ISSUE: HOUNSLOW LOOP LINE - CHISWICK STATION                                

South West Trains Promise Improvement Ahead of Franchise Decision 

The South West Trains franchise that operates the Hounslow Loop including Chiswick station is due for renewal and the bidders have recently been releasing details of how their bids will affect the local service. Not surprisingly there are lots of promises about improvements in the service.



Local Tories Tony Arbor, Felicity Barwood and Tim Mack outside Chiswick station

Stagecoach Group is the current holder of the franchise, which operates Europe's busiest commuter network, and has a 3.5bn proposal which has been submitted to the Strategic Rail Authority. There are two other bidders for franchise, First Group and Great North Eastern Railways.

The latter bid for £4.5billion over twenty years and will include a major upgrade and resiting of Clapham Junction. They will also be proposing a tunnel between Clapham Junction and Victoria. As part of their bid they are also offering to reintroduce station masters to all suburban stations which would be fully manned during operating hours.

The GNER bid for the franchise has been very aggressive and they have set up a web site specifically for the new franchise area which they will be calling Great South West Trains should their bid be successful.

First Group, which operates the Great Eastern and Great Western franchises, has a plan to introduce double decker trains plus a tunnel to a new station in Chelsea and on to Victoria and Kings Cross.

The South West Trains network is the most overcrowded in the UK with loadings well above Government guidelines. In 1999 a report published by the Strategic Rail Authority showed that they were carrying 3.9% more passengers than capacity levels when government guidelines only permit 3% excess.

The table below shows data from the most recent survey of punctuality in which South West Trains barely manage to get half of their trains running on time.

London and South East
15th Oct 2000 - 6th Jan 2001
Source: Strategic Rail Authority

Percentage of trains arriving on time

All Day
Thames Trains
Great Eastern Railway
Connex South Central
Chiltern Railways
Connex South Eastern
South West Trains

Stagecoach's bid is less ambitious in terms of infrastructure - they are simply proposing to introduce longer trains. This will involve a project to lengthen the platforms. It is unclear if and when trains and platforms on the Hounslow Loop would be upgraded. They have also pledged to introduce trains like the ones that operate on the Heathrow Express by 2004.

The Stagecoach claim their bid to retain the franchise offers more seats on more trains more quickly than anyone else. The alternatives will involve commuters travelling through building sites for the next twenty years. South West Trains is Britain's biggest commuter railway operating 1,670 trains a day. They claim their well documented problems are a result of having to operate most of these trains into Waterloo. The access to Waterloo is very restricted and there is no room for extra tracks.

Although the specifics of how the bid affects Chiswick station are not available as yet a SWT representative informed a recent meeting of the Chiswick Area Committee that the new franchise is being bid on the basis of four - not two trains - per hour and that platform information systems, consisting of screens and public address systems will be introduced by September 2001.

The date of the result of the bid has yet to be disclosed.


Related articles:

GNER Press Release on their Bid

Tony Arbour reports on Transport Issues to the Chiswick Protection Group

A Call for a Public Meeting on Transport in Chiswick

Would you use the Piccadilly line from Turnham Green?

Is Turnham Green the Most Dangerous Station on the Tube?



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