Rail minister promises South West Train network improvements '˜as soon as possible'
Rail minister Paul Maynard has promised passengers travelling between Portsmouth and London that improvements to the South West Trains network will be made as soon as possible.
He said customers could look forward to ‘positive journeys’ as train times between the cities come down and more seats are introduced on services.
His comments came as Chinese company MTR and First Group were announced as the new joint operators of the SWT franchise.
The Department for Transport has revealed improvements to the network including the refurbishment of stations and changes to the ticketing system.
Speaking to The News Mr Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: ‘This is about ensuring we have the service that matches the ambitions of people using it.
‘We hope that we will have changes coming in from day one.’
A public consultation was carried out in late 2015 for the public to have their say on the changes.
Mr Maynard added: ‘We always pay very careful attention to the consultations. They [the public] were very clear that this was about capacity and reliability.
‘When you need a train service you must be confident that the service will be there.’
The two companies will manage the network for seven years after taking over from previous operator Stagecoach.
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, said: ‘The improvements to services are very welcome - faster journeys and much more capacity, charging points and other improvements.
‘However we know from previous experience that the delivery of this is what counts. Specifically, the tens of thousands of extra seats must be of a design that means people can actually use them in comfort on main line services.
‘The new generation of franchise agreements rightly put more emphasis on such standards. I will want assurances that those requirements will be met.’
Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond also welcomed the franchise award, but called on the operators to improve the ‘appallingly’ slow times from the city to Southampton and London.
She added: ‘I am pleased foreign money and expertise will be used to help run the services. This is a vote of confidence in the UK as we move to leave the EU.
‘I will be seeking a meeting with the new franchise as soon as possible to discuss these issues and I look forward to working with them in the years to come.
The government said the new operators will oversee a £1.2 billion investment to improve journeys for millions of train passengers.
The new franchise will see 22,000 extra seats into London Waterloo each morning peak and 30,000 extra seats each evening peak, as well as a fleet of 90 new trains, providing more space for passengers on Reading, Windsor and London routes.
There will be more frequent and additional services across the franchise, faster journeys across the network and earlier and later trains.