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South West Trains (SWT) is the trading name of a train operating company operating in the United Kingdommarker, providing train services to the south-west of London, chiefly in Greater Londonmarker and the counties of Surreymarker, Hampshire, Dorsetmarker, Devonmarker, Somersetmarker, Berkshire, Wiltshiremarker and the Isle of Wightmarker, the area was before 1923 roughly that of the London and South Western Railway company, and so led the choice of company name.

The South West Trains franchise is the largest passenger rail franchise in the UK and is also particularly complex due of the vast number and variety of different services operated. The Stagecoach Group operates the South West Trains franchise and has done so ever since privatisation.

SWT since privatisation

South West Trains took over the operation of Network SouthEast's South Western division after the privatisation of British Rail in 1996. The firm gained notoriety for severe service cuts following driver shortages in its early days but went on to make significant improvements to the network, including replacement of a large proportion of the rolling stock, refurbishing stations, improving access for disabled passengers and improving customer information. During the early 2000s, improvements included the introduction of new rail services and the reopening of Chandler's Fordmarker station in Hampshire.

On 12 December 2004, the company completely recast its timetable for the first time since 1967 in an attempt to bring service provision into line with changing demand and to take into account the different characteristics of modern rolling stock, with the intention that this would improve reliability and punctuality across the network.

A smoking ban on all SWT services was introduced from May 2004, partly in response to a fire caused by a cigarette left near a heater under a seat.

Extension and renewal of franchise

The South Western franchise now includes Island Line
The South West Trains franchise was initially renewed for four years from February 2003. Then on 22 September 2006 Stagecoach Group won the right to operate the newly-enlarged South Western franchise for a further ten years until 2017.

Competing bids for the franchise had been made by Arriva, First Group and a partnership between MTR Corporation and National Express Group (originally GNER).

This enlarged franchise started on 4 February 2007 and incorporated the formerly independent Island Line on the Isle of Wight. The legal name of the company has also changed from South West Trains Ltd to Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd - although the trading name has remained unchanged.

Train Services

Most SWT services are on electrified lines using the 750 V DC third-rail system. There is a small diesel fleet for services on the West of England line to Exeter and Bristol. SWT operates almost 1700 trains per day. The intense service and past chronic under-investment led to many delays but performance has improved in part due to a completely re-structured timetable of December 2004, and the commissioning of a unified Network Rail and SWT control centre at Waterloomarker which improves communication between organisations responsible for the operation of the railway.

From London Waterloo stationmarker, SWT's London terminus, connections run fromLondonmarker to the southern and western area of England; much of the company's services runs on suburban commuter lines in south-west London.

As with most rail companies, non-folding bicycles are banned from peak time trains to and from London Waterloo. While unpopular with cyclists, the company maintains that the policy is necessary due to space that would otherwise be taken by bicycles on its most crowded trains.

Main lines

There are six main lines operated by SWT:

Suburban services

Suburban services diverge from the above routes. Taken in order westwards from Waterloo, travelling down the SWML, they are:

Other services



Single and Return fares are available on all South West Trains routes. Travelcards are available for journeys into London. They are valid on London buses, Tramlinkmarker, Docklands Light Railway, London Underground and national rail services within the London travelcard area.

Season tickets and travel cards are also available to cover multi day regular journeys. They are available in weekly, monthly and annual periods.

In May 2007 South West Trains introduced a new fare structure for all routes. The original peak prices and times were retained, and "Off Peak" was redefined at a higher fare as services leaving after 11am for stations closer to London or arriving in Waterloo at or before mid-day for stations further away from London. Services after this period are now referred to as "Super Off Peak" and attract similar prices to the old Off Peak tickets .

In 2009 Waterloo station was gated in order to improve revenue protection at Waterloo.

Oyster Pre-Pay, Travelcards and Season Tickets

Oyster card pay as you go is not currently available on any South West Trains route. Oyster card travelcards and season tickets are valid within the London travelcard area, the same way as normal paper travelcards and season tickets.

At the end of 2008 however, as a Network Rail project, ticket gates were built on several stations, including London Waterloomarker. Though Oyster pay as you go is mentioned to be supported in the future, under a new franchise, a different standard of smart card ticketing, developed by ITSO, is expected to launch in 2009, with pilot tests started in November 2008.

Penalty Fares

South West Trains currently issue penalty fares for customers travelling by train without a valid ticket. However South West Trains have planned to install at least 1 self-service ticket machine at each of its served stations in the bid to stop fare evasion.

