South Western Railway
Franchise(s)South Western
20 August 2017 – 28 May 2023
Main region(s)
Other region(s)
Fleet size
Parent company
Reporting markSW[1]
PredecessorSouth West Trains
Other Edit this at Wikidata
Route map

First MTR South Western Trains Limited,[2] trading as South Western Railway (SWR), is a British train operating company owned by FirstGroup (70%) and MTR Corporation (30%) that operates the South Western franchise. It operates commuter services from its Central London terminus at London Waterloo to South West London. SWR provides suburban services in the counties of Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, as well as regional services in Devon, Somerset, Berkshire and Wiltshire. Its subsidiary Island Line operates services on the Isle of Wight.

SWR was awarded the South Western franchise in March 2017,[3] and took over from South West Trains on 20 August 2017.


In July 2015, having failed to negotiate an extension with South West Trains (the operator at the time, owned by Stagecoach), the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the South Western franchise would be relet.[4][5][6]

In February 2016, the DfT announced FirstGroup and Stagecoach had been shortlisted to bid for the next South Western franchise.[7][8] In June 2016, MTR Corporation took a 30% shareholding in the FirstGroup bid.[9][10] In July 2016, the DfT issued the Invitation to Tender.[11][12]

In March 2017, the franchise was awarded to First/MTR, operating from 20 August 2017 to 18 August 2024, with an option for the DfT to extend for a further 48 weeks.[13][14][15]

In July 2017, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) sought undertakings from SWR that it would not abuse its monopoly on services to the West of England, Dorset and Somerset, as FirstGroup also operated the Greater Western franchise in those regions.[16][17] The CMA accepted a concession from FirstGroup and MTR that unregulated fares between London and Exeter would be capped.[18]

In April 2018, concerns began to grow over South Western Railway's performance over previous months after the number of delays and cancellations began to rise. The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, announced an independent review into the performance of South Western Railway and Network Rail. This was welcomed by Winchester's MP, Steve Brine.[19]

In July 2018, it was reported that FirstGroup/MTR were renegotiating the SWR contract due to the operator's inability to deliver on many of its promised improvements, as well as its declining performance and history of industrial action.[20]

Between 2 December 2019 and 2 January 2020, the RMT union undertook a 27 days of strikes in protest at SWR's plans to potentially introduce DOO (driver only operation) on their new Bombardier suburban fleet (Class 701), which would thereby nullify the role of the guard.[21]

In January 2020, SWR announced that they were in discussions with the government regarding the future of the franchise following a £137 million loss, with termination of the contract being a possibility.[22]

In December 2020, it was announced that the franchise system for SWR would be abolished, and the company would be given a management contract to run until 1 April 2023 when the ERMA (Emergency Recovery Measures Agreement) for the franchise ends in March 2021.[23]

In October 2021, the contract was updated with a finish date of 28 May 2023, with an option to extend further if required by the DfT.[24]


South Western Railway is the main operator for western Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, and also serves London, Berkshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon.

Most SWR services run on electrified lines using the 750 V DC third-rail system. There is a diesel fleet for services on the West of England line to Salisbury and Exeter, using the unelectrified track beyond Worting Junction just west of Basingstoke, and for Salisbury to Southampton via Romsey services which also serve Eastleigh. SWR operates almost 1,700 train services per day.

From London Waterloo, SWR's London terminus, long-distance trains run to southern England, including the major coastal population centres of Portsmouth, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth. There are also trains to Reading and Exeter, but these are not the principal fast services from London to those cities, which are operated from London Paddington by Great Western Railway. The majority of its passengers are on suburban commuter lines in inner and south-west London, Surrey, east Berkshire, and north-east Hampshire.

As with most rail companies, non-folding bicycles are banned from peak-time trains to and from London. However, these restrictions apply only to cyclists boarding or alighting in the area bounded by Hook, Alton, Guildford, Reading and Dorking, in order to maximise available passenger space on the most crowded trains.[25]

Mainline services

South Western Railway operates regular services on four mainline routes:[26][27]

In total, there are 14 mainline trains per hour departing London Waterloo in the off-peak; this number increases in the peak hours.[27] The majority of mainline services are operated by Class 444 or Class 450 EMUs, except for the West of England Main Line which is always operated by Class 158 or Class 159 DMUs (because it is unelectrified) and the Alton Line which also sees the occasional use of Class 458 units.

Metro and Suburban services

South Western Railway also operates many suburban "Metro" services in and around London. These all run between London Waterloo and Clapham Junction, where they split into two separate routes: via Putney and via Wimbledon.[26] All services on the suburban part of the network are operated by Class 450, Class 455, Class 456, Class 458 and Class 707 electric multiple units.

