Major improvements for passengers on the way as South Western Railway begins operations

- Unveiling a new brand and major investment programme for the network
Workers standing next to red South Western Railway train

Rail passengers in London and the south of England will now be served by a new operator – South Western Railway (SWR). The change in operator will see more than £1.2 billion invested between now and 2024 on new and refurbished trains, station improvement schemes, the simplification of tickets and many more improvements – all of which will make journeys better for customers.

The main franchise highlights are summarised below:

New and refurbished trains

By December 2020 the SWR mainland fleet will undergo a facelift. Ninety new British-built Aventra trains be introduced (750 carriages, in five and 10 car formations), and the rest of the fleet will be refurbished and refreshed. Ultimately this will increase capacity by 52,000 extra seats through the morning and evening peak by 2020. Improved Wi-Fi (up to 5x faster), at-seat charging points, toilet provision on all suburban trains, infotainment systems and better on-board customer information will make passenger journeys better.

More services and faster journeys

The December 2018 timetable will mean customers can expect more services, quicker journeys, and earlier and later trains. With up to 400 additional Sunday trains across the network, passengers can expect more flexibility when planning their journeys.

Improved connectivity

As one of the UK’s largest rail networks, SWR will support local communities by providing greater connectivity. SWR is delighted to re-introduce through services between Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth to aid regional connectivity, while journeys to London will be sped up for those wishing to travel to the capital. SWR will also work with the Isle of Wight community on plans for a more sustainable future for the island’s railway.

Station investment

More than £90 million will be invested to improve stations, with major refurbishments planned for Southampton Central and Wimbledon. Other planned improvements include: better customer information screens, new seating and waiting areas as well as additional car parking. These are all designed to deliver the customer experience step change that customers deserve.

Value for money ticketing

The SWR network contains a huge number of attractive places to visit and tickets will be on offer to encourage customers to travel by train wherever possible. This will include new promotional fares, an easier to use website and apps to support ticket purchase.

Plans also include flexible tickets for those that do not commute every day and a new ticket for 16-18 year olds to bridge the gap between child and full fare travel while still in education.

Earlier this week, we also unveil the new South Western Railway website (, customer app and social media channels (@SW_Help and @SW_Railway). New SWR branding will begin to appear on leaflets and posters at stations and eventually on trains.

Commenting, Tim O’Toole, FirstGroup Chief Executive Officer, said:

"We are delighted to launch the new South Western Railway today. Together with our partners MTR, we will connect millions of customers every week, while investing to improve the network now and in the future. Our experienced leadership team, working alongside thousands of our dedicated SWR colleagues, will deliver the tangible improvements that customers and stakeholders told us they want. Passengers can look forward to a step change in customer experience with new and better trains, more seats and services, quicker journey times, improved stations and more flexible fare options."

Jeremy Long, Chief Executive Officer European Business, MTR, said:

“MTR has a long track record of improving passengers’ journeys around the world and a strong reputation for efficiency, operating performance and quality of delivery. Together with FirstGroup we will bring this to bear for passengers in London and the South West, and help deliver a major programme of upgrades across the South Western network.”

Andy Mellors, Managing Director, South Western Railway said:

“We’re looking forward to building on the respected foundations established by the former franchisee’s employees. They’ve done a great job during the Waterloo and South West upgrade programme work, and I know it’s been a challenging few weeks for customers travelling so I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this time. The outcome of this improvement work will deliver the infrastructure needed to support the increased capacity plans we need for the future.”

About FirstGroup plcFirst group logo

FirstGroup plc is a leading transport operator in the UK and North America. With £5.7 billion in revenue and more than 100,000 employees, we transported around two billion passengers last year. Each of our five divisions is a leader in its field: In North America, First Student is the largest provider of student transportation with a fleet of around 44,000 yellow school buses, First Transit is one of the largest providers of outsourced transit management and contracting services, while Greyhound is the only nationwide operator of scheduled intercity coaches.

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