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Are you affected by the South West Trains disruption?

South West Trains

If you’re a South West Trains passenger then you’ve probably heard about the month long disruption on the line. So what impact will the disruption have for passengers in August and will they be compensated?

Between 5-28 August, South West Trains (SWT) are running fewer services as work begins to extend the platforms at London Waterloo. SWT has been advising passengers of the likely disruption for several months in the run up to these upgrade works – but has it been enough?

South West Trains disruption

I’m a SWT passenger and commute into Which?’s London office. I’ve been told to plan ahead, but until recently all the information I could find was that the train I usually catch may not be running, services will be busier than usual and my journey may take longer. Helpful.

It’s a bit tricky to plan ahead if you don’t know exactly how your journey might be impacted – are we talking about delays of 10 minutes or an hour?

We’ve been advised not to travel at the busiest times, and to work from home or take a holiday. This is all very well if you are able to do this but it’s not an option for everyone.

Luckily I have an understanding and accommodating employer (thank you Which?) and I will be doing a mix of working from home and taking holiday. Plus now that SWT has – finally – published its revised timetable I am going to brave the delays and the long queues and try to get into the office on some days.

Smooth operator?

But, in truth, it’s a lot of hassle and inconvenience that I’m sure we could all do without, especially coming on the back of the usual delays to the service. In the last month, my trains have been affected nearly every day by signalling faults.

Unfortunately, SWT is not signed up to Delay Repay and so I can only claim compensation for delays over an hour.

I understand it’s necessary to upgrade the service, I’m all in favour of the promised improvements – apparently no more overcrowded trains. But I hope the month of disruption is worth it in the end.

While information on the routes affected has been forthcoming, there’s been far less said about compensation (funny that). I’ll be looking out for an opportunity to claim if I can. We’ve updated our consumer rights advice for the South West Trains disruption, this will give you information on your rights to compensation for both delays and cancellations.

Should South West Trains be compensating passengers for the August disruption?

Yes (80%, 546 Votes)

No (10%, 70 Votes)

Not sure (9%, 64 Votes)

Total Voters: 680

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So are you affected by the South West Trains disruption? How are you planning on dealing with the disruption? Will you be attempting to claim any compensation as a result?


If major works have to be carried out then perhaps a holiday month is the least disruptive time to do them. What other suggestions could be made to carry out the work with less disruption?

I think compensation for a disrupted journey already started, and unexpected, is sensible. However, if we have been warned well in advance of disruption to come, I do not see why compensation is due. It has given time to make alternative arrangements.

A disadvantage of those longer-distance commuters is there dependence upon trains for more rapid travel. No doubt coach services will be available but significantly slower. An earlier start and later home. I would like to see some action taken to discourage longer distance commuting by relocating public and private organisations to areas where people live. Staggered working hours would also reduce congestion on trains.

Few other cities give passengers such a choice of routes and connexions to make journeys to places as are available in the capital. I saw on the News today that when the works are complete it will be possible to run longer trains [which will reduce overcrowding] and cope with an extra 45,000 passengers a day. I think that’s worth putting up with a little inconvenience at a time when 20-30% fewer passengers are travelling. It’ll all be over in three weeks’ time.

If there’s a new timetable it overrides any previous timetable in respect of delays and cancellations.

I notice at the time of posting this that 83% of respondents to the poll in the Intro think that SWT should compensate passengers for the August timetable disruption. This isn’t attributable to SWT but to Network Rail. I wonder how much they think passengers should receive and where the money would come from that would not be to passengers’ disadvantage. Since South West Trains will be handing over the franchise to First Group in the middle of the blockade I think it is all academic anyway.

So far as I can recall there are 22 platforms at Waterloo and ten will be out of service until the end of August, but additional platforms in the former International station are being made available during the period. It all seems to be very well planned to me. The BBC News report said that this was the biggest improvement project at Waterloo for over a century so commuters have not had too bad a time of it and probably won’t experience anything like it again in their lifetimes. I am surprised at Which? stoking up the compensation culture for every minor inconvenience, but I suppose that is modern-day consumerism. Perhaps I should put in a claim when my Which? Magazine is late arriving which happens two or three times a year.

Well said John. Too many people have strong opinions about subjects they nothing about and in my opinion(!) NR is doing what is necessary. Ask people who know all the answers exactly what the difference is between a ROSCO and a TOC and I pretty much guarantee they won’t even know that. Funnily enough they seem to know how the railways should be run…

agree whith you a better case for you we been delay up 6h on a flight to Thailand as a passager was allergies to nuts but she or he did not tell the airways

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Don’t get any rebate on road tax or petrol etc. during any major road works so why on the railway? It’s only for 3 weeks (it’s been well over a year on the M3!!), its planned and hopefully will be far better when finished.

