Key commuter line South West Trains rebrands as South Western Railway
As house prices and the cost of living in England’s urban centres continues to rise, so too does the number of people choosing to live in, and commute from, city outskirts. As a result, each day numerous train companies operate inter-city services used by thousands, if not millions, of people.
One of the busiest lines is run by the company previously known as South West Trains, which serves commuters and travellers from the London hub of Waterloo to as far as the south west seaside town of Weymouth. Yet the wide-reaching line has undergone a rebrand, following a transfer in ownership to a new, partnership-led parent company.
Owned by international transport group Stagecoach Group for the past seven years, South West Trains rebranded as South Western Railway at the end of August. The change occurred following a deal between Stagecoach Group and combined firm FirstMTR, the latter created from a partnership between British transport group FirstGroup, and Hong Kong-owned railway company Mass Transit Railway (MTR). The deal is estimated to have cost £2.4 billion, not including the ordering of 90 new trains ordered for £900m. The electrical multiple unit Desiro trains are to be refurbished, while the previously retired Wessex Class 442s returns to service.
Tim O’Toole, chief executive of FirstGroup, says, “We are delighted to launch a fresh and exciting brand today for our newest rail company South Western Railway. Together with our partners MTR, we are really pleased to have the responsibility of running a key part of the country’s rail network on which millions of people rely every week. Our experienced leadership team, working alongside thousands of our dedicated SWR colleagues, will deliver the tangible improvements that customers and stakeholders told us they want including new and better trains, more seats and services, quicker journey times, improved stations and more flexible fare options."
To consolidate the rebrand and usher in a new era of ownership for its customer, this week saw South Western Railway release 100,000 half price rail tickets. The offer was alongside an official brand launch, which included the introduction of a newly-liveried South Western Railway train into Waterloo International Terminal – the London hub for the South Western Railway franchise.
Andy Mellors, managing director of South Western Railway, says, “It was great to officially launch the brand in front of key stakeholders from across the network and many of our South Western Railway employees. We’ve had a challenging couple of weeks with the completion of the August Waterloo upgrade works but we’re now looking to the future.”
Mellors continues, “Between now and 2024, we will be investing more than £1.2 billion on new and refurbished trains, station improvement projects and the simplification of tickets. We are eager to roll out these improvements which will make journeys better for our customers across the network.”
With an updated, industrial-era aesthetic and introduction of updated brand touchpoints such as new staff uniforms, South Western Railway looks to usher its offering into the contemporary transport landscape. Increased scrutiny over public transport performance undoubtedly makes South Western Railway's introduction more difficult; its successful rebrand is the first step toward restoring confidence in commuters.
South Western Railway new logo
Previous South West Trains logo