). Good communications from beleagured driver though, bless him.
* Just lock that door and put an out of order sign on it. Delay people for crap reasons, then charge us a fortune to travel.
* Why has the 7.47am Hounslow train from Clapham Junction been 4 carriages and not 8 for the last 2 days please?
* Berrylands screens no information again.
* So if you're not delivering, why are we still paying the same rate? Shouldn't you offer automatic discounts?
* But it's a rubbish service isn't it, considering no trains to and from Basingstoke stop at Clapham for 3 hours of the day?
* Carriage 67164 has the faulty door. It's at the sea end as the train gets in Portsmouth Harbour
* How would I go about making complaints about your staff at Woking?
* Still waiting to find out why it takes a week to find out if you have found my lost property!
* Train to Waterloo (arrive 08.48) I'm on at the minute is dangerously overcrowded. People sitting in entrances and in aisles.
* Sort the toilets situation out on your stations. Pathetic. Either none or out of use. Piss poor.
* Basingstoke and now Eastleigh. None in use. None on main platform. Can’t go as miss my connection.
* Don't go to #raynespark station, it's dangerous and #SWtrains staff more concerned with red tape than safety!
* Dear @sw_trains please can you tell me why, when a train is delayed, you offer absolutely no updates to passengers waiting on said train?
* It wasn't displaying anything at all. It's like the screens decided they all wanted a holiday & packed off to sunny climes.
* Useless. 11 min delay at Surbiton, faster train in 2 minutes but no info & lies on your display boards. Crap service.
* Engage your brain & look at the time of my tweet. Why was there no information at the station & why say it's on time when delayed?
* No response? What a let down... #wantarefund
* Can you tell me what is going on at Woking? 3 trains cancelled with no explanation.
* Why no more departure screen on the concourse at Portsmouth & Southsea? Really inconvenient. Where did it go? We only have 'arrivals'.
* How long does it take to receive delay repay as I sent my tickets to you on 25th October but had no reply. How long does it take? [Reply: I would give it 30 days. If you still haven't heard anything tweet us again.]
* 0635 from Wandsworth Town to Syon Lane was cancelled - go on, what's your excuse this time?
* Just gone through Yeovil Pen Mill and we aren't stopping until Salisbury, passengers were only informed of this after Yeovil Junction.
* Very little information today. Very poor. Is the train that left Salisbury at around 10am going to be stopping at Clapham? 09.21 was scheduled to.
* You guys are terrible. I nearly died on Raynes Park station last week due to dangerous gap and nobody even looked at it!
* You have the full report on record and I tweeted you this a week ago. Your staff have noted the station down wrong in my report. Your official customer complaints team (chased again today & told they had a 'backlog' of complaints of a similar nature)
* Train in front of me is stuck at the platform at Clapham Junction with a brake problem. Something like this Every Sodding Journey.
* Any idea why a train arrived at 7:50 at Ewell West - Waterloo? No info on the station. Seems like the usual fast train has stopped?
* Why do the trains rarely run on time #pathetic service #overpriced service # will you ever learn how to run the service on time? * There is only 1 working ticket machine at Sunningdale. This is a busy station so please rectify this as I may get a penalty fare.
* Why do I get an email alert saying there is no known disruption then I get to the station to find disruption?!?!
* I did actually want an answer from you guys.....
* Why no announcement made until just after 07.22? Could have got on the 07.18 had I been told earlier.
* Delays! What about the masses of cancellations? Do I get a refund for having to take a taxi cab?
* Why was NO announcement made that the delayed 17.29 Staines to Waterloo would be fast to Waterloo.
* Was sat at station for 13mins. No announcement. Get on train, no announcement. Train leaves Staines then announcement is made.
* Every single train is delayed this morning! Is this usual? Because it sucks. Late for doctors, then late for work!
* My 9.19am train from Woking is 3 rather than 6 coaches and currently stuck outside Clapham. Am not happy!
* Then why was it not advertised on the board as a fast service going from Raynes Park directly to Worcester Park?
* How exactly you dim wits, as the roads are flooded?
* It's great when you get on a train. It leaves and then they tell you it is going fast to Waterloo.
* Used to be quite polite & respond. Now they continually ignore tweets. Bad social media etiquette! Do it properly or not at all.
* Hi, how are Dorking trains running tonight? Any chance of them being on time once this week during rush hour?
* Any particular reason why the air conditioning is blasting out cold air on the 7.30 Southampton - Waterloo? Everyone is freezing!
* That's really helpful. Which idiot set it to full blast, cold air in November?!
* Where are services from Wimbledon to Kingston and why is there no information about it?
* When there is no live rail information at Vauxhall, you should tell your guards correct train times! #cold #delayed#annoyed
* The 1945 from Andover to Waterloo, already 10 minutes late, just went straight through Andover station without stopping!! [Reply: It couldn’t brake in time on wet rails]
* Ignored by @SW_Trains once again. Maybe they'll listen once I am injured or worse by guards closing doors in my face. (?)
* Not good. This was in the middle of the afternoon too. The doors couldn't have been open for longer than 15 seconds.
* Me too, train so punctual it wants to BEAT the timetable. Not good enough SWT
* 2nd time this week you have run trains "fast" on Richmond line to Waterloo incompetence. No point in a train if it does not stop!
* 23:05 from Waterloo is leaving late because we're waiting for the CREW?! There's a train brimming with people waiting here!
* Thanks for ruined Friday night: you are the "best".
* During the year, because of @SW_Trains problems I lost more than two days. Is a lot a time.
* Seriously @SW_trains, why is it acceptable for you to cancel a train that is functional, just because you feel like it?
* Low blow there but don't avoid the point, get a backup driver and someone new on the twitter account.
* @SW_Trains still waiting. 135 minutes.
* Looks like you have big company bad habit, don't answer on questions.
* When you're putting on a rail replacement service, why not run one rather than leaving us out in the f--- cold
* That's all very well, but we got in at 10. The bus isn't due to go until 11.
* Charged me £48 because I didn't have to hand the rail card I could produce once I got home? Better customer service in Nazi Germany.
* Why are your trains ALWAYS delayed??? You make my Monday mornings that much more miserable!! Sort it out! Thanks.
* All very well to apologise on behalf of SWT but I pay £1600 a year (& counting!) for my ticket & lost count of delays this year.
* The level of service on the Barnes line has been a disgrace. Little information, mostly wrong, on platform, twitter and website.
* In the 3 months I've lived on your route, 6 trains have left and arrived on time! 3rd week in a row that Mondays screwed! Ridiculous.
* All your trains are still late though...every day these days! Today, more so than ever.
* I would like to know when the next train is actually coming into Kingston as you keep deciding to change the times! Sort it out.
* Waterloo. The 6.52am shown as delayed. Then disappeared. So I missed the slow train. 30 minutes wait in the end!!
* No trains from Kingston for the last half hour and an empty one came rolling past - any ideas!?!
* What on earth is going on today at Woking? No information boards and trains all over the place?
* Waited 40 minutes at the station to be told there's no trains. Cheers @SW_Trains.
* Can't get onto the trains at Norbiton...when will the next train get here?
* That is now two trains gone past, no information on displays and I have been standing here for 15 minutes in the pouring rain. #typical
