South London rail users promised better station facilities by operators

Commuters on South Western Railway (SWR) are being promised better WiFi and more station toilets, benches and waiting rooms. 

The rail company’s business plan for the coming year to improve passenger experiences will include new live train occupancy information through to the package of station improvements. 

Greater station accessibility is also being looked into to aid those with luggage, suitcases and wheelchairs, including the installing of induction loops for the hard of hearing, accessible toilets and additional wide aisle gates. 

Under its National Rail Contract, SWR receives a fixed fee from the Department for Transport to deliver an annual business plan against an agreed annual budget.  

SWR’s business plan comes at a challenging time for the rail industry, with customer numbers still below pre-Covid levels and the taxpayer continuing to heavily subsidise the railway. 

Over the past 12 weeks, SWR has seen its overall customer journeys stabilise at 70 per cent of pre-Covid levels.  

While off-peak travel has returned strongly to 100 per cent of pre-Covid trips, commuters have been slower to return, making just 53 per cent of the peak journeys they did before the pandemic. 

It means a new timetable planned for the start of December this year is being deferred because of the uncertainty over future passenger numbers.

SWR’s managing director, Claire Mann, said: “The Covid pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work, play and travel, and the long-term future of the railway depends on it adapting. 

“Our new business plan does just this, striking the right balance between reducing the cost to taxpayers, who have subsidised the railway to the tune of £16 billion since the start of the pandemic, and delivering the improvements our customers want to see.” 

Picture: SWR

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