Via Putney

The main route via Putney is known as the Waterloo to Reading Line. It runs between London and Reading and passes through towns such as Staines-upon-Thames, Ascot and Bracknell. Branch lines on this route include:[26][27]

A total of 12 trains per hour run between London Waterloo and Putney in the off-peak; this number increases in peak hours.[27]

Via Wimbledon

The main route via Wimbledon uses the slow tracks of the quadruple-track South West Main Line. Suburban trains run along the mainline between London and Woking. Branch lines on this route include:[26][27]

A total of 16 trains per hour run between London Waterloo and Wimbledon in the off-peak; this number increases in peak hours.[27]

Other services

Routes that do not start or terminate at London Waterloo include:[26][27]

Service table

Details of each route, including maps and timetables, are on the South Western Railway official website (see External links below). As of December 2020, its routes off-peak Monday to Friday, with frequencies in trains per hour (tph), include:[32]

London Mainline routes (South West Main Line)
Route tph Calling at Unit
London Waterloo to Basingstoke 2 450
London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour via Winchester 1
Winchester to Bournemouth 1
  • Extended to Poole on Saturdays
London Waterloo to Weymouth 1 444
London Waterloo to Poole 1
  • Woking
  • Winchester
  • Southampton Airport Parkway
  • Southampton Central
  • Brockenhurst
  • Bournemouth
  • Branksome
  • Parkstone
  • Extended to Weymouth on Saturdays calling at limited stops west of Poole
London Mainline routes (Portsmouth Direct Line)
Route tph Calling at Unit
London Waterloo to Haslemere 1 450
London Waterloo to Portsmouth & Southsea via Guildford 1
  • Clapham Junction
  • Woking
  • Worplesdon
  • Guildford
  • Godalming
  • Milford (Surrey)
  • Witley
  • Haslemere
  • Liphook
  • Liss
  • Petersfield
  • Rowlands Castle, Havant
  • Bedhampton
  • Hilsea
  • Fratton
London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour via Guildford 1
  • Woking
  • Guildford
  • Farncombe
  • Godalming
  • Haslemere
  • Petersfield
  • Havant
  • Fratton
  • Portsmouth & Southsea
London Mainline routes (West of England Main Line)
Route tph Calling at Unit
London Waterloo to Exeter St Davids 1
  • Feniton and Whimple are served by alternate trains
Basingstoke to Salisbury 1
London Mainline routes (Alton Line)
Route tph Calling at Unit
London Waterloo to Alton 2 450
London Metro and Suburban routes (Windsor lines)
Route tph Calling at Unit
London Waterloo to Weybridge 2
London Waterloo to London Waterloo via Kingston (anticlockwise) 2
  • Services continue to London Waterloo via New Malden (see below)
London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside 2
London Waterloo to Reading 2
London Metro and Suburban routes (via Wimbledon)
Route tph Calling at Unit
London Waterloo to Chessington South 2
London Waterloo to Dorking 1
London Waterloo to Guildford via Epsom 1
London Waterloo to Shepperton 2
London Waterloo to London Waterloo via Kingston (clockwise) 2
  • Vauxhall
  • Clapham Junction
  • Earlsfield
  • Wimbledon
  • Raynes Park
  • New Malden
  • Norbiton
  • Kingston...
  • Services continue to London Waterloo via Richmond (see above)
London Waterloo to Hampton Court 2
London Waterloo to Guildford via Claygate 2
London Waterloo to Woking 2
Non-London routes
Route tph Calling at Unit
Ascot to Aldershot 2 450
Guildford to Farnham 2
Portsmouth & Southsea to Southampton Central 1
Romsey to Salisbury 1
Brockenhurst to Lymington Pier 2 Lymington Town 450
Salisbury to Yeovil Pen Mill 3tpd
Island Line
Route tph Calling at Unit
Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin 2 484
This map shows the frequency of all stations served by SWR trains.
This map shows the frequency of all stations served by SWR trains.

Future services

Improvements promised under the 2017 contract were:[33]

As of May 2019, there is also an hourly Sunday service between Reading and Salisbury via Basingstoke (with trains running between 0800 and 1800).[34]

In August 2021, the company announced the launch of "assisted boarding points" at all 189 stations on its network, allowing disabled or elderly passengers to ask for assistance onboard trains with as little as ten minutes' notice.[35] The scheme will include clear signage at stations, with QR codes allowing customers to send details of the assistance they require and their planned journey to staff, replacing older systems wherein assisted journeys had to be booked six hours to a day in advance.

