Background

Shawford is a small rural station on the main London to Southampton railway line, 70 miles southwest of London, 3 miles south of Winchester and 4 miles north of Eastleigh/Chandlers Ford. It serves the village areas of Shawford, Twyford, Colden Common, Compton and Otterbourne, with a population of around 12,000 and good road connections. Shawford Station is about a quarter of a mile from the main road which runs from Southampton to Winchester. Twyford, on the main Winchester to Portsmouth road, lies about a mile to the east. The station is also situated between Junctions 11 and 12 on the M3, about a mile from each. At the western edge of the proposed South Downs National Park, it is a thriving and picturesque area popular with local walkers, for whom there is a good municipal car park. Within a minute's walking distance of the station is a highly popular Pub/Restaurant called The Bridge. There has recently been an increase in new housing developments in the area. Meanwhile, Shawford Station has become popular with both local and London commuters keen to avoid the traffic and parking difficulties of Winchester or Eastleigh. The journey time to Winchester is 5 minutes by train; it can take at least 30 minutes by car in peak time.
The station itself is unusual in having three platforms, one northbound and two southbound. There is also a northbound relief line which stops just short of Shawford, so the station has the benefits of a four line station, avoiding delays to express services. In common with most village stations, at one time it had thriving goods traffic with a goods yard, offices and staff. This has since declined and in the early nineteen-nineties the goods yard was sold for the purposes of storage. Also in the nineties, the part-time booking office was closed and Shawford Station, now unmanned, became desolate with only essential maintenance being carried out.
Despite all this, and the fact that the station was not well publicised, passenger numbers have continued to grow. The attraction is the ability to live in a rural setting and still be able to commute easily. Shawford also has the benefit of being a convenient station for those being 'dropped off', whether students or commuters.

Timetable Changes, PSR and SRUG

The autumn 2003 timetable dispensed with the hourly daytime service to and from London/Portsmouth Harbour and replaced it with services to Brighton and Reading. This produced a number of two hour gaps, plus changes to peak time service including a two and a half-hour gap in the evening. These cuts resulted in a reduction of passengers using the station, causing a gradual circle of decline which we feared would ultimately lead to closure. At this point a few local commuters decided to form a users group, which started out as 'Save Shawford' but then became 'Shawford Rail Users Group'. The aim was to establish and maintain a positive dialogue with South West Trains and other stakeholders in order to reinstate and, if possible, improve our rail service.
Under the Rail Privatisation legislation in the nineteen-nineties, strict rules were brought in to protect stations like Shawford from the extremes of commercial rail policy. This was known as the minimum Public Service Requirement (PSR) for each station and line being franchised. The PSR stipulated minimum levels of service, including the times of first and last trains each day. It was largely based on the British Rail services in place at the time of privatisation. In Shawford's case this was an hourly service on the Waterloo to Bournemouth line (importantly, via Southampton) Monday to Friday, with additional services in peak. Saturday service was hourly. The requirement for Sunday was for a 2-hourly service. The first northbound train from Shawford was at 5.30, the last southbound at 23.15. The 2003 timetable was in breach of the PSR for Shawford. After enquiries it transpired that SWT had been granted a temporary derogation (permission) from the Strategic Rail Authority to breach the PSR for two timetables, i.e. one year, pending the content of new timetable proposals.
SRUG entered into a constructive dialogue with SWT, and was responsible for getting them to reinstate the hourly evening service with full effect from the summer 2004 timetable.

2005 Timetable - Further cuts discussed

As part of these discussions, SWT brought to our attention further significant reductions in services which they had proposed for the 2005 timetable. The cuts were deemed necessary due to the replacement of the old slam-door stock with the new, longer Desiro trains some of which are made up of five-coach units. Under Health and Safety regulations they couldn't stop at Shawford as their extra length meant all the doors would not be not on the platform. The option of extending the platform was rejected due to the assumption that it would be prohibitively expensive.
Our ongoing discussions with SWT were both positive and productive. We were supported by Hampshire County Council officials, local councillors, and our MP Mark Oaten. The result is that SWT secured dispensation for the five-coach trains to stop at Shawford with entry and exit via one door. Additional peak time services were therefore included on this basis. It's worth noting that some trains calling at Shawford are made up of two- or four-coach units. On these services all doors open on the platform.

2007 Timetable - Objectives Achieved!

The gains we have made since SRUG was formed in 2003, culminating with the December 2007 timetable, represent the achievement of most of our original aims and most significantly a return to the PSR for Shawford. We are grateful to our members for their support and to South West Trains for listening to us and engaging in a mutually beneficial dialogue. SRUG is now part of a much larger forum involving the statutory passenger representative body ‘Passenger Focus’. As part of this group, our representative meets with SWT about 6 times a year.

Platform Extensions and the Station

We believe the only real long term solution to the issue of train length at Shawford is platform extensions, which will allow all doors to open on five coach trains. Our feeling is that only two platforms require extensions, leaving the less frequently used Platform 3 for one-door use as required.
The original 'guesstimate' put forward for these works was close to a million pounds; a quick look at the logistics involved shows this to be ludicrously high. All stakeholders accept that the real number is lower and we continue to lobby Hampshire County Council, Network Rail and SWT to provide a realistic quote. Ironically, the SRA (now defunct) agreed to an extension at Micheldever but didn't seem to think Shawford merited the same improvement. We have suggested a low cost option of simply raising the old barrow ramps at the end of each platform. Another alternative is some form of selective door opening which allows the doors on four coaches to open.
Passenger numbers at Shawford continue to grow and car parking close to the station is becoming difficult to find. Now under lease for private self-storage, the old goods yard at Shawford Station offers the potential, should it become available, to improve the situation with the added benefit of reducing on-road parking. And with its good local roads, foot and cycle paths, Shawford offers excellent access to cyclists and pedestrians. We therefore feel the station merits improved cycle storage facilities as well.
With the dramatic increase in passenger numbers in the last three years, we also feel the time has come to reopen the station house, which has been unstaffed for nearly a decade. As at other stations, Shawford's passengers deserve a warm and secure place to wait for trains.

For more information or to add your name to our users group: info@shawfordrail.co.uk