* They tell us at Feltham lots of us can get a bus to Hatton X for the tube. Awful.
* 'Overrunning engineering works' f**ck!!! I've been waiting at Twickenham for an hour now!
* Very poor this am to cancel 06.12 Reading-Waterloo 1 minute before departure time. I'd watched alternative trains leave while waiting for it.
* No trains at Mortlake..We think?? No staff here, no announcements… how about showing some interest in your customers!!
* Thanks for the lack of announcements at Isleworth over the 09.34 being cancelled. Is the 9.49 turning up? And why no information?
* From Raynes Park to Richmond, but I'd actually like to arrive today so I'm getting the bus.
* Could you not just try and be on time?! Just once a week would make me happy....
* Customer Information System on the up platform at Syon Lane is showing the time only, no trains. Are you aware?
* Poor show @SW_Trains: your web site says nothing about the causes of today's travel chaos and has no apology #complacent
* Please fix the live info screens at Ascot. With apparently no staff and a shoddy service I need to know just HOW shoddy it will be.
* Every single screen displaying nothing for the last 2 days. Also no speaker announcements and no responsible adult in charge. POOR.
* 5:58 from Guildford to Waterloo via Epsom has only 4 coaches. Causing people to run and overcrowding (at this time if day!)
* Train formation issues on the Portsmouth mainline tonight - 12 cars down to 8 - happened two days running now. Why is this train running at a snail’s pace to Haslemere again? This has been every night for over a week
* I ADORE how @SW_Trains are selective about when they reply to tweets. Poor customer service, that.
* More @sw_trains woe, train has a mechanical fault but driver is going to try and "keep it moving for as long as possible" outstanding stuff!
* Beyond a joke now. Freezing up to London and now on return train again. Guard and driver can't touch it.
* Morning @SW_Trains, parking at Havant went up 9% on top of fare rises; you seem to work in 50p units will it be 8.3% next year or 4.2% cap?
* Considering the constant fare rises you'd have thought the staff would be competent and open the right doors of the train.
* Surely it cannot be the same excuse 2 days in a row - pay for more train maintainers!!!
* I have been catching the 18.02 from Wimbledon to Chessington North every weekday since September - never been on time once. Explain?
* Self-service ticket machines down, any news as tomorrow is the last day I can pick it up? Thanks.
* The 7.50 has just been called and a train just come through FAST without stopping! There was no warning to stand back!
* Waiting for delayed train. No announcement. Realise I'll miss appointment. Leave station. See train go! NO ANNOUNCEMENT. Very poor service.
* Any reason why the heating is never on, on the 08.19 Winchester - Portsmouth train but always on for the return in the evening?
* Seriously though, some kind of explanation as to why it's CONSTANTLY late would be great. All we get is "sorry".
* This is been going on for the last couple of weeks now! I m getting home at 19:30 instead of 18:50!!
* Do you have any lines where you consider that performance HAS been good enough?
* Crap start to weekend thanks to @SW_Trains. Barnes platform full of fed up people.
* Well that's not what we've been told! Congratulations though, late 5 days out of 5. Bravo!!!
* Tried that, failed miserably. Frostbite is setting in.
* The 8.34 from Motspur Park for the second time is direct to Waterloo. Great for me but I can't help feeling sorry for everyone else.
* Why only ONE measly train from #Surbiton to #ClaphamJct between 8.12 & 8.57? An hour later there are FIVE+ in that length of time.
* Why couldn't the man in the kiosk top up my oyster card this morning in Hampton Wick even though he wasn't serving anyone? Crazy.----- He just said I had to join the queue for the machine. Of which there is only one.
* Do the ticket machines at Waterloo use an old dial up line to connect for card payments!? Takes ages to process and causes queues.
* Monday morning...typical @SW_Trains. Sat outside Basingstoke for 10 minutes. Any particular reason why?! #swtrainsareshit
* Waiting for the 7:46 from Farnborough and it’s now saying due at 7:58.
* I do love standing on a freezing platform in the rain thanks to @SW_Trains #southworsttrains
* Only half ticket printed. Charged for all. Missed 2 trains waiting to fill in form, couldn’t wait any longer. Can I do it later?
* Disappointed that we couldn’t intercept it while it’s still on the train. Wait until Friday to see if it gets handed in is poor service
* Morning, Why are trains running fast from Motspur Park to Waterloo again?
* Perhaps the heating could be turned down on this @SW_Trains. My leg's burning!
* 07.30 from Worcester Park, non-stopping after Motspur? Making it up as you go along?
* These continuing delays are unacceptable.
* Stopped at Motspur Park then went all the way through to Waterloo!
* I still haven't heard back to you regards my previous tweet sent on 30/11/12. It seems like nobody wants to answer me.
* Where is my train going tonight. You don't know? Oh, yes you do, no you don't. Not taking me home on time again is it though!
* Just kicked us out in the freezing cold at Teddington. Thanks
* Minutes delayed: 90, which was 40, is now 10! Lack of clarity and consistency of estimates & causes of delays really not helpful . @SW_Trains
* Two near empty trains have passed us at Teddington but not stopped. What's going on? No announcements at the station.
* I have been waiting at Kew Bridge for half an hour, two trains have come past in the last 5 minutes and neither stopped. Fed up!
* Seriously frigid freezing, when is next train from Norbiton to Waterloo please, that won't be so crowded I can't get on it?
* Kew Bridge to Waterloo but I gave up, 40 minutes of standing on a wet platform and no idea when the next train was stopping.
* Any chance you can tell us which trains are running so fast so we're not playing commuter roulette? Particularly Shepperton-Waterloo.
* What is happening with the 7:47 from Woking? Apparently it isn't going anywhere and the guard says it "needs rebooting"??
* Thanks @SW_Trains, you've decided to change my train, so I can't get to work. What I do now is anyone's guess. Cheers.
* I'm trying to get to Syon Lane on the Hounslow train. Was helpfully informed by the driver that it was no longer going there.
* The lights in my @SW_trains carriage are only half working. Think lots of people are enjoying the opportunity to sleep a little easier...
* There aren't enough words for the incompetence of the announcers at Putney station today!
* SNOW: First reports of snow on the network this morning #MartinsHeron. #WinterIsComing :)” and delays will be diabolical ..useless.
* Appears I paid you decent money tonight to travel on a bus between Southampton and Bournemouth at 2am and direct the driver. You are shambolic.
* I just spent £40 on a taxi from Wimbledon to Epsom because of your lack of service - despite station saying trains were running.
* Not exactly impressive to run half a service...badly. Not seen anything to celebrate today.
* Staying late to help resolve avoidable issues doesn't really cut it. Worst service I've ever had from @SW_Trains today.
* Took me over 5 hours to get from Addlestone to Waterloo. I'll be working early/late "unpaid" for days to make up time.
* Cripple a network the size of this one. You never learn from mistakes or show how you'll improve things for the future. Poor.
* No managers at Woking to help passengers; are there any trains for Alton coming soon?
* Stop bullshitting me. My train is 45 late already. THERE IS NO SNOW.
* I am pregnant & just practically got trampled & squashed at the hell that is #Waterloo - no trains because of snow – ridiculous.
* If the conductor rail was icy, why did you not run the diesel trains past Basingstoke? #commonsense
* Poor @SW_Trains and their icy conditions - makes you wonder why anyone bothered building a Trans-Siberian railway #can’tcope
