Southern
A pair of Southern Class 377s at London Victoria Platforms 18 and 19 awaiting departure to Eastbourne and Reigate
Overview
Franchise(s)
  • Network SouthCentral
    26 August 2001 – 24 May 2003
  • South Central
    25 May 2003 – 19 September 2009
  • Gatwick Express
    22 June 2008 – 19 September 2009
  • South Central (incl Gatwick Express)
    20 September 2009 – 25 July 2015
  • Part of Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern
    26 July 2015 – 1 April 2028[1]
Main Region(s)Greater London, South East England
Other Region(s)East of England
Fleet size
Stations called at213
Stations operated156
Parent companyGovia Thameslink Railway
Reporting markSN
Technical
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification750 V DC third rail
25 kV 50 Hz AC OHLE
Length666.3 km (414.0 mi)[citation needed]
Other
Websitewww.southernrailway.com Edit this at Wikidata
Route map
Route map
A sign at Brighton station showing the name change from South Central to Southern in August 2004.

Southern is the brand name used by the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) train operating company on the Southern routes of the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise in England.[2] It is a subsidiary of Govia, a joint venture between transport groups Go-Ahead and Keolis, and has operated the South Central franchise since August 2001 and the Gatwick Express service since June 2008. When the passenger rail franchise was subsumed into GTR, Southern was split from Gatwick Express and the two became separate brands, alongside the Thameslink and Great Northern brands.

Southern operates the majority of commuter services from its Central London terminals at London Bridge and London Victoria to South London, East and West Sussex, as well as regional services in parts of Hampshire, Kent and Surrey. It also provides services between Watford Junction and Croydon via the West London line.

Major destinations served include Beckenham Junction, Bexhill, Bognor Regis, Brighton, Caterham, Chichester, Crawley, Eastbourne, East Croydon, East Grinstead, Epsom, Epsom Downs, Gatwick Airport, Horsham, Mitcham Junction, Leatherhead, Littlehampton, Portsmouth Harbour, Redhill, Southampton Central, Sutton, Tattenham Corner, Uckfield and Worthing. The company also operates services from Eastbourne to Ashford, Brighton to Ore, Brighton to Seaford, Brighton to Southampton and Clapham Junction to Watford Junction.

For three consecutive years from 2016 to 2018, Southern came last on passenger satisfaction in surveys conducted by the consumer group Which?, scoring low for value for money, reliability, and punctuality in 2018.[3] In 2022, Southern was ranked second-worst on overall passenger satisfaction in a survey conducted by Transport Focus.[4]

History

As part of the wider privatisation of the state owned railway operator British Rail in the 1990s, Connex South Central was awarded the Network SouthCentral franchise by the Director of Passenger Rail Franchising. Operations commenced on 26 May 1996.

In March 2000, the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority (SSRA) announced its intention to relet the franchise from May 2003; both Connex and Govia were shortlisted.[5][6] In October 2000, the SSRA announced that Govia had been awarded the franchise and would operate it from May 2003.[7] Govia negotiated a deal with Connex to buy out the remainder of its franchise, this was completed in August 2001.[8][9][10] Govia trading as SouthCentral[11] took over operations on 26 August 2001. The franchise was originally to run for twenty years but, in 2002, the Strategic Rail Authority changed the way it handled financing agreements and therefore Govia was re-awarded with a seven-and-a-half-year franchise until December 2009.[7][12][full citation needed][13][full citation needed]

In May 2003, the franchise was rebranded as Southern in a recall of the pre-nationalisation Southern Railway, using a green roundel logo with Southern in yellow in a green bar.