Quite right, Oregonjohn.

It also occurred to me that Which?’s view on this is remarkably London-centric. Not many weeks ago, Manchester Victoria station had to be closed for several days following the terrorist outrage at the adjacent Manchester Arena. This was, of course, a completely unplanned emergency, outside the railway’s control, that caused enormous disruption and inconvenience to hundreds of thousands of passengers on journey to and through the station. I don’t suppose many people thought for a moment of claiming compensation for the delays or cancellations, but, surprisingly, it was never mentioned by Which?.

A thought that’s crossed my mind on several occasions, John. I wonder if the geographic distribution of both members and income might provide a clue?

I think the contributors above are far too forgiving of the rail operator and owner , SW Trains and Network Rail respectively. Whilst I totally get the point that upgrade must be carried out, in my mind this does not get either organisation off the hook with regards to compensation. For the significant cost of commuting that I pay per annum , as an SW Trains customer, I deserve to receive an on time service (which I don’t a lot of the time of the time, a seat (which I don’t a lot of the time) and compensation when the service is significantly affected (which for the August disruptions I won’t – unless they cause over one hour delays to the services I use). My experience over the 50 odd years I have been using train services, is that train operators seem totally incapable of delivering on time services – I can only imagine it must be virtually impossible to achieve this but wonder how other operators in other countries do manage it. We must keep up maximum pressure on SW Trains to treat it’s paying passengers as valued customers rather than faceless commuters who don’t have any other choices by which to get to work.

FlyBoy says:
8 August 2017

The 2 issues I have are:
1. Why have they closed HALF the platforms? Why not one third +1 or -1 for “paired” platforms?
2. Everyone’s talking about Waterloo. Why are some stations “down the line” closed during these works? It’s hardly surprising that disruption is less than expected at Waterloo if passengers CAN’T actually get on. Furthermore, had only one third of the platforms been closed (see 1.) they could have kept these stations open.

It’s a poor management decision to close so many platforms AND close stations feeding Waterloo.

I daresay Network Rail could have carried out the platform lengthening and realignment with fewer platforms out of service but that would probably have prolonged the disruption and taken it into the Autumn when more people would be inconvenienced.

I believe passengers have been advised in the preliminary announcements to check the Network Rail website for further information. I found this there which might help to answer FlyBoy’s queries :

Platforms have already been extended at more than 60 stations on the suburban network but Waterloo is the final, and most complex, station to be upgraded.

Due to the layout of the track and the curve of the neighbouring platforms, to extend platforms 1-4, we also need to carry out the following work, which requires 10 platforms to be closed at Waterloo:
•install new track on the approaches to platforms 1-8
•realign and rebuild the far ends of platforms 5-8
•provide access for the required machinery to carry out the work.

Platforms 20-24 in the former Waterloo International Terminal – which we’ve been developing for domestic train services since April 2016 – will temporarily be open to provide five extra platforms during the work.

No person decides any thing these days it all decided by a computer If the all the correct information is put in then the wrong answer comes out Computers have NO common sense and do not even think properly Many people cannot now do anything at all but let a computer come up with mistake after mistake because of wrong information on them

Let them get on with it, in four weeks time we will all be glad its been done. ! ! !

There is no way that this essential work at a major station like Waterloo can be done without massive disruption of services so travellers have no option but to put up with it, as usual. However, to have 10 of the 24 platforms out of action at once is ridiculous and will cause absolute chaos.

Waterbrook says:
9 August 2017

If it has to be done then clearly this is the best time. People need to be flexible but this is causing disruption to family life as my husbands company need him on site and have therefore booked him into a hotel for 4 working weeks!

I think South West trains are doing the works at the best time possible and seem to have told passengers well in advance. Any upgrades that have a positive impact on passengers in the long term is much needed. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who is traveling on South West trains at the moment. How has your journey been? If these disruptions have been handled well by the train company maybe it’s something other train companies could learn from. On the compensation point, if trains are delayed on top of the revised timetable, I think passengers should be compensated. Network rail will be compensating South West trains for their loss in revenue after all.

In just a few days time, from the 20th of August, Stagecoach’s South West Trains will no longer be the train operating company for the South Western Railway franchise. It was won by First Group and MTR. First Group already runs the Great Western Railway and Trans-Pennine Express franchises and Hull Trains as an open-access operator [non-franchised] as well as many bus operations and international public transport operations. It has entered the South Western franchise with MTR which is the operator of the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway. First Group is considered to be a good operator and has declared that it will retain a second person on all trains even where the doors are controlled by the driver. MTR is a highly-regarded operator of intensive commuter services and was a partner in the London Overground operating concession for many years until last November.