* @SW_Trains covering themselves in glory! No driver for train! Moving off now 10 minutes late!
* I did see that, it's not hugely clear, and after spending 4 hours commuting this morning, a little help would be much appreciated.
* Don't get me started on them. They have given me a day from hell.
* In this time of austerity and unemployment "It’s not my job mate," is still a viable answer from @sw_trains staff.
* What I NEED is a member of your staff to help me, NOT a web form I can't fill out on my phone.
* Now stuck between Wimbledon & Waterloo as too many trains in station! Thanks! What should've been a 3hr round trip = 6 so far!
* Announcement: "There are no working toilets on this train" Last time I looked, there are a million plumbers in the #YellowPages
* Caused my journey, that usually takes 25 minutes, to take over an hour. Thus causing me to be almost 2 hours late home.
* Where's the 'expletives used on the day' text box?
* Your service over the last two days has been shit! Considering the amount of money I pay for travel.
* Norbiton-Waterloo. Just got on. 11 minutes late, missing my connection. Thank you so much for starting my day in the right way..again
* Another day, another wait for a @SW_Trains train. Is this going to be the norm again this winter?
* You couldn't stop at least at one major station!? Now have to freeze my arse off in mid-nowhere & wait for next train!
* If I was able to interchange at any one of the stations you mentioned I might get to work on time. Now assured not to! #thanks
* Just a quick question. When something goes wrong like today why does everything stop going to Alton and terminate at Farnham?
* Just don't ask the commuter for daft data that you have the answer to, that's not a survey. That's faking interest.
* My Dad has had very bad rudeness of staff too, so I’ll ask him to contact watchdog & your starting to ignore again.
* Sorry to tell you this, but most of your staff at Southmpton Central look grumpy & fed up, & looks like they don't enjoy their jobs.
* High pitched whine coming from vent above the toilet in 450-66809 - more annoying than the screaming child in 1st class!
* Amazing, 'poor rail conditions' blamed for the 11 minute delay. It's raining, lightly. So far all 7 of my @SW_Trains journeys have been late this week. Twice >40mins late. And no public announcements at Teddington, not even automated.
* Extremely rude revenue guy at end of platform 15 at Waterloo this morning, blocking people getting on platform 15...
* Empty train calling at no stations, people on 7.15 standing all the way.
* Stuck on train after Petersfield, what's happened?
* Don't worry, people will LOVE that. All crammed in. Lovely! And hey, we are paying to be transported, not for comfort and dignity.
* Don't let anyone complain. Oh, I was reading on Wikipedia about French cattle trains. They get GREAT use of every square foot.
* Trying to get the @SW_Trains 10.03 @ Eastleigh and they locked the doors and left EARLY while there where people trying to get on!! [Reply: The train doors will close 30 seconds before departure. This is to ensure that the train is not delayed.]… I know I catch this train every day it was before 30 seconds. * Why can't I buy a travel card for after 9:30 till after 9:30. This is causing a huge queue.
* So what are you giving everyone you've inconvenienced over the last few days? Refunds? Price freezes?
* Not much good for those of us stuck on a delayed train. Too much to ask for one journey a week to be trouble free?
* Sorry I don't believe you. Taken 20 minutes just to go to Clapham Junction.
* What's the problem today? Too breezy? Bit cloudy? Wrong kind of moonlight? Not one train on time this week...
* They like to ignore you if you comment on #delayed#cancelled #changed trains! No care for paying customers.
* This must rank as one of your worst weeks ever performance-wise.
* Worst ever month.
* How come you know the 23:12 will go via platform 6 at Clapham Junction and Southfields tube but you don't know which Waterloo platform?
* Is there anyway I can pay my fare at Waterloo, ticket machine at Hampton wasn't accepting any of my coins.
* Literally every train I've taken in the last fortnight has been delayed 9/10 without explanation - top job @SW_Trains.
* So will the 7.22am from Epsom to Waterloo be back to normal tomorrow morning, ie stop at stations it’s supposed to? Thanks..
* Thanks @SW_Trains for telling me my train’s delayed but not actually telling me how long or why. #useless
* Not from where I'm standing (Richmond station), they aren't! Still all cancelled say displays.
* I would respectfully suggest that you not refer to 20-minute delays as "short."
* How do we go about reclaiming the cost of the bus ticket I had to buy due to the train terminating at Wokingham on my way to BCE?
* Wow, your customer relations is as poor as your train service! Still no response from Wednesday’s email. #ConsistentlyPoor
* Any reason? Or just the usual bullshit service we expect from you guys?
* Thanks for cancelling my train with no explanation this morning. And for putting up train fares next year. Great customer service.
* 'Sorry for your delay this morning we are currently trying to locate your driver' what a load of chimps!!!
* No it hasn't, you ran it fast from Haslemere to Guildford so you could preserve your stats. Shame on you!
* You have made me late again! Maybe you should give info on delays to Windsor and Reading?!
* Couldn't top up oyster at Tolworth (ticket office shut/machine out of service) and can't find train guard - Will Vauxhall understand?
* Not impressed with the amount of delays/cancellations in past week.
* South West Trains can't rectify its biggest problem, its own level of service.
* Strange that you did not inform that 1850 W'loo to Salisbury is formed only of 3 coaches, making it packed up.
* A first even by @SW_Trains standards: the 17:39 doesn't bother to turn up and they don't bother to explain why. #southwesttrainsareshite
* So by the time I finally get home that's a nearly 2 hr journey instead of 1hr. Classic !!
* Waiting for a connecting train to St Margaret’s, sat at Richmond - it's freezing and the due time of train keeps changing.
* Late this morning - late this evening . SWT can you please tell me what your % punctuality rates are between Waterloo and Richmond?
* Hello, was this the 15:50 from Waterloo to Reading?” Hi - yes it was… This train is showing as 2 minutes late. I will ask why it did not stop.
* Great probs gonna miss my train at Ascot. Thanks @SW_Trains ... NOT!!
* What's with the cold air being blasted out? Freezing!..
* Waiting on Andover platform for 30mins+ because of a delayed train with the waiting room CLOSED is bullshit, f--- you @SW_Trains
* So what's excuse tonight for the dreadful time keeping of the 7:41 to Waterloo from Twickenham?
* 18.30 Clapham Junction - Hersham service was too full to get on AGAIN. Have an appointment to make. Please give me address for taxi receipt.
* 18:09 from Surbiton to Basingstoke is showing as on time, clearly isn't, is there any info at all?
* I really don't appreciate your snarky and sarcastic response when urgently asking for help!!!
* I asked for help 10 min after leaving by bag on the train to Alton and the person at the information was extremely unhelpful.
* Why did the train leave 5 minutes early from Chessington North this morning?!? Not good....
* Why is there cold air conditioning pumping into the carriages instead of heating? #nocommonsense #freezing
* Please can the manager set up a queuing system for the ticket machines on the concourse at Waterloo?
* Will your introduce delay repay? Give US something back for all the delays. It is everyday we suffer.
* Your service is a f---ing impasse. It’s so shit, it’s impossible to be worse. See what I did there!!
* 9/10 of my trains were delayed the other week. Should we just accept that the trains will always be late?
* Why are you cutting back on ticket office staff yet increasing the number of penalty fare collectors at Clapham Junction?
* Yes, but the ticket I need (Boundary Zone 4 return to Southampton C) can't be bought at machines. So that's useless.