During April 2007, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that the Gatwick Express franchise was to be incorporated into the main South Central franchise.[14][15] This reorganisation was part of a wider plan to increase capacity on the Brighton Main Line, involving the extension of peak-hour services from Gatwick to Brighton and Eastbourne from December 2008. This change doubled the number of London to Brighton express trains during those periods.[16]

In December 2008, Southern took over the services on the Redhill to Tonbridge Line from Southeastern.[17]

The South Central franchise end date was brought forward to September 2009 upon the integration of the Gatwick Express service, to allow the new operator to be in place during major changes to the timetable in and around South London in December 2009.[18] In the run-up to the bidding process for the franchise, reports emerged suggesting that Transport for London, the operator of the London Overground service, wished to take control of all overground services in South London, including the 'Metro' area of the South Central franchise.[19][20] However, such a transfer never took place and the DfT put out the entire franchise for tender.

In August 2008, the DfT shortlisted Govia, National Express, NedRail and Stagecoach for the new South Central franchise.[21][22][23] In June 2009, the DfT announced that Govia had retained the franchise, to start on 20 September 2009.[24][25]

In March 2012, the Department for Transport announced that Abellio, FirstGroup, Govia, MTR and Stagecoach had been shortlisted for the new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise.[26][27] The Invitation to Tender was to be issued in October 2012, with the successful bidder announced in spring 2013. However, in the wake of the collapse of the InterCity West Coast refranchising process, the government announced in October 2012 that the process would be put on hold pending the results of a review.[28]

In December 2012, Southern's London Victoria to London Bridge via Denmark Hill service ceased, being partially replaced by London Overground's new Clapham Junction to Dalston Junction service.

At the conclusion of the Southern franchise in July 2015, the South Central franchise was merged into the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise, which is run as a management contract rather than a traditional franchise.[29][30] However, the Southern brand was retained.[31]

2007 and 2008 timetables

Southern was criticised for major changes to its timetables in December 2007 and December 2008.

In December 2007, Southern changed the arrangement for the splitting of services to and from London Victoria on the Arun Valley Line, opting to split trains at Horsham rather than Barnham, as well as run the portion to Portsmouth or Southampton non-stop to Barnham. Some passengers criticised this change as it increased the journey time to and from London by up to 10 minutes from certain stations, while in the event of services running behind schedule, trains were sometimes not split at Horsham, and proceeded non-stop to Barnham, leaving Arun Valley commuters at Horsham with the prospect of no onward trains.[32]

During December 2008, further timetable changes included the introduction of the extended Gatwick Express services. However, reliability and timekeeping on some of the new services were considered poor, leading to several public meetings being held.[33][34][35] On 22 January 2009, Southern responded to some of these criticisms. During 2009, these services have recorded improved timekeeping and criticisms have since subsided.[36]

The new timetable also led to unhappiness due to the difference in speed and frequency of service between East Coastway services and those on the Brighton Main Line.[37][38]

December 2010 timetable

Further changes to the timetable were made in December 2010; the first timetable change to include many of the requirements of the new franchise. Additional services were included at evenings and weekends. In the London area a 'metro' frequency of service was introduced on most routes with the extension of the weekday daytime four-trains-per-hour norm to late evenings (up to around midnight), Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, new late-night services were introduced from London on Friday and Saturday nights with last trains leaving central London at around 00:30.[39]

Outside London, a new later-evening service was introduced to Uckfield from London Bridge, new late-night services from Brighton along the West Coastway line and direct services between Southampton and Brighton on Sundays.[39]

Punctuality and overcrowding

In January 2015, Southern hit controversy when it was revealed that the 7.29am Brighton to London Victoria train failed to get in on time on any occasion out of all 240 attempts in 2014.[40] Later in May 2015 it was revealed that Southern had fined passengers for standing in first class on an overcrowded train.[41] Only 20% of Southern trains arrived on time in the year from April 2015 to March 2016, and there was an ongoing industrial dispute over driver-only operated trains.[42][43] In late 2016, the Transport Select Committee told ministers to "get a grip" on railway franchises, with their report asking if the train operator was in breach of their contractual obligations due to the large number of cancelled trains, and went on to say, "in normal circumstances, this would be grounds for termination of the contract".[44][45]

