The Department for Transport issued invitations to tender for the new South Western franchise.

UK: The Department for Transport issued invitations to tender for the new South Western franchise, setting out the minimum requirements which bidders must include in their detailed proposals.

These include:

  • at least 95 additional services on weekdays from December 2018;
  • a doubling of services on the London Waterloo – Reading and London Waterloo – Windsor & Eton Riverside routes from two to four trains an hour;
  • earlier first trains and later last trains on many routes from December 2018;
  • reduced journey times on at least 70% of all services from December 2020;
  • an increase of at least 20% in peak capacity from December 2020;
  • a new delay repay compensation system for passengers with a quicker and simpler claims process;
  • new smart ticketing technology and new tickets for part-time workers;
  • working with Isle of Wight Council ‘to secure a long-term sustainable solution to the future of the Island Line during the course of the next franchise that will enable it to become a self-sustaining business’.

The two shortlisted bidders for the franchise are Stagecoach, which has operated the services since 1996 under the South West Trains brand, and the First South Western Trains Ltd joint venture of FirstGroup (70%) and MTR Corp (30%).

Bids are due to be submitted by midday on September 7, with the winner to be announced in February 2017 and the new operator scheduled to take over the franchise on June 25 2017.

Around 14% of all UK rail journeys are made on the South Western network, with 1 700 trains/day serving more than 200 stations in London, Berkshire, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire Surrey, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight.

‘The South Western franchise has some of the busiest routes in the country, serving a diverse range of passengers and places and these improvements will deliver faster, smoother journeys for customers using these services’, said Rail Minister Claire Perry on July 4.