South West­ern Rail­way launches its new brand and liv­ery… but points fail­ures mean first train is 15 min­utes late.

Rail (UK) - - Contents -

South West­ern Rail­way launched its new brand and liv­ery at an event in Water­loo’s former In­ter­na­tional Ter­mi­nal on Septem­ber 4. The first re­branded Class 444 De­siro (444040) ar­rived in new blue, striped white and sil­ver.

The for­mal launch of the new fran­chise had been de­layed for a fort­night, to en­sure it was not con­nected with Net­work Rail’s par­tial clo­sure of Water­loo sta­tion to ex­tend plat­forms ready for longer trains ( RAIL 833/834).

How­ever, sig­nal and points fail­ures re­lated to the up­grade se­verely dis­rupted sched­ules. It meant the first train ar­rived 15 min­utes late, as Sec­re­tary of State for Trans­port Chris Grayling stood wait­ing with lead­ers of FirstGroup and MTR, which had jointly taken over the fran­chise on Au­gust 20.

SWR Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Andy Mel­lors said: “There are huge chal­lenges run­ning this rail­way, and this train came in late. We have to get this rail­way run­ning bet­ter than it does, and I think to­day demon­strates what we need to do to de­liver a bet­ter ser­vice for our cus­tomers.”

Net­work Rail said that as well as points and sig­nal fail­ures, per­for­mance was af­fected by two train break­downs.

The launch co­in­cided with strikes by the RMT union on South­ern, Merseyrail and North­ern over changes to the role of guards. The union is also pre­par­ing a strike bal­lot over the same is­sue at the new fran­chise - it is de­mand­ing that the com­pany ad­heres to a 1998 agree­ment with pre­de­ces­sor Stage­coach to keep a sec­ond safety-crit­i­cal mem­ber of staff on ev­ery train through­out its ten­ure.

SWR has promised to keep a guard on ev­ery train, in­clud­ing on new subur­ban rolling stock which will be equipped for Driver Con­trolled Op­er­a­tion. The com­pany has not spec­i­fied the com­pe­ten­cies of the guards on those ser­vices.

Grayling is a reg­u­lar com­muter on South West­ern Rail­way from his Sur­rey con­stituency. He said: “The RMT here is pur­su­ing an agenda that has noth­ing to do with in­ter­ests of pas­sen­gers or the rail­way. The num­ber of staff is go­ing to in­crease, and South

West­ern Rail­way has al­ready made it clear it is go­ing to keep a guard on ev­ery train, which is sup­pos­edly what the RMT is de­mand­ing.”

Mel­lors said he would be meet­ing RMT lead­ers later this month to un­der­stand why they were plan­ning a strike bal­lot.

RMT Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Mick Cash said: “RMT has given re­peated op­por­tu­ni­ties for First MTR to give the as­sur­ances we have sought over the fu­ture role of guards. They have re­fused to give us those guar­an­tees.”

As well as show­ing off the new liv­ery, SWR an­nounced 100,000 half-price ad­vance tick­ets for pas­sen­gers. The spe­cial fares could only be booked through the op­er­a­tor’s web­site, and were for travel up to Oc­to­ber 3.

SWR is promis­ing more and faster ser­vices, with £1.2 bil­lion in­vest­ment over the seven-year fran­chise ( 833/834).

The com­pany is now op­er­at­ing a De­lay Re­pay scheme for the first time, with com­pen­sa­tion for pas­sen­gers ar­riv­ing more than 30 min­utes late. That would have in­cluded many at the launch.

MARK PIKE.

Hav­ing been used for the South West­ern Rail­way launch, 444040 ap­proaches Bas­ingstoke on Septem­ber 4, with the 1242 Lon­don Water­loo-Northam De­pot. It is the first time a Class 444 has worn any­thing other than the now de­funct SWT liv­ery car­ried from new back in 2004-05.

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