2016 amended timetable

In 2016, the company introduced an "amended timetable [that] would be a temporary measure until staffing returned to normal" to be announced on 5 July. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) trade union said that 350 services would be cancelled every day (the company ran 2,242 weekday services in the previous timetable). The company said it had insufficient personnel, and too many were taking sick leave; the union denied that high levels of sickness were the cause of cancellations, while agreeing that there were an insufficient number of guards and drivers.[46]

The government Department for Transport said that the situation was unacceptable. While the company was obliged to notify the department in advance, this did not amount to giving the company permission for the changes. The RMT union general secretary Mick Cash said the government had permitted GTR to introduce the emergency timetable, but that it was "nothing to do with staff sickness and everything to do with gross mismanagement of this franchise and the failure to employ enough guards and drivers. ... a cynical and cowardly ploy".[46]

The London Evening Standard mentioned Southern in an article in June 2016 "Southern rail suggests commuter goes on 100 mile detour to Clapham instead of her normal six minute journey".[47] In June 2016, amongst criticism of the performance of its services, Go-Ahead warned of lower than anticipated profits on its Govia Thameslink Railway franchises, leading to an 18% drop in the Go-Ahead share price.[48]

From 31 October 2016, Southern restored the full weekday timetable.[49]

Control of doors and strikes

Main article: Southern Railway strike (2016–2017)

In 2016, Southern altered its method of door operation, with control of the doors moving from the conductor to the driver. Southern said this would allow the conductor to concentrate on the passengers, but the RMT and Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) unions said that it was an attempt to make conductors unnecessary and would be unsafe. The rail safety regulator, the Rail Standards and Safety Board has said that "We have 30 years of data which we have analysed. We have found that the driver performing the task does not increase the risk to passengers at all."[50] During 2016, the RMT and ASLEF unions went on strike over the changes, causing severe disruption to Southern services.[51] The strikes continued into 2017.[52]

The BBC suggested that the RMT union are particularly worried about the new method of operation because if drivers (rather than conductors) control the doors then trains could run without conductors and thus any strike by conductors would not have the power to cancel trains.[53]

In December 2016, it was announced that the government would pay £50 million to Southern to cover the costs of the disruption caused by the strikes, due to a deal between the government and Southern. This deal means that the government pays £38 million for lost revenue and £15 million in compensation to passengers. This deal also means that Govia Thameslink Railway will save around £1.1 million in pay for striking workers.[54] Commentators argued that the government gave a management contract rather than a normal franchise to GTR in order to push through DOO. The management contract meant that GTR did not have the incentive to resolve strikes as a normal franchisee would have, as the government lost money from strikes rather than GTR.[55][56]

On 2 February 2017, the TUC announced that talks between Southern and ASLEF had reached an agreement meaning that the dispute with ASLEF had been resolved. However, the RMT union said it was 'betrayed' by Southern and that strikes by the RMT would continue.[57] On 29 June 2017, ASLEF implemented an overtime ban with the aim of highlighting a claimed failure by Southern to recruit adequate staff.[needs update]

Routes

The network of services operated by Southern includes local suburban ("Metro") services in South London and regional services extending into the southern Home Counties. Along with the Thameslink and the Elizabeth line routes, this provides one of the few long-distance National Rail routes to run right across London instead of terminating at one of the London rail termini. Southern routes which do not serve London include the West Coastway and East Coastway Lines along the south coast of both East and West Sussex, Kent and Hampshire.