The Penalty fare is either £20 or double the travelled fare, which ever is greater. This does not apply west of Salisbury or at Wraysburymarker on the Windsor linedue to the lack of ticket machines availableRevenue Protection officers employed by South West Trains travel the Network and are visible at stations to enforce the Penalty Fares and issue some tickets; aside from Station ticket barriers and permit to travel machines, CCTV is another method used to combat ticketless travel and prevent assaults on members of staff and customers.

As of August 2007 South West Trains have reinforced the penalty fares policy with new announcements at stations prompting travellers to buy tickets before boarding. This new clamp-down has had some criticism due to lack of "self-service" ticketing machines and long queues at booking offices due to a lack of staff, which impedes the ability to buy tickets.

Platform Tickets

South West Trains do not issue platform tickets.

Route Changes

South West Trains' network has changed considerably since privatisation in 1996, they no longer serve West Croydonmarker, Suttonmarker, stations between Chichestermarker and Brightonmarker and the mainline portion of Readingmarker. South West Trains do now serve stations to Bristolmarker, Plymouthmarker and Penzancemarker, Mottisfont and Dunbridgemarker and Deanmarker. However, services beyond Exetermarker will cease from December 2009.


Stagecoach, SWT's parent company, currently sell seats on some off peak services under the Megatrain brand Mondays to Saturdays. This uses a similar low cost model to their Megabus service. Megatrain tickets are generally available on services that are expected to be quiet and empty. The tickets available are generally between London Waterloomarker and other principal stations and ticket holders are assigned to a specific carriage (normally the second from the front) in the train.


Latest performance figures released by the ORR as of the first quarter of the 2009/10 financial year were 94.6% (PPM) and 93.6% (MAA).

Rolling Stock Details

In the early days of the franchise, South West Trains continued to operate using rolling stock inherited from British Rail. It applied its own brand by modifying the Network SouthEast livery of its rolling stock with an orange stripe, taking advantage of the similarity between the Network SouthEast livery and that of parent company Stagecoach.

The company went on to introduce new and refurbished trains and has standardised on a set of three distinct liveries - mainly white for long-distance services, mainly blue for outer-suburban services, and a mainly red livery for the London commuter rail services which has been applied to the Class 455 electric multiple units as they were refurbished.

London Underground Fleet

On the Island Line, the clearances of a tunnel under Rydemarker are insufficient for standard trains. As a consequence, former London Underground rolling stock has been used since the line was electrified. Since 1992, Class 483 trains have been used, of which five 2-car units remain in service. SWT took on this fleet when it was awarded the combined South West/Island Line franchise in 2007.

Greyhound Fleet

The final slam-door train on regular passenger services ran from London Waterloomarker to Bournemouthmarker on 26 May 2005 with units 1396, 3536 and 1398. Some slam-door units have been preserved on heritage railways and three are retained by SWT for operations on the Lymington Branch Line and for special duties.

Services on the Lymington Branch Line are now operated as a "heritage" operation using one of two refurbished 3Cig units, nos. 1497 and 1498. The two units have been repainted into their original liveries, one in classic Southern green and the other in British Rail blue and grey, and were launched into service on 12 May 2005.

Desiro Fleet

The introduction of Desiro rolling stock built by Siemens was to replace the old slam-door trains which were coming to the end of their useful lives, and had been posing health and safety problems. The introduction was delayed because of the additional power needs of this type of stock: Network Rail spent £1 billion upgrading the power supply to take account of this.The new trains are generally proving popular with passengers. They have on-board information systems and full air-conditioning. Their faster acceleration is counterbalanced by the need to stop longer at each station, since they have fewer doors (although the fact that the old trains' doors could be opened while in motion was considered a safety hazard). In addition, the Desiros have many more components: all are computerised and subject to the possibility of breakdowns. It is estimated that the slam-door trains could achieve 60,000 miles (96,000 km) without breakdown; the Desiros an estimated 13,000 miles (20,800 km) but this is gradually improving.

The Desiro stock comes in two variants - Class 450 units which have four 20m cars and are mainly used on outer suburban services and Class 444 units which have five 23m cars as well as intercity style door layouts and are used on longer-distance services to Weymouthmarker.

  • The 450 Desiro Fleet includes 450001-127.
  • The 444 Desiro Fleet includes 444001-045.