* Of the last 30 trains I've caught at Isleworth, Clapham J and Southampton C, 4 were on time. How do you keep your job?
* The 158 on 2B91 this evening was leaking from above the luggage rack above seat 50 in the quiet zone! Woke me up though!!
* How can I get a report on the actual arrival times for the 07.42 and 08.12 from Chessington to Waterloo for past year?
* Is there any reason why the 8:43 from Weybridge to Waterloo leaves at 8:42? Not allowing anyone on connection to catch it?
* They'll pull the old ‘it leaves 30 seconds before departure time speech out’ even though it always leaves a min before.
* What annoys me is that it's there with the doors open whilst connection pulls in then, soon as our doors open, it goes.
* Please let me know why 08.02 Surbiton is not calling at Clapham Junction and why we were only told once we were all on the train. Thanks, I'm late again.
* 11.37 train from Portsmouth and Southsea cancelled. No information given. No help offered to customers. Thanks.
* In my gym kit, chasing the sun to stay warm whilst waiting for my delayed train. Could you not have a waiting room open? #freezing
* Nothing at the station telling us where the buses were leaving from. Several confused passengers; we had to call.
* Why is SW Trains not supporting local businesses at Andover station? Gerard's coffee and Ken’s papers not given a chance?
* Why are you trying to force local coffee and paper businesses out of our station? Consult with your customers first?
* Excuses for tonight’s awful service to Teddington?
* 18:42 to Shepperton? In the past 2 weeks I’ve had massive delays on at least 6 occasions, it’s woeful at the moment.
* Ohh @SW_trains, it would have nice to be told my train wasn't going to anywhere else after Motspur Park today... would have been nice for them to have mentioned it *before* we arrived at Motspur Park rather than after we had left...
* Is the 8.04 from Motspur Park really only calling at Waterloo?
* Been sat on train at Waterloo for 30mins. So far not one on-board announcement. Why are your guards so shy?
* Chaos at Waterloo. Unclear / lack of announcements on which trains are running. Terrible service by SW Trains.
* Am at Clapham Junction waiting for the 20.12 to Christchurch. What time is that likely to arrive?
* Some information at stations would be appreciated.
* Too late- forced to travel from London Bridge to Ewell East & walk in dark to Ewell West- as a single woman that's not safe!
* So where is the power? 101 mins delay so far.
* Been stuck standing on a packed train for half hour outside Vauxhall. Any update please?
* Why has the departure board at Guildford been replaced with next fastest train? Confusing and harder to understand when in hurry.
* Again 8:07 Raynes Park to Waterloo cancelled. No reply to my question yesterday! I guess there are just no answers for poor service!
* Shocked at how tragedy at Earlsfield turned into customer service fail tonight - zero info to customers at Waterloo.
* 2 hours later, people fainting on train etc. #notcool
* Any idea why trains through Wimbledon are all running late? Dearth of announcements as usual.
* How do I get an extension ticket when your machines don't do them, guards don't carry machines and ticket office is closed?
* Asked the guard, he just said he couldn't help. Not risking a £20 fine, so stopped at CLJ & missed my connection.
* You breached your contract with me yesterday, and I had to pay for a taxi to rectify your failure. Where should the receipt go?
* Please can you explain to me why my 8:42 from Chessington North has not reached London Waterloo on time for well over a month now?
* Your service this week has been a joke!! How do I claim compensation and make a complaint? Can barely breathe on this train.
* Just please sort it out and run a proper service! Fed up with dreading the journey every day!
* Any particular reason why the 08h25 is cancelled from Ewell West to Waterloo? Just what I need after an horrific 3hr journey home last night.
* Third day in a row my train has effectively been cancelled (from Worcester Park). Any explanation, none was given on train?
* Morning @sw_trains how are you today? I'm bloody freezing at Barnes Bridge because you cancelled my train (09:01). Why was this?
* Are you fibbing? Cos it just flew past us here with people on board and according to your live departures is stopping at Putney?
* So there's no fault on it. You just diverted it because it was even later than it usually is? Rather just hear the truth first. Thanks.
* You kindly ignored all of my tweets after the chaos last night & the trains are still in a mess today. Really not good!
* Barnes Bridge to Clapham, but I've given up on your trains & have opted for the bus.
* So I get to Clapham, and my train just shown as delayed. Again! You really are outdoing yourselves @SW_trains.
* hi, can I get my today's ticket refunded for one and half hours delays tonight? I am on monthly travel card.
* No sign of any buses. Now been waiting exactly an hour with no public announcements.
* Why is it always the Chessington line that breaks? Sort it out @SW_Trains! I pay a fortune every month for a rubbish service!! #angry
* Gave up. Waiting for bus 30mins and nothing. Told to wait in the rain by advisor.
* Why was the 9.53 Godalming to London terminated at Guildford today? Do you enjoy ruining people's day? Not so much as an apology.
* Is that really an acceptable reason? Is there not a SWT policy to apologise to passengers?
* Why is the Waterloo-Weymouth train terminating at Bournemouth after being told Weymouth on the train? Get the story straight before telling us [Response denies allegation.] Clear!? It’s been a farce! The various stories we've been told. Southampton and buses to Bournemouth and Weymouth. Rubbish.
* Anything you can do about some of us passengers stranded at Yeovil for a non -existent bus for up to 3 hours earlier today?
* Justifying fare increases once again this evening. The 18:15 is half the train it used to be. Guard says 5 coaches gone missing?!?
* On 1705 from Waterloo to Winchester. Been waiting for train crew for 30 minutes. No info to allow us to get on another train.
* Info terrible. Should have told us to get on another service. Now we will wait at Basingstoke for a 3rd crew. Is it a void day?
* Interesting that your twitter service is as unreliable as your trains.
* Delayed at Hersham Station, it's freezing! Radiators please. * Doesn't really help me get home from London to Havant tonight though does it? Not paying another £30+ when already paid...
* Come on SWTrains, when will you realise you need to provide better luggage space? Waterloo to Weymouth is chocka, not good!
* Don't know if you know this, but the self service ticket machine at Shawford station isn't accepting coins for payment, CC only.
* You guys should think about the rise in temp in the last week- all your trains from Woking to Waterloo have been sweltering/humid.
* As you're in an Xmas mood, why not fix the announcement board on plat 1 at Effingham Junction which has been broken for 2 months?
* Addlestone ticket office closed, again, how should I renew my season ticket?
* What is the point of a timetable, when you just leave the station early???
* Just that she prevented me from going through the cartridge whilst we were boarding at a station and was rude, then continued yapping.
* Male toilets near platform 17 at Clapham Junction are taking money but not letting anyone through. No staff help.
* What's the point? I've complained in the past and it is clear you have no interest in providing a reliable service.
* Is this acceptable, £21 for a 45 minute journey. No seats and a 6% fare increase in January. Merry Christmas.
* Train no longer stopping at Wimbledon onwards, disgusting, utterly disgusting.
* This train arrived at Mortlake at 07:41, 4 minutes late. Arrived at London Waterloo at 08:41.
* Are you sure it ran? If so, why was it not on the departures board? The misinformation caused me to take another route.
* Any idea why the 00.09 Waterloo to Esher just disappeared from the board?
* Any idea why the 18:49 service from Dorchester South to Weymouth just hasn't turned up? Without any reason given at the station?