Details of each route, including maps and timetables, are on Southern's website (see External links below). As of December 2023, the off-peak Monday-Saturday service pattern, with frequencies in 'trains per hour' (tph), consists of[58]

Brighton Main Line
Route tph Calling at
London VictoriaLittlehampton 2
London Victoria – Eastbourne 1
London Victoria – Ore 1
Arun Valley line
Route tph Calling at
London VictoriaSouthampton Central via Crawley 1
London Victoria – Portsmouth & Southsea via Crawley 1
  • Clapham Junction, East Croydon, Gatwick Airport, Three Bridges, Crawley, Horsham, Barnham, Chichester, Havant, Fratton
London Victoria – Bognor Regis via Crawley 2
Seaford branch line
Route tph Calling at
BrightonSeaford 2
  • Services alternate between serving Southease and Newhaven Harbour
East Coastway and Marshlink lines
Route tph Calling at
Brighton – Eastbourne 1
Brighton – Ore 1
Eastbourne – Ashford International 1
West Coastway line
Route tph Calling at
BrightonHove 2 Shuttle service
Brighton – Southampton Central 1
Brighton – Portsmouth Harbour 1
Littlehampton – Portsmouth & Southsea 1
Littlehampton – Bognor Regis 1
  • Ford, Barnham
Barnham – Bognor Regis 1 Shuttle service
Oxted line
Route tph Calling at
London VictoriaEast Grinstead 1
London BridgeUckfield 1
Reigate and Redhill–Tonbridge line
Route tph Calling at
London VictoriaReigate 2
Redhill – Tonbridge 1
West London Route
Route tph Calling at
Watford JunctionEast Croydon 1
Mole Valley Line
Route tph Calling at
London VictoriaDorking via Carshalton 1
London Victoria – Horsham via Carshalton 1
London Victoria – Epsom Downs via Norbury 2
London Bridge – Epsom 2
  • Norwood Junction, West Croydon, Waddon, Wallington, Carshalton Beeches, Sutton, Cheam, Ewell East
Caterham and Tattenham Corner lines
Route tph Calling at
London Bridge – Caterham 2
  • This route splits/merges at Purley with the route to Tattenham Corner, see below.
London Bridge – Tattenham Corner 2
  • This route splits/merges at Purley with the route to Caterham, see above.
London via Crystal Palace and/or Tulse Hill
Route tph Calling at
London VictoriaWest Croydon via Crystal Palace 2
London Victoria – London Bridge via Crystal Palace 2
London Bridge – East Croydon via Tulse Hill 2
London Bridge – Beckenham Junction via Tulse Hill and Crystal Palace 2
  • South Bermondsey, Queens Road Peckham, Peckham Rye, East Dulwich, North Dulwich, Tulse Hill, West Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Crystal Palace, Birkbeck
Southern exterior signage at Norwood Junction station (now replaced by London Overground signage)

Rolling stock

As of May 2022, Southern services are almost entirely operated by 214 Class 377 electric multiple units, with the exception of services on the unelectrified Marshlink line and the Uckfield branch of the Oxted line, which use Class 171 diesel multiple units.

South Central inherited a fleet of Class 205, Class 207, Class 319, Class 421, Class 423, Class 455 and Class 456 multiple-unit trains from Connex South Central. Southern inherited a Class 73 locomotive and Class 460 Juniper trains from Gatwick Express.[citation needed]

A franchise commitment was to replace all the Mark 1 slam-door stock, resulting in Southern ordering 28 three-car DC, 139 four-car DC and 15 four-car dual-voltage Class 377 Electrostars in September 2001 and March 2002 to replace the Class 421, Class 422 and Class 423s.[59][full citation needed]

In August 2002, Southern ordered nine two-car and six four-car Class 171 Turbostars to replace the Class 205s and Class 207s on the routes that are not fully electrified.[60][full citation needed] In 2006, a tenth two-car Class 171 was transferred from South West Trains.[citation needed]

In 2007, Southern ordered 12 four-car, dual-voltage Class 377/5 Electrostars to replace the remaining twelve Class 319s for transfer to First Capital Connect. In March 2008 Go Ahead purchased a further 11 Class 377/5s. All 23 ended up being sublet to First Capital Connect to provide extra stock for the Thameslink Programme Key Output Zero changes from March 2009. However, due to delays in their production, Class 377/2s were also sublet. To cover for this, Class 350/1s were subleased from London Midland.[61]