British Rail Electrics

South West Trains operate a fleet of Class 455 metro style commuter trains. These were built by BREL between 1983 and 1985.

A full refurbishment program that started in 2004 on the fleet of 91 four-car units was completed on 24 March 2008. Modifications included a new 2+2 seating layout with high back seats, CCTV, cycle storage, wheelchair space, doors that can now open further to allow for faster alighting and additional passenger information systems. All units are now painted in a new red "Metro" version of the South West Trains livery.

Juniper Fleet

Thirty of these four-carriage units were ordered by South West Trains in 1998, to create extra capacity and to replace some of the ageing 4Cep units, which at the time were on short-term lease. Deliveries of these units commenced in 1998.

The class suffered from major technical problems, so none of the older units were withdrawn from service. It was six more years, in 2004, before the full fleet was in service. In 2003 and 2004, reliability was so dire that although they were only six years old, South West Trains decided that the units should be replaced by 2005 with the newer Class 450 Desiro units . Only a handful of units are required each day to help maintain services from Waterloo to Reading, and these were expected to cease after 31 July 2006 when the lease with the rolling stock company expired. An application by SWT to extend this by six months was declined as the class does not meet all the requirements of disability legislation.

However, since then it was decided that on or before the start of the new franchise in February 2007, the class would be reinstated and take over all operations on the Waterloo to Reading line, indirectly covering the loss of the class 442s. They have been fitted with new larger destination screens that comply with the disability legislation, however, still fall foul in some other areas such as the height of the door open buttons. It is believed a small exemption is being made for the Class 458 in those respects.

Diesel Fleet

Line of three Class 159s, a Class 158 and the former route learning Class 960

South West Trains currently has 30 three car Class 159 (22 159/0s and 8 159/1s) and 11 two car Class 158.

The 159/1s were converted at Wabtec Doncaster from Class 158s, exchanged with TransPennine Express for Class 170, to expand the current fleet. 11 further two car 158s were received from TransPennine Express, which were refurbished and renumbered. All SWT 159/0s are currently undergoing refurbishment at Wabtec Doncaster to look like the newly received and refurbished class members. They will however retain their more powerful engines.

Two ex SWT 158s, 786 and 789, have been allocated to First ScotRail and are currently based at Edinburgh Haymarket DMUD.

Rolling Stock

Current fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 73 electro-diesel locomotive 90 145 3 Thunderbird Locomotive 1962
Class 158 Express Sprinter diesel multiple unit 90 145 11 London Waterloomarker - Salisburymarker / Bristol Temple Meadsmarker
Romseymarker - Salisburymarker via Southampton Centralmarker
1989 - 1992
Class 159 South Western Turbo diesel multiple unit 90 145 30 West of England / Wessex Main Lines:
London Waterloomarker - Salisburymarker / Bristol Temple Meadsmarker / Exeter St Davidsmarker / Paigntonmarker / Plymouthmarker / Penzancemarker
159/0 - 1992159/1 - Converted 2006
Class 421 electric multiple unit 90 145 2 Lymington Piermarker - Brockenhurstmarker 1961-67
Class 444 Desiro electric multiple unit 100 160 45 Main Line Routes:
London Waterloomarker - Weymouthmarker
London Waterloomarker - Portsmouth Harbourmarker
Class 450 Desiro electric multiple unit 100 160 127 Outer Suburban Routes:


London Waterloomarker - Portsmouth Harbourmarker / Altonmarker / Basingstokemarker / Reading marker
Southampton Centralmarker - Portsmouth & Southseamarker

London Waterloomarker - Windsor & Eton Riversidemarker / Weybridgemarker via Stainesmarker / London Waterloomarker via Hounslowmarker
Ascotmarker - Guildfordmarker

2002 - 2007
Class 455 electric multiple unit 75 120 91 Inner Suburban Routes:
London Waterloomarker - Sheppertonmarker / Hampton Courtmarker / Wokingmarker / London Waterloomarker via Hounslowmarker /London Waterloomarker via Strawberry Hillmarker / Dorkingmarker / Guildfordmarker via Oxshottmarker or Epsommarker / Chessington Southmarker / Windsor & Eton Riversidemarker
1983 - 1985
2004 - 2007 (refurbished)
Class 458 Juniper electric multiple unit 100 160 30 London Waterloomarker - Readingmarker /Ascotmarker - Guildfordmarker 1999 - 2001
Class 483 electric multiple unit 45 72.5 6 Ryde Pier Headmarker - Shanklinmarker 1938
1989 - 1992 (refurbished)