Rolling stock

South Western Railway inherited a fleet of Classes 158, 159, 444, 450, 455, 456, 458 and 707 from South West Trains, and subsequently re-introduced Class 442 trains which had operated on Gatwick Express after earlier service with South West Trains. The current fleet for the Island Line, Class 484, entered service on 1 November 2021.[36]

The Class 442 fleet was withdrawn in mid 2020, with SWR deciding in March 2021 that they would not be returned to service and their re-introduction would be cancelled.[37]

Current fleet

Family Class Image Type Top speed Carriages No. Routes Built
mph km/h
Sprinter 158 Express Sprinter
DMU 90 145 2 10 1989–92
159 South Western Turbo

3 30 West of England, Heart of Wessex and Wessex Main Lines:
  • 159/0 1992–93
  • 159/1 Converted 2006–7
Siemens Desiro 444
EMU 100 160 5 45
4 127
Outer suburban routes:
BR Second Generation (Mark 3) 455

75 120 4 91 Inner suburban routes: 1982-85
Alstom Coradia Juniper 458
5 36 Outer suburban services:
  • 2013–16
  • (1998–2002 as 458/0)
  • (2000–01 as 460)
Vivarail D-Train 484
60 100 2 5 Island Line
1978–1981 (as D78 Stock)

converted 2020–2021

Siemens Desiro 707 Desiro City
100 160 5 12[38] Outer suburban services:

Future fleet

Classes 455, 456 and 707 fleets will be replaced by 30 five-car and 60 ten-car Class 701 units built at Bombardier's Derby Litchurch Lane Works, financed by ROSCO Rock Rail for £1 billion,[39] for use on Reading, Windsor and London suburban services.[40][41][42]

Family Class Image Type Top speed Cars Number Routes operated Enter Service
mph km/h
Bombardier Aventra 701/0 EMU
100 160 10 60 Reading, Windsor and South West London suburban services TBA[43]
701/5 5 30

Past fleet

Train types formerly operated by South Western Railway include:

Family Class Image Type Top speed Carriages Number Routes operated Built Withdrawn Notes
mph km/h
1938 tube stock 483
EMU 45 72 2 6 Island Line 1938 2020–21 Replaced by Class 484
BR Second Generation (Mark 3) 442 Wessex Electrics
100 160 5 18 1987–89 2021 Replaced by Class 444
BR Second Generation (Mark 3) Class 456
75 121 2 24
  • Inner suburban services in conjunction with services operated by Class 455 units to make 10 coach trains.
1990–91 2022


A large number of train depots and stabling sidings located across London and South West England service and maintain the South Western Railway fleet.


Bournemouth depot is southwest of Bournemouth station, occupying the approach to the former Bournemouth West station. Until their withdrawal in February 2007, the depot was home to the Class 442 (5Wes) Wessex Electrics, and became so again during their reintroduction from 2019 to 2021. The branch turns off at Branksome station where trains can be seen stopping at platform 2 and reversing into the depot.


Farnham Traincare Depot, in Weydon Lane, was opened by the Southern Railway at the time of the electrification of the Portsmouth and Alton lines in 1937.[47] It was refurbished for the introduction of modern units when slam-door trains were replaced circa 2005. At the same time, disused quarry and ballast dump sidings behind the carriage shed were removed and a number of outdoor sidings were laid for overnight storage and servicing of units.


Feltham depot, currently under construction, will open in 2021 and will be providing stabling for the Class 701 units.


Fratton Traincare Depot is located on central Portsea Island, alongside Fratton station. It has a carriage washer and is the fuelling point for the 158s and 159s. The depot has a train shed with two pitted roads for maintenance of rolling stock. Class 444 and 450 units berth overnight. Stabling sidings and bay platforms at Portsmouth & Southsea station are co-ordinated from the depot.


Northam depot was built by Siemens in 2002 as the home depot for the Desiro fleet as part of a 20-year maintenance contract.[48] It is located south of St Denys station and is near Southampton Football Club's St Mary's Stadium.


Ryde depot, alongside Ryde St John's Road on the Isle of Wight serviced the Class 483 units that used to operate on the Island Line.[49][50][51]

This has been refitted to allow the new Class 484 to be serviced.[citation needed]


Salisbury depot provides servicing for the South Western Railway diesel fleet.

Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill train maintenance depot in South West London, was built in 1897, is inside the triangular junction of the Shepperton Branch Line with the Kingston Loop Line, just yards from Strawberry Hill railway station.


Wimbledon Traincare depot is located between Wimbledon and Earlsfield stations, on the main line to Waterloo, next to the Wimbledon railway viaduct. It is currently the home of the Class 455, 456, 458/5 and 707 fleets, although other classes from the SWR fleet berth overnight there.


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Preceded bySouth West Trains Operator of South Western franchise 2017–2023 Succeeded byIncumbent