To provide stock for the extended Gatwick Express services to Brighton, in 2008 Southern leased 17 Class 442 Wessex Electrics withdrawn by South West Trains in early 2007. After retaining the franchise in 2009, Southern leased the remaining seven Class 442s. The last of the Class 460 Junipers were withdrawn in September 2012.[citation needed]

To release Class 377/3s for use on London suburban services, Southern introduced a fleet of ex-London Overground Class 313s on the Coastway lines from May 2010.[62][63][full citation needed]. These remained in service until 2023, when they were withdrawn from service and was replaced by Class 377s.

During 2011, Southern announced that, because of delays in procuring new trains for the Thameslink Programme, the 23 Class 377/5s on sub-lease to First Capital Connect would not be returned in time to deliver the operator's planned capacity increases from the December 2013 timetable change. It therefore began a process to procure 130 new vehicles.[64] It was announced in December 2011 that Bombardier had been contracted to supply 26 five-car Class 377/6s.[65] In November 2012, it was announced that an option for a further 40 vehicles was being exercised.[66]

All twenty-four Class 456s were transferred to South West Trains in 2014 after the introduction of the Class 377/6 fleet.[citation needed]

In April 2016, Southern commenced a lease for nine three-carriage Class 170s last used by First ScotRail from Eversholt Rail Group. Four (170421-424) moved to Wolverton Works in 2015 and were reconfigured as two two-carriage and two four-carriage Class 171s. The other five (170416-420) remain in Scotland on sub-lease to Abellio ScotRail and were scheduled to move to Southern in 2018.[67][68][69]

In May 2022, Southern withdrew its Class 455s and received 2 Class 377s from Southeastern.[70][71]

On 7 September 2022, three Class 171s, having been reformed to three-car formations and renumbered to 170422–424, transferred to East Midlands Railway.[72]

Current fleet

Family Class Image Type Top speed Number Carriages Routes operated Built
mph km/h
Bombardier Turbostar 171
DMU 100 160 7[73][74] 3 Oxted line
Marshlink line
2003–04
10[74] 2

Bombardier Electrostar 377/1

EMU 64 4 Entire Southern network apart from sections between Hurst Green and Uckfield & between Ore and Ashford International 2001–05
377/2 15
377/3 28 3
377/4 75 4
377/6 26 5
377/7 8


387/2 110 177 4 4[75] Entire Southern network apart from sections between Hurst Green and Uckfield & between Ore and Ashford International 2016–17

Past fleet

Former units operated by Southern include:

 Class   Image   Type   Built   Withdrawn   Notes 
205 (3H) DMU 1957–62 2004 Replaced by Class 171 Turbostar
207 (3D) 1962
313 EMU 1976–77 2023[76] Replaced by Class 377 Electrostar
319 1987 2008 Replaced by Class 377 Electrostar
350/1 Desiro 2004–05 2009 Subleased from London Midland in 2008 to provide cover for Class 377 Electrostar units subleased to First Capital Connect. After newer Class 377 Electrostar trains were built, these units were returned to London Midland.
Replaced by newer Class 377 Electrostar units.[61]
421 (4CIG) 1964–66 2005 Replaced by Class 377 Electrostar
423 (4VEP) 1967–71
455 1982–84 2022
456 1990–91 2014 Replaced by Class 377/6 Electrostar

Depots

Southern's fleet is maintained at Brighton Lovers Walk and Selhurst depots. The Gatwick Express fleet is maintained at Stewarts Lane.

Light maintenance is also carried out at Littlehampton for the electric fleet, and St Leonards for the class 171 fleet when on Marshlink services.