Another generation is learning to loathe SWT. The son of a former Totton-London commuter tried to pay at a ticket machine for a ticket from Southampton to Totton. It wouldn't accept his card and wouldn't accept his £10 note. When he found the change to buy the ticket he was late for the train, so he rushed over to one of the central platforms, saw the indicator saying the next train was calling at Totton, and got on it. He realised that it was instead a Brighton train and got off it again to see the Totton train departing from the other end of the platform.

NINE more South West Trains prosecution farces

Nobody suggests that George Osborne was trying to defraud Virgin Trains when he was found in a first class seat with a second class ticket. Nobody suggests that Cherie Blair was trying to defraud Thameslink when she was rushing to an important business engagement and boarded a train without queuing for a ticket. Yet, as we illustrated in Issue 136, ‘Cowboy Country’ Stagecoach will publish anything which implies that passengers are concerned about imaginary hordes of other passengers trying to evade payment.

PassengerFocus recently reported that it was seriously concerned about innocent passengers being snared by revenue protection excesses. Well it might be. Passengers who arrive at a SWT station are often offered nothing better than a ticket machine, and may not get correct advice about the cheapest available ticket even if they make phone calls. At 10.30 on Friday 2 November, the downside barriers were open at Southampton Central and only one ticket window was staffed. Apart from the ticket clerk, who appeared to be dealing with a protracted enquiry while the queue grew, the only visible members of staff were on the other side of the station, and they frequently disappeared behind trains.

Our Group’s response to the DfT’s consultation on penalty fares (See Hogrider 126 Part 1 on www.shrug.info) outlined many cases of passengers being abused, principally by SWT. In some cases magistrates have despaired of SWT’s ludicrously contrived cases, and have admonished the company for wasting court time.

Whilst Stagecoach is ardent in dragging people before the courts, it seems less keen to ensure that proper cases are raised against them. The Dorset Evening Echo of 5 October 2012 reported that Bournemouth Magistrates Court made SWT withdraw nine prosecutions after the company had failed to serve case details for the second hearing in a row.

This failure inevitably suggests that the company was finding it difficult to mount convincing cases. Although the defendants may well have been found ‘not guilty’ had the cases proceeded, they have suffered the stigma of having their names and addresses published. This led to condemnation by bloggers.

Gunpoint robbery at Brockenhurst station

At 06.30 on 5/12/2012, a 60 year old commuter was held at gunpoint in Brockenhurst station car park and forced to drive to a cash machine.

This further illustrates the dangers of Stagecoach’s staff reductions on SWT. For example, on 2/12/2012 Brockenhurst and Salisbury stations were left unstaffed, and the ticket office at Winchester closed before 17.00.

In the past three months, SWT’s website has advertised failures (in some cases prolonged and/or repeated) to staff ticket offices during opening hours at Addlestone, Aldershot, Ascot, Brockenhurst, Camberley, Cobham and Stoke D’abernon, Dorchester, Eastleigh, Earlsfield, Farncombe, Farnham, Godalming, Guildford, Hampton, Haslemere, Havant, Hedge End, Hook, Hounslow, Liphook, Liss, Malden Manor, Portsmouth & Southsea, Salisbury, Shepperton, Southampton Airport, Swaythling, Walton-on-Thames, West Byfleet, Winchester, Woking and Yeovil Junction.

Tony Harvey reports that the booking office at Branksome was closed on two successive Tuesdays. It’s clear, also, from reports to SWT’s Twitter facility, that there are many other failures to maintain staffing across the network week after week.

So much for SWT’s coveted ‘secure station’ awards which, in any case, are based on pretty subjective criteria. Interesting, also, that the Virgin/Stagecoach partnership wanted good customer service to be given higher rating in the West Coast franchise exercise. By way of a local example, the booking office at First Great Western’s Romsey station has much longer opening hours than Stagecoach SWT’s office at Totton station, about five miles away, which serves a bigger population.

New GB Rail Timetable

The new national timetable (9/12/2012-18/5/2013) is much improved compared with the previous edition. Tiny sized font has been abandoned, yet the book is much slimmer (now a mere 3,152 pages). The major remaining difficulty is the very limited information about the destinations/origins of trains which are not fully contained in one table. There are virtually no changes to services in South Hampshire (See previous edition of this newsletter on www.shrug.info).

A preface to the timetable praises the contribution of volunteers in helping with the improvements. There is now a link for comments:

Victoria Wood, Network Rail, The Quadrant, MK Elder Gate, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, KK9 1EN.

Action by the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group

We have e’mailed Victoria Fox as follows:

“The current timetable is a vast improvement on the previous edition. However, Table 123 appears to have escaped the attention of your volunteers.

As the heading to the table suggests, it is not much changed from the days when the services which did not start / terminate at Bristol or Cardiff generally continued to destinations such as Swansea, Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven.

