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South West Trains
South West Trains logo.png
South West Trains Class 450 and 455 at Waterloo.JPG
Franchise(s): South Western
February 1996 – February 2003
February 2003 – February 2007
February 2007 – February 2017
Main region(s): Greater London
Other region(s): Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon
Fleet size: 339 (345 including Island Line)
11 Class 158 Express Sprinter sets
30 Class 159 South Western Turbo sets
45 Class 444 Desiro sets
127 Class 450 Desiro sets
91 Class 455 sets
30 Class 458 Juniper sets
1 Class 960 Route-Learning railcar
3 Class 73 Rescue electro-diesel locomotive
2 Class 421 3Cig sets
(6 Class 483 - Island line sets)
Stations called at: 213 (177 operated)
National Rail abbreviation: SW
Parent company: Stagecoach Group
Web site:

South West Trains (SWT) is the trading name of a train operating company operating in the United Kingdom, providing train services to the south-west of London, chiefly in Greater London and the counties of Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Berkshire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight. 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[1] and is also particularly complex due to 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 [2] 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 Ford 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.[3]

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 Waterloo which improves communication between organisations responsible for the operation of the railway.

From London Waterloo station, SWT's London terminus, connections run from London to the southern and western area of England; much of the company's services running 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. However, these restrictions only apply to cyclists boarding or alighting in the area bounded by Hook, Alton, Guildford, Reading and Dorking. 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

A Class 444 Desiro unit used by SWT for longer-distance services.
A Class 455 suburban unit at Wimbledon.

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, Tramlink, 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, with "Off Peak" being redefined at a higher fare for 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 [4].

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

On 24 February it was announced that the smartcard scheme was to be extended from spring 2010 to cover the lines from Weymouth to Basingstoke, Staines to Wokingham and the Isle of Wight in addition to the current trial area between Staines and Windsor. It was also announced that South West Trains proposes to reduce the operating hours at 24 of it's ticket offces.[5].

Oyster Pay as you go, Travelcards and Season Tickets

Oyster card pay as you go is now available on all South West Trains routes within the Greater London area [6]. Oyster card travelcards and season tickets have always been valid within the London travelcard area, the same way as normal paper travelcards and season tickets.

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, whichever is greater. This does not apply west of Salisbury or at Wraysbury on the Windsor line, due to the lack of ticket machines available Revenue 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. Entry to parts of South West Trains station concourses beyond the ticket barrier for passengers without valid tickets for travel is not a right, but at the company's discretion.

Route Changes

South West Trains' network has changed considerably since privatisation in 1996, they no longer serve West Croydon, Sutton, stations between Chichester and Brighton and the mainline portion of Reading. South West Trains do now serve stations to Bristol, Mottisfont and Dunbridge and Dean. However, services beyond Exeter ceased 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 Waterloo 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 second quarter of the 2009/10 financial year were 95.2% (PPM) and 93.8% (MAA).[7]

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

Class 483 train at Ryde Esplanade

On the Island Line, the clearances of a tunnel under Ryde 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. They date from 1938. SWT took on this fleet when it was awarded the combined South West/Island Line franchise in 2007(though Island Line as a separate franchise was also previously operated by a separate Stagecoach- owned company).

Greyhound Fleet

The final slam-door train on regular passenger services ran from London Waterloo to Bournemouth 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 Region Green and the other in British Rail blue and grey, and were launched into service on 12 May 2005.

Desiro Fleet

A Siemens Desiro Class 450 unit.

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 Weymouth.

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

British Rail Electrics

455868 at London Waterloo

South West Trains operate a fleet of Class 455 metro style commuter trains. These were built by BREL between 1983 and 1985[8].

A full refurbishment program that started in 2004 on the fleet of 91 four-car units was completed on 24 March 2008[9]. 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

A Class 458 'Juniper' unit at Virginia Water station in April 2004.

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 [10]. 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, but, 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 458s in those respects.

Under the government's Rolling Stock Plan, SWT are due to receive up to 140 additional vehicles. Porterbrook, the owner of the Class 458 fleet, has proposed that part of this could be met through lengthening the 4-car Junipers to 5-cars using the mechanically similar Class 460 units currently employed on the Gatwick Express. 24 Class 458s would be lengthened using vehicles from the Class 460s, while the remaining Class 460 vehicles would be reformed into six new 5-car sets, leaving an additional vehicles for use as parts hulks.[11]

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 159s (22 159/0s and 8 159/1s) and 11 two car Class 158s.

The 159/1s were converted at Wabtec Doncaster from Class 158s, exchanged with TransPennine Express for Class 170s, 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.


Although South West Trains does not operate locomotive hauled services, it maintains three Class 73 locomotives for Thunderbird (recovery) duties. One of these has been in service with SWT since the start of the franchise, while the other two were acquired from Gatwick Express in 2005.