Future

Southern, as part of its successful bid for the South Central franchise in 2009, made several commitments to improving services across the network.[25] These included:

Uckfield–Lewes line

The franchise consultation paper released at the beginning of the 2009 franchising process stated that the ultimate franchise agreement would include a change mechanism to enable the DfT to incorporate additional routes into the South Central franchise, and it invited bidders to submit priced options for schemes put forward by stakeholders. One such scheme could, as indicated in the South Central Franchise Consultation Paper, be the reopening of the Uckfield – Lewes line, closed in 1969.[77] During the 2010s, several interested parties have been examining the possibility of reopening the line.[78][79]

Future of the franchise

In January 2016, Transport for London announced a proposal to take over the London suburban parts of the franchise in 2021 through a partnership with the Department for Transport to form a new suburban metro service.[80] However, the plan was rejected by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in December 2016.[81]

In January 2017, it was reported that the Department for Transport was considering temporarily renationalising the franchise if the service did not improve.[82]

On 17 June 2021, the DfT extended the current contract from 19 September 2021 to 31 March 2022.[83]

The contract for the delivery of Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern services was extended by the DfT on 25 March 2022. The current contract will now expire on 1 April 2028.[1]

Rolling out of smartcards

This section needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (July 2016)

Southern was criticised in January 2007 for not wishing to introduce Oyster Pay As You Go on its London routes, stating that it was not financially viable. In 2007, Southern introduced Oyster on its Watford Junction to Clapham Junction route,[84] and the company later agreed in principle to the introduction of Oyster across its network,[85] but did not give any firm timescale, managing director Chris Burchell saying

"There are still a number of outstanding issues that need to be discussed with TfL, but we do not believe these will prevent us making PAYG a reality on our network. We look forward to discussions with TfL on how we can make this happen as soon as possible for our passengers."[86]

In its successful franchise bid in 2009, Southern said it was committed to rolling out Oyster Pay As You Go in the London area, but also that such a move was subject to industry agreement.[25] Since 2 January 2010, Oyster Pay As You Go has been valid on all its London routes, along with most other train services in the London area. In addition, Oyster is valid on Southern services beyond the Greater London boundary as far as Epsom, Epsom Downs, Tattenham Corner, Upper Warlingham, Caterham and Gatwick Airport.

The Key

Main article: The Key (smartcard)

In 2012, Southern became the first rail company in England to use the ITSO card on its network. The Key is a smartcard similar to Transport for London's Oyster card. Tickets of various types can be purchased for the smartcard at ticket vending machines across the majority of the GTR network, except within Oyster-capable travel areas, as well as online (season tickets only).

Three forms of Key exist: child, adult, and staff. All child smartcards need a photograph, which is printed onto the card, as well as proof of age while registering. The Key can be de-activated and the tickets transferred to a new card sent out in the post if the smartcard is reported as lost, stolen or faulty.[87] Staff smartcards are only issued to employees of GTR, and offer unlimited travel across all of GTR's network.

The Key also has a pay-as-you-go feature called keyGo. With this, customers can tap in and out freely within the keyGo area, and the cheapest combination of tickets from the entire day's taps are automatically calculated at the end of the railway day and automatically charged to a linked payment card. keyGo is also valid on Brighton & Hove buses and Metrobus services within certain areas. Bus journeys are charged at the single, day zonal, day network or Plusbus rates as appropriate.[88]

The Key can be used on all National Rail services where tickets are available for purchase on smartcards.[87]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Trains reverse here

References

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Preceded byConnex South CentralSouth Central franchise Operator of South Central franchise 2001–2009 Succeeded bySouthernSouth Central (incl Gatwick Express) franchise Preceded byGatwick ExpressGatwick Express franchise Operator of Gatwick Express franchise 2008 – 2009 Preceded bySouthernSouth Central franchise Operator of South Central (incl Gatwick Express) franchise 2009–2015 Succeeded byGovia Thameslink RailwayThameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise Preceded bySouthernGatwick Express franchise Preceded bySouthernSouth Central (incl Gatwick Express) franchise Sub-brand of Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise 2015–present Succeeded byIncumbent