As a new rail franchise takes over the majority of services from Basingstoke station, passengers are being warned to avoid travelling to London Waterloo over the bank holiday weekend.
Hong Kong-based firm MTR with FirstGroup took over the South Western line franchise from South West Trains – who had held it for 21 years – on Sunday morning.
South Western Railway (SWR) are promising to invest £1.2billion between now and 2024 in new and refurbished trains featuring 52,000 peak-time seats by 2020, WiFi, at-seat charging points, a £90million investment in stations, more services and faster journeys and flexible ticketing.
But ongoing improvements to increase capacity by lengthening platforms at Waterloo has meant a drastically reduced timetable with platforms 1-10 closed since August 5, and from Thursday until Tuesday, this will include up to platform 14.
Services will be reduced by up to 75 per cent and on Tuesday, it is expected all platforms will be open and served with a normal timetable.
Andy Mellors, SWR’s managing director, said: “We’re looking forward to building on the respected foundations established by the former franchisee’s employees.
“They’ve done a great job during the Waterloo and South West upgrade programme work, and I know it’s been a challenging few weeks for our customers travelling so I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding during this time.
“The outcome for this improvement work will deliver the infrastructure needed to support the increased capacity plans we need for the future.”
SWR is a joint venture between First (70 per cent) and the Hong Kong Government-owned MTR (30 per cent).
It is scheduled to run services that link Basingstoke to Waterloo and the south coast up to August 2024.
Tim O’Toole, FirstGroup chief executive officer, said: “We are delighted to launch the new South Western Railway.
“Together with our partners MTR, we will connect millions of customers every week, while investing to improve the network now and in the future.
“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.”
Visit nationalrail.co.uk for further information.