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SWR outlines business plan

South Western Railway (SWR) has today published its business plan for 2022/23, outlining how the company will rise to the post-pandemic demands, whilst striving for continuous customer improvements.

The plan establishes the companies’ expectations for the coming years achievements in eight specific areas of focus being: customer and communities, accessibility, train service operation, environment and sustainability, leadership, management and resourcing, collaboration, people and workforce, and revenue. 

Notable commitments set out in SWR’s 2022/3 business plan include:

  • Rolling out live train occupancy information on the class 444, 450 and 15X fleets,
  • Boosting Wi-Fi provision across the fleet, introducing superfast connections in some locations,
  • Delivering a comprehensive package of station improvements, including toilets, waiting rooms, benches, and anti-trespass measures,
  • A package of station accessibility improvements including installing induction loops, accessible toilet, and additional wide aisle gatelines,
  • Developing plans to achieve net zero,
  • Signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant,
  • Appointing a fraud investigation team to crack down on digital, electronic, or systemic fraud,

SWR receives a fixed fee from the Department for Transport to deliver an annual business plan against an agreed annual budget allowance. Accompanying this budget, the operator has the potential to earn additional fees that are based on stretching targets that incentivise excellent performance for customers and the taxpayer.

The aforementioned business plan comes at a challenging time within the rail sector as passenger numbers are still below that of pre-Covid levels. Due to this and other issues, taxpayers are required to heavily subsidise the railway to provide vital connections for customers and communities. Customer journeys across SWR has stabilised over the last twelve weeks seeing a constant of 70% of pre-Covid levels, with off peak travel has returning strongly to 100% of pre-Covid trips.

In light of these figures and the ongoing cost challenge facing the rail industry, SWR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport have decided to defer the timetable changes set out in the December 2022 consultation. Instead, SWR will continue with its current service levels in December, with a limited number of targeted interventions to optimise services where demand has returned quickest.  

Commenting, 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 to the new normal.

“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.

“Alongside our business plan, we have made the joint decision with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to defer our planned December 2022 timetable changes. While we know this will come as a disappointment to some of our customers, we cannot justify spending taxpayers’ money on a further timetable uplift while the number of commuter journeys sit at around 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.”

SWR and Network Rail will continue to monitor customer behaviour and act with agility to meet increased demand, subject to funding being agreed with the Department for Transport.

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