Struggling South Western Railway (SWR) appears to have lowered the threshold for its trains to skip stops to make up time, despite a pledge from its new managing director to tackle the issue.
When Mark Hopwood took over the firm last month he issued a series of key commitments to passengers, the first of which was to ‘increase the number of trains running on time, and address problems like trains running with fewer carriages than they’re supposed to and trains missing out stops to make up time’.
The last point is a regular bugbear of SWR passengers, who are often left on platforms or miss stations with underground connections.
Mr Hopwood assured passengers that there was a ‘robust performance improvement plan to reduce the problems that cause delays and manage those we do have more effectively’.
However, despite repeated requests from Transport Network, SWR has not disclosed what the plan says on the issue of skipping stops.
In fact, it appears that the firm has introduced new guidelines that could see trains miss stations in response to minor delays in the hope of preventing the 'spread of delay' - a policy that appears to have gone down badly with customers.
Passengers have complained on Twitter that trains have run fast in response to minor delays and SWR staff have justified the move by reference to preventing ‘delays further up the line’.
A spokesperson told Transport Network: ‘We recognise that skipping stops is frustrating for our customers, and we are in the process of producing a train-by-train guide for Control to target skip stops in a more pragmatic way. This was delivered for Suburban and Windsor trains in January and we are working to deliver this for other services soon.’
The spokesperson subsequently explained: 'We have implemented a decision support tool for our suburban services. This tool gives train controllers guidance on a train-by-train basis of what to do in very specific circumstances.
‘By reacting quickly to small incidents and intervening in a standardised approach, the decision support tool prevents a spread of delay throughout the suburban service while ensuring the least amount of customers are adversely affected.’
SWR’s suburban and Windsor services are local stopping services between Waterloo and suburban London, Windsor, Reading and Surrey.