Rolling Stock

Current fleet

Class Image Type Top speed Number Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Class 73 73201 at Woking.jpg electro-diesel locomotive 90 145 3 Thunderbird Locomotive 1962
Class 158 Express Sprinter South West Trains 158786 at Bristol Temple Meads 03.jpg diesel multiple unit 90 145 11 London Waterloo - Salisbury / Bristol Temple Meads
Romsey - Salisbury via Southampton Central
Class 159 South Western Turbo Axminster-159018-03.jpg diesel multiple unit 90 145 30 West of England / Wessex Main Lines:
London Waterloo - Salisbury / Bristol Temple Meads / Exeter St Davids
159/0 - 1992

159/1 - Converted 2006

Class 421 (3Cig) 1498 at Lymington Pier.JPG electric multiple unit 90 145 2 Lymington Pier - Brockenhurst 1961-67
Class 444 Desiro 444026 at Waterloo.jpg electric multiple unit 100 160 45 Main Line Routes:
London Waterloo - Poole / Weymouth

London Waterloo - Portsmouth Harbour (Occasionally)

Class 450 Desiro Unit 450565 at Feltham.JPG electric multiple unit 100 160 127 Outer Suburban Routes:

London Waterloo - Portsmouth Harbour / Alton / Basingstoke / Poole (Occasionally) / Reading (Occasionally)
Southampton Central - Portsmouth & Southsea
London Waterloo - Windsor & Eton Riverside / Weybridge via Staines / London Waterloo via Hounslow
Ascot - Guildford

Class 455 SWT Class 455 refurbished.jpg electric multiple unit 75 120 91 Inner Suburban Routes:
London Waterloo - Shepperton / Hampton Court / Woking / London Waterloo via Hounslow /London Waterloo via Strawberry Hill / Dorking / Guildford via Oxshott or Epsom / Chessington South / Windsor & Eton Riverside
1983 - 1985
2004 - 2007 (refurbished)
Class 458 (4Jop) Juniper 8030 at London Waterloo.JPG electric multiple unit 100 160 30 London Waterloo - Reading /

Ascot - Guildford

Class 483 Isle of Wight Inselbahn.jpg electric multiple unit 45 72.5 6 Ryde Pier Head - Shanklin 1938
1989 - 1992 (refurbished)

Past fleet

 Class   Image   Type   Withdrawn   Notes 
Class 170 Turbostar Stdenys 170392.jpg Diesel multiple unit July 2007 Transferred to First TransPennine Express and Southern
Class 411 (4Cep) 1586 at London Victoria.jpg Electric multiple unit May 2005 Some Preserved
Class 412 (4Bep) 2325 departing London Waterloo.jpg Electric multiple unit May 2005 Some Preserved
Class 421 (4Cig) 1313 at London Waterloo.JPG Electric multiple unit May 2005 Two retained for heritage operations on Lymington Branch Line, now 3Cig units
Class 423 (4Vep) 3414 and 3419 at London Waterloo.JPG Electric multiple unit May 2005 Some Preserved
Class 442 (5Wes) Wessex Electric 2407 at Moreton, Dorset.JPG Electric multiple unit February 2007 Transferred to Gatwick Express/Southern
Class 960 960012.jpg diesel multiple unit March 2009 Preserved on Swanage Railway

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 taking 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 coincided 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 Transport has suggested that the 442s now complement the Southern fleet and are used on services out of London Victoria. The 442's are running between London and Brighton on Gatwick Express services.[12]

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 Waterloo to Salisbury as well as a new Southampton local train, and Reading to Basingstoke trains. They were sometimes pressed into use on Exeter 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

3417 on display at an Open Day at Eastleigh Works in May 2009, alongside one of the operational 3CIG units.

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.


Class 421 South West Trains Diagram.PNG Class 159 South West Trains Diagram.PNG Class 444 South West Trains Diagram.PNG Class 450 South West Trains Diagram.PNG Class 455 South West Trains Diagram.PNG


Wimbledon Traincare depot

Wimbledon Traincare depot is one of Europe's most advanced train servicing complexes. It is located between Wimbledon and Earlsfield 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 station, occupying the approach to the former Bournemouth West Station. It was the last place the Class 442 (5Wes) Wessex Electric were stored before moving to Southern. The branch turns off at Branksome railway station 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 station 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

Farnham depot, in Weydon Lane, was opened by the Southern Railway at the time of the electrification of the Portsmouth and Alton lines in 1937.[13] It was refurbished for the introduction of modern units when slam-door trains were replaced circa 2005. At the same time, disused quarry and ballast dump sidings behind the carriage shed were removed and a number of outdoor sidings were laid for overnight storage and servicing of units.

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%.[14]

Criticism of South West Train services is seen regularly in the twitterverse. The recent timetable changes have not generally been regarded as having a positive effect. South West trains also regularly come under fire for over crowding on rush hour trains and a lack of an action plan to deal with this.

See also

External links


Preceded by
Network SouthEast
As part of British Rail
Operator of South West franchise
1996 - 2007
Succeeded by
South West Trains
South Western franchise
Preceded by
Island Line
Island Line franchise
Operator of South Western franchise
2007 - present
Preceded by
South West Trains
South West franchise

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