Past fleet

 Class   Image   Type   Withdrawn   Notes 
Class 170 Turbostar Diesel multiple unit July 2007 Transferred to First TransPennine Express and Southern
Class 411 Electric multiple unit May 2005 Some Preserved
Class 412 Electric multiple unit May 2005 Some Preserved
Class 421 Electric multiple unit May 2005 Two retained for heritage operations on Lymington Branch Line, now 3Cig units
Class 423 Electric multiple unit May 2005 Some Preserved
Class 442 Wessex Electric Electric multiple unit February 2007 Transferred to Gatwick Express/Southern
Class 960 diesel multiple unit March 2009 Preserved on Swanage Railwaymarker

Wessex Electrics Fleet

These units (Class 442) were initially dedicated to the Weymouth line, but through the 1990s began to be diagrammed on the London Waterloo to Portsmouth direct line. In preparation of the Class 444 and Class 450 "Desiro" units taking over from the slam-door fleet, the Wessex Electrics were withdrawn from Portsmouth line services and were again wholly dedicated to the Weymouth line.

The Class 442 was one of the first types to make extensive use of plastics in construction, earning them the nickname among staff of "Plastic Pigs". When they were first introduced they were plagued by minor technical failures but subsequently became among the most reliable EMUs operating in the UK. South West Trains announced that they would be withdrawing these units with the last official workings of these units will take place on Saturday 13 January 2007(however the last Weymouth to Waterloo running was on the 24 January 2007). The last operated SWT service was on the 3rd February. This move also coincides with SWT reinstating all Class 458s for the Waterloo-Reading line. As a result the Class 444s inherited the Waterloo - Weymouth route and the Class 450s took over some of the Portsmouth Harbour services, whilst the 442s went into storage at the Alstom works at Eastleigh. The Department for Transportmarker has suggested that the 442s now complement the Southern fleet and are used on services out of London Victoriamarker.

Turbostar Fleet

In 2000 South West Trains acquired a fleet of eight newly-built 2-car Class 170/3 units, to supplement its existing Class 159 fleet. Units were deployed on London Waterloomarker to Salisburymarker as well as a new Southamptonmarker local train, and Readingmarker to Basingstokemarker trains. They were sometimes pressed into use on Exetermarker services, but as they are not fitted with end gangways for catering or selective door opening for the short platforms at some stations, this was not a regular route.

From late 2006 through to mid 2007, the Class 170s were gradually transferred to TransPennine Express in exchange for a larger number of Class 158 units, to expand and standardise the fleet. One Class 170, 170392, which was originally built to Southern specification, but taken over by SWT soon after its construction, has returned to Southern and converted to a Class 171 unit.

Preserved SWT trains

Of the Classes 411, 412, 421 and 423 slam-door trains, several former SWT units have been preserved. In contrast, just two former Southern units have been preserved - one Class 421 and one Class 423. No complete units from South Eastern Trains have been preserved.



Wimbledon Traincare depot

Wimbledon Traincare depot is one of Europe's most advanced train servicing complexes. It is located between Wimbledonmarker and Earlsfieldmarker stations, on the main line to Waterloo, and is coincidentally situated next to South West Trains' other iconic landmark, the Wimbledon Train Viaduct.

Bournemouth Traincare Depot

Bournemouth train care depot is southwest of Bournemouth railway stationmarker, occupying the approach to the former Bournemouth West Stationmarker. It was the last place the Class 442 (5Wes) Wessex Electric were stored before moving to Southern. The branch turns off at Branksome railway stationmarker and trains can be seen stopping at platform 2 and reversing into the Depot.

Northam Traincare Depot

Northam train care depot is south of St Denys railway stationmarker and is also next to Southampton FC's Stadium at St Mary's. This newer traincare depot was constructed to perform maintenance on the new Desiro Stock, which can now be found at the works.

Salisbury Traincare Depot

Salisbury depot provides servicing for South West Train's diesel fleet.

Fratton Traincare Depot

Farnham Traincare Depot

Criticism of South West Trains

South West Trains has been criticised for high fares. For instance, in January 2008, its fares increased on average by 4.3%.

See also


  3. Class 455 units, built between 1983 and 1985
  4. Last Class 455 returns from refurbishment

External links

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