Under the First Great Western franchise, these trains now run beyond Bristol towards Great Malvern, but Table 123 shows them as ‘disappearing’ after Filton Abbey Wood.

Tables 188, 165, 134 and 71 don’t help. Nobody living in the area covered by Table 123 would find that they had direct trains to Gloucestershire and Worcestershire unless they consulted the footnotes to Table 57, which is headed “Nottingham, Derby and Leicester / Birmingham – Cardiff and Bristol.”

Could table 123 be changed, therefore? The heading might be something like:

“Great Malvern, Gloucester, Cardiff and Bristol – Weymouth, Portsmouth and Brighton”. The spare space at the bottom of the Table 123 pages could be used to extend the Table to show stations from Filton Abbey Wood to Great Malvern.

I assume you would do this in liaison with First Great Western, but we would be happy to look at the Table in more detail if that would be helpful”.

Stagecoach bus within seconds of causing high speed rail disaster

In the previous Issue, we reported anger in Cheltenham that a badly shaken Stagecoach bus driver had been told to carry on, leaving local people to clear up the debris from the bus shelter he had smashed.

At the beginning of October, the BBC website reported that a Stagecoach bus had crashed through a level crossing on the West of England main line seconds before a high speed train passed. An abbreviated account is below. This was around the same time as Network Rail’s welcome announcement that the Ufton Nervet level crossing – the scene of a fatal crash on the same line – would be replaced by a bridge.

Stagecoach bus driver drove through level crossing

A bus driver drove through closing barriers of a level crossing in Devon 15 seconds before an express train passed, a court has heard. Edwin Doyle, 61, drove through the barrier, despite warning signals, and caused his sole passenger to dive to the floor to avoid flying glass.

Doyle, of Haven Close, Exeter, admitted driving the double-decker carelessly at the Hele and Bradninch crossing. Exeter magistrates fined him £350 and put eight points on his licence.

'Scared and frightened'

The court heard Doyle failed to recognise the warning signals and drove across the track 15 seconds before the Paddington to Penzance service passed. CCTV showed that he smashed through the closing barrier and his passenger was left scared and frightened.”

Exeter magistrates fined the driver £350 and put eight points on his licence. Stagecoach gave him a final warning.”

By way of comparison, the Dorset Evening Echo reports that the going rate in Bournemouth for being found guilty of boarding a train before buying even a low-price ticket is £200/£400, with costs of £140.

Disabled man mistakenly left on Stagecoach bus parked overnight

So much for corporate responsibility! BBC News Manchester recently reported:

“A disabled passenger was mistakenly left on a bus parked overnight in a Manchester depot, it has emerged. The 60-year-old man, who was in a wheelchair, was discovered by a cleaner at about 02:50 BST on Saturday at the Stagecoach site on Hyde Road, Ardwick. It is understood the man was asleep and the driver failed to check the vehicle was empty.

Stagecoach said it was an "individual oversight" and an internal disciplinary process was being carried out. It is not known what time the man boarded the bus. An ambulance crew took the man, who was in a confused state, to Manchester Royal Infirmary as a precaution.

'Absolutely ridiculous'

In a statement, the company said: "We were very concerned to hear about this case when it was brought to our attention at the time. All of our drivers are given very clear instructions that part of their job is to check the bus at the end of their shift. This was an individual oversight and the driver has been subject to our internal disciplinary process."

Richard Currie, from Greater Manchester Coalition for Disabled People, described the incident as "preposterous". I think it's absolutely ridiculous that someone should be left on a bus for that length of time. Bus companies must ensure that the disabled person has a safe and comfortable journey, something in this instance Stagecoach has failed to do."

Greater Manchester Police said no criminal offences had occurred and it was dealt with as a medical matter.”

One of six more Stagecoach bus fires dismissed as ‘extremely rare’!

Stagecoach bus fires have become a feature of public transport in Britain in recent times, with blazes now averaging around one every six weeks. The majority occur when passengers are on board. There are some horrific internet video clips of Stagecoach buses ablaze, and not only in Britain. This gives special cause for concern because Stagecoach is expanding its bus and coach operations.

Some recent incidents:

January 2010 – Manchester; June 2010 – Invergowrie; June 2010 – Tealing; September 2010 – Monifieth; September 2010 – Letham; January 2011 – Peterborough; March 2011 – Aylesham; March 2011 – Killingworth; May 2011 – Sheffield; May 2011 – Carlisle; July 2011 – Freckleton; August 2011 - Herne Bay; December 2011 – Inverness; December 2011 – Cambridge; April 2012 – Aberfeldy; May 2012 – Blackburn; June 2012 – Dronfield; July 2012 – Blyton; July 2012 – Cheadle; July 2012 – Peterborough; August 2012 - Ordsall

Latest incidents:

October 2012 – Manchester

>From the Manchester Evening News website:

“Passengers were evacuated from a bus shortly before it was engulfed in flames during rush hour. Fire crews were scrambled to tackle the burning vehicle on Rochdale Road, Harpurhey, at around 5.30pm on Tuesday. People left the bus before the fire took hold, but the engine at the rear was completely destroyed. The fire was most likely caused by an electrical fault, the fire spokesman said.”

October 2012 – Northop

>From the North Wales Evening News website:

“Students had to be evacuated from a school bus after an electrical fault sparked a fire in the engine. Firefighters were called to the double decker after it was forced to stop on Connah’s Quay Road in Northop at 3.49pm yesterday. The vehicle carrying pupils from nearby high schools was travelling to Flint. Tom Davies, of Flintshire County Council, said: “The bus suffered an engine failure. The students were transferred to a replacement vehicle.” A North Wales Fire And Rescue Service spokeswoman confirmed the fire was caused by an “electrical fault”.”

November 2012 – Carlisle

>From the News & Star website:

“Main road near Carlisle closed after bus catches fire By Julian Whittle. Last updated at 11:25, Thursday, 08 November 2012

Fire severely damaged a Stagecoach bus on the A7 between Blackford and Harker, near Carlisle. A passenger on the 7.10pm Dumfries-Carlisle service noticed smoke coming from the rear of the vehicle and alerted the driver who stopped and evacuated the bus. Nobody was injured but the fire took hold.

Firefighters say the back of bus was destroyed. Two fire appliances from Carlisle attended the blaze, which closed the road. Melted plastic had to be cleared from the carriageway. The A7 re-opened just after 10pm.

Stagecoach sent another vehicle to rescue the stranded passengers. A spokesman said: “There was an incident on one of our buses operating on Service 79 yesterday evening. An investigation has started to determine the cause of this incident. "Our driver promptly evacuated the vehicle, there were no injuries sustained by any party. We would like to reassure our customers that such incidents are extremely rare [!!!!] and that our investigation into the cause will be thorough and that all such matters are reported.”

