Local MP Steve Brine says local rail users have a 'golden' opportunity to shape future train services, and plenty of added motivation, as the busy South Western franchise prepares to go out to tender.
The Department for Transport is running a competition to procure a new operator for the franchise, currently run by South West Trains, that is due to end in 2017. A 12-week public consultation will help to inform and develop the franchise specification ahead of the formal Invitation to Tender in April next year.
The news comes as South West Trains confirmed to Mr Brine that the busy 07:05 service from Winchester to Waterloo, used by thousands of commuters each week, will next month (December) switch from a Class 444 'white train' to a Class 450 'blue train'. The MP for Winchester & Chandler's Ford said the change was a 'nightmare' for many travellers catching that train and would cause a great deal of anger given the high cost of a season ticket from the city into London.
He commented; "Regular train users know all too well what the 'blue train' means with its three in-a-row seating that puts you in a kind a uncomfortable straight-jacket and makes any meaningful attempt to work near impossible. It is a longer train, providing some 140 extra seats, and I'm told it will have wi-fi switched on but the blue trains are not popular and what's more I always understood they were being phased out not increased."
The MP, who organised a public meeting with South West Trains bosses in November 2013, said the new franchise was a big moment and an opportunity; "This new retendering process is a golden chance for my constituents to speak up on issues including the kind of rolling stock used on this line. Considerable investment is planned for the period of the new franchise so I want bidders to set out how they will best deliver benefits for passengers. A key focus will be to provide capacity to address crowding levels, and to ensure that the passenger experience is excellent so this is our chance."
Mr Brine, who is a key stakeholder in the consultation, is working with MPs from across Hampshire on future rail investment as well as to shape key asks for the new franchise. He is asking constituents to get in touch with their ideas and suggestions by mid-January. Full details and links can be found via the links below.
At a recent meeting with South West Trains chief, Tim Shoveller and new Commercial Director, James Vickers, the MP also learnt the 17:39 service from Waterloo to Portsmouth via Winchester will switch from an 8-car 'blue train' to a 10-car white train. He described the news as "welcome".
Pictured; Steve Brine at Winchester Railway Station. Steve is a regular commuter himself to London.
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