SEVERAL readers have raised points about the transfer of South West Trains from Stagecoach to First Group from August 20.

Stagecoach had already lost the opportunity of a two-year extension to the current franchise, reportedly through failing to agree a small package of customer service improvements required by the Department for Transport.

First Group has promised to meet major commuter aspirations of reliable Wi-fi, air-conditioning and toilets on all trains – except the vintage Isle of Wight coaches.

Stagecoach intended to retain its non-air-conditioned stock for a further 10 years, and had ordered some new coaches without toilets.

First Group is bringing back 18 of the comfortable Wessex Electric trains to the Waterloo-Portsmouth route, to displace the outer-suburban units which Stagecoach introduced, provoking major protests.

The remaining Wessex Electrics could return if Alliance Rail’s bid for independent Waterloo-Southampton services is approved.

Timetable changes are long overdue.

On Sundays, for example, it’s ludicrous that Weymouth to Waterloo services arrive at Bournemouth just after the cross country service to Manchester has left, and that evening Waterloo-Salisbury trains omit the customary Basingstoke stop, depriving Salisbury passengers of a connection out of trains from Manchester.

Five-year growth of more than 70 per cent in passenger use at Totton station came to a staggering halt after Stagecoach slashed the station’s services.

Stagecoach’s New Year gift was sneaky increases of up to around 30 per cent in the cost of day trips at weekends, which especially hit families.

Change is long overdue.

Denis Fryer

Co-ordinator, South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group