Bosses at South Western Railway (SWR) and Network Rail have vowed to rectify declining performance on the new franchise, after being given a rap on the knuckles by watchdog Transport Focus.
The national transport watchdog said improving the way disruption is managed will be a key issue in the coming year and urged passengers to claim compensation to 'send a message' to the rail industry.
The board at watchdog Transport Focus called a special meeting with SWR and the national infrastructure operator, after months of declining punctuality and major disruption across the South Western Railway network. At the meeting they set out how they plan to improve performance.
SWR runs services to and from London Waterloo
Following calls for clearer and more automated compensation, SWR said it would be introducing online accounts imminently and hopes to introduce automated payments in early 2019.
Transport Focus said how delays are dealt with is a key driver of trust and that six of the top 10 passenger priorities for improvement on SWR are performance based – ‘clearly emphasising the importance of delivering a good, reliable core service’.
It added: ‘Improving disruption management for passengers is going to be a key issue in 2018’.
Chief executive Anthony Smith said: ‘Passengers want a more reliable service and better information when things go wrong. While welcome investment is being made in South Western Railway, passengers need to be able to rely on the trains today.
'Passengers will be pleased to hear South Western and Network Rail are tackling this poor performance. It’s vital that they continue to work together to produce a more robust timetable.
‘We urge every passenger affected to claim compensation. Send a clear message to the industry and make sure your voice is heard. And we will keep pressing industry to make this process easier and more automated.’
A spokesman speaking on behalf of SWR and Network Rail said: 'Together we are working to deliver a better service for passengers, and it was good to have the opportunity to share our plans with Transport Focus.
'The meeting also allowed us to update them on plans to improve the service into Waterloo station through an £800m upgrade that will be complete by the end of this year, delivering a 30% boost in peak-time capacity.' 'We were also pleased to discuss enhanced delay repay to make it easier for passengers, including automating the process for smartcard users in 2019.'