November 2012 – Southport

>From otsnews:

“A Stagecoach X2 bus in Southport caused traffic problems after its brakes caught fire. Passengers had to be hurried off the bus after its brakes caught fire on Formby Bypass at about 2:20pm this afternoon (Saturday 3rd November 2012). The X2 Stagecoach service started blowing smoke from its front off side wheel then caught fire as it was approaching Woodvale traffic lights.

The driver cut her finger after smashing the glass to access the onboard fire extinguisher. She put the fire out within seconds of the incident.

The bus was still blocking the busy road over an hour later. A Stagecoach spokesman was not available to comment on the incident.”

November 2012 – Aberdeen

>From the Evening Express website:

“A bus was destroyed in a fierce fire which caused traffic chaos and long tailbacks on the Aberdeen to Inverurie road. The female driver of the Stagecoach bus bravely attempted to deal with the fire with a handheld extinguisher but it quickly got out of hand.

Three engines from Grampian Fire and Rescue Service drained nearly all of their water while tackling the blaze at around 3.30pm yesterday. Oil soaked the road around the bus, which had pulled up at a bus stop on the busy A96, and northbound traffic ground to a halt.

November 2012 – Abersychan

>From the South Wales Argus website:

A bus fire is causing delays to buses in Abersychan today. The Stagecoach bus caught fire on Church Road at around 11.30am and all passengers were led off safely. Fire crews say they believe the fire was accidental and a recovery vehicle has now taken the bus away.”

Stagecoach branded “arrogant” and “insulting” by local authority

BUS company Stagecoach has been branded as "arrogant" and "insulting" by furious town councillors. Their comments followed a plea to introduce a service along the A2 to serve residents of Ospringe and several new housing estates.

But the reply from Stagecoach's commercial director Jeremy Cooper drove councillors up the wall. Mr Cooper said the company would consider providing the service if the council supported the building of a traffic-calming "bus gate" between Lower Road and Bysing Wood estate.

He also said Swale Borough Council should not have allowed homes to have been built so far from established bus routes. Swale and town councillor Bryan Mulhern stormed: "It goes to show the sheer arrogance of the company to suggest this.

"This is an insulting letter which seems to blame poor planning control by Swale for building houses where bus routes are a distance away. But it is the bus company that should be responsible for providing the transport services. A lot of people complaining about this issue are people who live in estates built before Swale Borough Council even existed.

Stagecoach is just not listening. We are not asking for a new service, just a replacement for one which used to run." Stagecoach runs one bus a day between Love Lane and The Mall and none along the A2 at Ospringe.

Councillor Cindy Davis agreed that a bus gate would be beneficial but said she was "peeved" by the company's response. She suggested the council reply with a "strong letter back".

Stagecoach spokeswoman Divene Anderson said the company would consider providing a service along the A2 when routes were next reviewed.” [Faversham Times 21/12/2012]

Stagecoach taken to court in US for anti-competitive activity

“Brian Souter’s Stagecoach is being taken to court in the United States over claims that it created a monopoly of “hop-on hop-off ” double-decker bus tours in New York. The Department of Justice and New York attorney general told a New York court that Stagecoach and its former archrival, City Sights, had combined forces and captured 90% of the city’s $100 million (£62 million)-a-year bus-sightseeing market.

The enforcers also say that when the two formed their joint venture in 2009 they pushed the price of tickets up by 10% from $49 to $54 without any fear of losing custom.

To the 50 million tourists who visit New York each year, and the two million of whom take hop-on hop-off tours, it appears that there are two big rival companies — the big red buses badged New York Sightseeing and the big blue buses labelled City Sights. But in fact they are both run by Twin America which is a joint venture created by Stagecoach’s Gray Line and City Sights in 2009.

“Forming a monopoly that overcharges consumers is illegal and will not be tolerated,” attorney general Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. “The iconic double-decker Gray Line and City Sights buses are seen all over New York City but few people know they are a monopoly which has led to higher prices and less competition.”

The lawsuit asks the court to order the joint venture to be dissolved or forced to sell off parts of the business. “The formation of Twin America eliminated intense head-to-head competition between Coach and City Sights and gave the parties an effective monopoly that enabled them to raise prices to consumers,” said acting assistant attorney general Renata B. Hesse in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.

“This lawsuit seeks to restore the competition eliminated by the joint venture and to ensure that the millions of visitors to New York City who take hop-on, hop-off bus tours each year enjoy the benefits of a competitive marketplace.”

Stagecoach today said it was “disappointed” by the legal proceedings because it believed New York bus tours had become competitive with new operators joining and planning to come into the market. It claimed the price rises had been because of higher fuel and wage costs and said that it would “robustly defend” its position. Stagecoach shares fell 3p to 299.35p. [Evening Standard 12/12/2012]

When passengers in the SWT area still mattered

Thanks to Bob Maddock for the following excerpt from “Herbert Walker’s Southern Railway” by C F Klapper. Obviously it reflects a different world, but what a pity Sir Herbert isn’t around to comment on the daily misery which Stagecoach’s sometimes near-total lack of concern for passengers creates at places like Southampton Central!

“We approached Fareham and just as our train came to a halt I espied another M7 4-4-0 tank heading a two-coach salmon and umber outfit standing in the bay. The guard was fingering his green flag ready to wave it just as we drew to a halt. But he did not! A stentorian roar from the footbridge came like a thunderclap to Guard Grant. “George Grant, hold that train!” As it seemed to Roger Arnold, a huge square shouldered man in a tweed overcoat, with pince-nez gold spectacles, came down and hurtled over the timber crossing from the island to the bay platform with the alacrity of a young athlete rather than a staid man in his forties. Once more his instinct for the detail paid off. With his furled umbrella like a foil at the ready he came up to the startled guard. “Your name is George Grant. Mine is Herbert Ashcombe Walker. You were about to start this train before the passengers from the 5.50pm from Southampton could join, although this is the last train up the Meon Valley today!”

By this time the capless stationmaster came running up to see what had caused the disturbance. Before he could collect his thoughts Walker was speaking again. “Your name is Mr Peter Cooper; does this heinous thing take place every evening? If it does, let me assure you it will not happen again without your coming to Waterloo.” A faint cheer from passengers within earshot. By then Walker had boarded the train and from a first-class compartment was asking Cooper if he could telephone Alton. “Yes, Sir.” “Then tell Mr Smith that this train connects with the 8.20pm to Surbiton and Waterloo and if it does not so do then he can come to Waterloo and see me in the morning!”

This and other incidents like it left Walker with no compunction about his next stage in tightening up the operating department. That midsummer district superintendents were given sole control in all matters except accidents, rates and fares, for which the cut-down superintendent of the line remained responsible.”


