South Western Railway (SWR) today released its business plan for 2022/23, outlining how the business will meet post-pandemic demands, while striving to continuously improve its customers.
The plan sets business expectations for accomplishments in the coming years in eight specific focus areas: Customers and Communities, Accessibility, Rail Service Operations, Environment and Sustainability, Leadership, Management and Resourcing, Collaboration, People and Workforce. work, and income.
Notable commitments set out in SWR’s 2022/3 business plan include:
- Deployment of live train occupancy information on class 444, 450 and 15X fleets,
- Reinforce the provision of Wi-Fi throughout the fleet, by introducing ultra-fast connections in certain places,
- Provide a comprehensive set of station improvements, including restrooms, waiting rooms, benches and anti-intrusion measures,
- A package of accessibility improvements to the station, including the installation of induction loops, accessible toilets and additional wide entrance doors,
- Develop plans to achieve net zero,
- Membership of the Armed Forces Pact,
- Appoint a fraud investigation team to crack down on digital, electronic or systemic fraud,
SWR receives a fixed fee from the Department of Transport for providing an annual business plan against an agreed annual budget allocation. Along with this budget, the operator has the potential to earn additional fees based on stretch goals that incentivize excellent performance for customers and the taxpayer.
The aforementioned business plan comes at a difficult time in the rail sector, as passenger numbers are still lower than before Covid. Due to this and other issues, ratepayers are required to heavily subsidize the railroad to provide vital connections to customers and communities. Customer travel across SWR has stabilized over the past twelve weeks, showing a steady 70% of pre-Covid levels, with off-peak travel returning strongly to 100% of pre-Covid travel.
In light of these figures and the ongoing cost challenge facing the rail industry, SWR, Network Rail and the Department for Transport have decided to postpone the timetable changes set out in the December 2022 consultation. Instead, SWR will maintain its current service levels in December, with a limited number of targeted interventions to optimize services where demand has returned most quickly.
Commenting, SWR Chief Executive Claire Mann said:
“The Covid pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work, play and travel, and the long-term future of the railway depends on adapting to the new normal.
“Our new business plan does just that, striking the right balance between cutting costs for taxpayers, who have subsidized the railway to the tune of £16billion since the start of the pandemic, and providing improvements that our customers want to see.
“Alongside our business plan, we have taken the joint decision with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to postpone our planned timetable changes to December 2022. Whilst we know this will disappoint some of our customers, we cannot justify spending taxpayers’ money on another increase in hours when the number of commutes is around 50% of pre-pandemic levels. »
SWR and Network Rail will continue to monitor customer behavior and act with agility to meet increased demand, subject to a funding agreement with the Department for Transport.
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