Network Rail investment

Network Rail has announced infrastructure investment which includes £25m for signalling on the Waterloo-Portsmouth line (remember the record delays in completing the last disastrous scheme?) and £30m for track improvements around Southampton. Work will include bringing Waterloo International platforms into use. It will take five years to complete and is expected to provide up to 20% more seats on London trains. This should be great news, but SWT’s managing director is already talking of compromises. History suggests higher fares, seats large enough only for children, less-frequent services at many SWT stations, and bigger dividends for Stagecoach directors. There must be thousands of tweeters praying that the franchise will have been transferred to a passenger-focused operator by then.

Dangers of road vehicle incursions on to rail lines

A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch into a collision between a train and car near Stowmarket found significant shortcomings in the risk assessment of sites where incursions might occur. Network Rail, the Highways Authority including Suffolk County Council, and the Department for Transport all attracted criticism.

Rail increases its share of Southampton container traffic

The percentage of containers leaving Southampton by rail has increased from 27% to around 36% over the past two years. This is affecting road hauliers. Elite Transport Services are closing their depot at Eling Wharf, Totton.

Southern is best value

A Passenger Focus report has found that 87% of passengers are satisfied with the value for money of Southern’s advance purchase tickets, the highest rating of any train operator.

Toilet facilities at Southampton Central

Following press exposure of SWT’s planned introduction of charges, including our comment in the Southern Daily Echo that other operators don’t charge when new facilities are brought into use, the turnstiles remained temporarily out of use. The new downside toilets are now open. They are of a good standard but much smaller than the previous facility. The upside toilets, which remained foul through years of Stagecoach neglect, were finally undergoing renovation in December.

Squalid SWT train toilets

“Railfuture’s Wessex Branch committee found it necessary to complain to South West Trains about the state of toilets on its Class 444 and 450 units – sometimes locked out of use and often “stinking to high heaven”. They’ve been assured by SWT that the Siemens maintenance depot at Northam is on top of the problem. Staff are systematically removing a particular type of WC that’s proving troublesome and fitting a more reliable unit. The remaining toilets in the “Desiro” fleet are getting a complete overhaul - figures show that they’re about 25% through the works programme.” [Source: Railfuture Rail User Express]

High level of SWT station lift failures continues

Lift failures (in some cases prolonged and/or repeated), have recently occurred at Axminster, Basingstoke, Brentford, Clapham Junction, Earlsfield, Fareham, Farnborough, Fratton, Haslemere, Havant, Kingston, Liss, Portsmouth & Southsea, Richmond, Southampton Airport Parkway, Southampton Central, Staines, Surbiton, Waterloo, Weybridge, Wimbledon, Woking and Yeovil Junction.

Rolling stock problems on Portsmouth-Cardiff route

David Wallis reports another example of the deteriorating service on this route since it was decided not to proceed with an order for new trains. Arriving late at Bristol from Southampton, he could not find his connection to Gloucester in time, so lost his reserved seat and travelled 30 minutes later on an overcrowded local train. On the return journey, the rostered train had to be substituted and was 45 minutes late into Southampton.

Privatised fares system too complicated for the computer

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman queried why he was asked to pay £60 more than the cheapest fare to go to London. He says: “They told me there’s no way the computer system would tell anyone the cheapest way to go to London because it’s too complicated”.

Fareham-Gosport busway problems

The new Fareham-Gosport “rapid” bus system, constructed as a cheap alternative to the previously approved Fareham-Gosport-Portsmouth tramway (with many millions of pounds of public money wasted) is anything but rapid. The buses are of good quality with “parquet” flooring, and seat cushioning which is luxurious compared with that of SWT’s long-distance electric trains. However, the service does not achieve reliability, let alone improved journey times.

The major problem which the tramway should have solved, is that journeys into the Gosport peninsula are impeded by traffic congestion in Fareham. The busway singularly fails to address this issue. For example, on 20/10/2012, the 12.00 bus from Fareham departed on time, but took 15 minutes to get from the bus station to the nearby main road, a journey which could be achieved in about 30 seconds but for heavy traffic. The journey time to Gosport increased from the advertised 32 minutes to 50 minutes.

Odd how history repeats itself

In 2011, Stagecoach’s SWT ignored a petition signed by over 8,000 people against the sacking of their award-winning station manager Ian Faletto. They based their position on CCTV evidence not supporting his claim that he had stepped on to the track to remove a supermarket trolley.

In 2010, BBC Manchester reported that a woman had suffered the humiliation of being ordered by a Stagecoach bus driver to stop breast-feeding her baby or get off. Stagecoach claimed that the CCTV evidence did not support her claim.

Despite the wide disrepute in which ethically-limited Stagecoach is held, it’s difficult to believe that a young woman would make up a story like that.

Greed bites greed

Stagecoach chief executive Brian Souter, who believes that “ethics are not irrelevant but some are incompatible with what we have to do because capitalism is based on greed” and his sister Ann Gloag have been duped out of £7.5m by stockbroker Nicholas Levene, who gambled away huge sums of money people gave him for investment. Mr Levene is now serving a 13-year jail sentence, with his father saying he was driven by a ‘monster greed’. [Source: Herald, Scotland]

First minister accused over letter to Stagecoach chief executive

“Alex Salmond has been accused of operating a "culture of secrecy" after a letter in which he heaps praise on the SNP's biggest donor was made public. ALEX Salmond has been accused of operating a \"culture of secrecy\" after a letter in which he heaps praise on the SNP's biggest donor was made public. The Scottish Government had withheld the letter to Stagecoach founder Sir Brian Souter on three occasions following requests from Labour. The Herald has now obtained the document under Freedom of Information legislation. In it, the First Minister offered his "warmest congratulations" to Sir Brian, who has given £1.2 million to the SNP since 2007, for his controversial knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours last year…

Glasgow MSP Paul Martin, Labour's business manager at Holyrood, said: "This is a government that just can't be open and straight with people, even when it comes to covering up fawning letters to the First Minister's rich friends. Every week, we see more and more examples of the culture of secrecy operating at the heart of the SNP Government." ” [Source: Scotsman 12 October 2012]

Acknowledgements / Contact details

As always, thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to contact us. Without your support and input, this newsletter would not be possible. The newsletter is produced in good faith, based on reports and information from many individuals and sources including information identified from press and website research. Contributions are always welcome. We aim for accuracy at all times, because our good reputation depends on it. We do not use material which could be offensive or which appears unlikely to be correct.

Address for correspondence: Denis Fryer, 19 Fontwell Close, Calmore, Southampton, SO40 2TN (denis@fryer1491.fsnet.co.uk). Contact details of Government and transport bodies and the media are on the Group's website, www.shrug.info

[For environmental reasons, Part 2 of this issue, which provides daily samples of SWT’s multitude of delays, cancellations and operational-convenience measures is no longer being produced in hard copy, but will be available on our website in both Word and HTML formats as usual.]