Franchise updates

Andy Mellors – South Western Railway Managing Director

I am delighted to be leading South Western Railway when the new franchise starts next month. I look forward to building upon the solid foundations already in place to improve the experience we offer our customers.

I’ve been in the rail industry for over 25 years and with FirstGroup since 2002. I have held posts as Engineering Director at both First North Western and First Scotrail. I then moved to Great Western Railway in 2007 as their Engineering Director as well as becoming Deputy Managing Director.

The new franchise is a great opportunity for everyone involved. We’re not coming in to make changes for changes sake but want to address the key issues which our customers and stakeholders have told us are important to them to take the customer experience to the next level. There will be some large milestones in the franchise to look forward to including the introduction of 750 new Bombardier vehicles by December 2020 and the introduction of new timetables in December 2018 and 2020 which will increase our service proposition to customers.

We want you to feel a sense of ownership of the business and help shape our plans as they are developed in the new franchise. We also want to help you develop your skills and progress your careers with externally recognised qualifications and opportunities across the business. We will give you the tools to do your job effectively. One example being the new staff app, giving you the information you need, where and when you need it.

We know we will have some challenges in the early days of the franchise with the Waterloo upgrade.  Although you will start to see the new South Western Railway brand from day 1, the full launch of the brand is planned for 4th September.

A common theme from the new franchise roadshows which have been taking place across the network is that you want to see the senior leadership team within the business.  My top team is currently being finalised and my intention is that a series of Director level visits will take place from 20th August in order that as many of you as possible have the chance to meet the top team and hear about our plans first hand.

I look forward to our journey ahead with the new franchise as we implement our exciting plans for better customer journeys, keeping people moving and communities prospering across the South Western network.


Travel benefits – 12th July

A main question that has come up at roadshows has been about what travel benefits staff will receive in the new franchise. To give more information, here’s an overview of what we will offer:

  • Travel for yourself, your spouse and dependents will remain the same in the new franchise.
  • The EMT and VTEC travel offer will unfortunately stop but these will be replaced with reciprocal travel boxes (like the current VTEC offer) across GWR, TPE and Hull trains.
  • Our ‘Friends and Family’ offer where each year you can buy 48 £6 Day Rover tickets on GWR and TPE for unlimited travel on that day. You can also buy 8 Hull Trains tickets for £10 for unlimited travel on that day. Each Hull Trains ticket is valid for up to four people.
  • A week ticket for FirstBus for just £6. You can purchase 20 of these a year.
  • We intend to carry on the reciprocal travel arrangements with Wightlink, Hovertravel and Red Funnel. This arrangement is currently being finalised.

You can access these rewards and find out more information through the First reward site. We’ll send details of how to log in to this site in the coming weeks ready for the start of the franchise.

Managing Director – 4th July 

FirstGroup and MTR announce that Andy Mellors has been appointed as Managing Director of the new South Western rail franchise, which launches on 20 August.

Andy Mellors has 25 years of experience in the industry. He has held a number of senior leadership roles since joining FirstGroup in 2002 and is currently Engineering Director and Deputy Managing Director at Great Western Railway, having previously held a similar role at First ScotRail. Most recently, he has been responsible for leading the transformation of the GWR rolling stock fleet both through the introduction of new electric trains in the Thames Valley, and the imminent entry into service of the Intercity Express Trains – the first major intercity fleet to be introduced on the UK rail network for many years. This experience will be vital given the exciting plans for a brand new fleet of 90 trains, consisting of 750 carriages on the franchise, plus a refurbishment of existing rolling stock. Andy is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Commenting, Steve Montgomery, Managing Director First Rail said: “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Andy as Managing Director of the new South Western franchise. Andy has an exceptional track record of improving rail services for passengers. He will head up an experienced team that will introduce our exciting plans for better customer journeys, and keep people moving and communities prospering across the South Western network.”

Commenting, Jeremy Long, CEO – European Business, MTR said: “We’re delighted that Andy has agreed to come on board. His track record speaks for itself and will help us deliver the excellent services passengers want to see.”

Commenting, Andy Mellors said: “I look forward to leading the team at the new FirstGroup and MTR South Western franchise, and to build on the respected foundations established by the current South West Trains employees. We will offer the tangible benefits that customers and stakeholders have told us they want, on a key part of the country’s railway network which connects London to key towns and cities across the region. Passengers on our franchise can look forward to new and better trains, more seats and services, quicker journey times, enhanced stations and more flexible fare options.”


Starting on Thursday (22nd June) and carrying on over the next few weeks we’ll be at locations across the south west network. These events will give you the opportunity to come by, grab a coffee and ask any questions that you may have about South Western Railway. We’ll be running presentations across the day outlining our proposals with a session afterwards where you will be able to ask questions about the new franchise. We appreciate this will be in your own time so we’ll be serving bacon rolls for the 11am presentation and sandwiches for any 1pm presentations.

If you can’t make the times of the presentations (outlined below by location), you can still come along at any time between 9am and 5pm to have a chat over some refreshments. We’ve tried to get locations as close to stations and depots as we could. Where this hasn’t been possible, we’ll arrange transport to get to the venue. We look forward to seeing you there.

Details of the roadshow are as follows:

Questions and engagement

It’s now under three months until the new franchise starts and preparations are well underway within First MTR to make as smooth a transition as possible.

We want to thank so many of you for getting in contact to find out more information about the new franchise. We’re trying to answer them as quickly as we can. There are questions we are still working through, such as about changes that are commercially sensitive at this stage. You can see from the chart below the type of questions that we’ve received. We’ve seen that staff benefits and franchise plans are the areas that you have the most questions about. For the new franchise, our immediate plans will be to keep things steady as we carry on the Waterloo and South West Upgrade and prepare for the December 2018 timetable.

Once the new franchise starts, proposals we put forward during the bid stage will be explored and progressed through appropriate consultations, as you would expect. As we have said previously, we’re looking to build upon solid foundations and not starting everything from scratch.

We know that your travel and other staff benefits are important to you and we’ve received a lot of questions reflecting this. We’re currently working on our full offering that we very much hope you’ll be happy with and expect to get details to you soon.

Over the next few months, we’ll work with Stagecoach to engage with you as much as we are able in a number of different ways.  We’ve met with SSWT’s Directors and plan to meet senior managers soon. We also have meetings planned with the trade unions to talk about the transfer – once the franchise starts we will have regular meetings with the unions in accordance with the current arrangements.

Up until the start of the franchise we’ll regularly update this site with latest franchise news and FAQs. We’re also currently planning a number of drop in sessions across the network for you to come along, meet us in person and ask any questions you may have. Once we have finalised arrangements we’ll advertise the dates and locations through the staff website (above) and through your weekly franchise updates. We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

Uniforms in the new franchise

From previous experience, we know that for some employees, uniform can be a passionate topic and it is an area we are giving some serious thought to. From day one, you’ll receive welcome packs from First MTR with newly branded items and messages welcoming you to the new franchise. Within the first few weeks we’ll distribute new ties, scarves and name badges. From previous experience we believe it’s better to take a little bit of time over these things to make sure we get them right – such as your preferred name for name badges as well as preferred style of tie/scarf.

Once we’re through the first few weeks we will be looking to rebrand more completely over time – including a new uniform. For this we want to get staff involved. We’ll hold a consultation asking for you to let us know what parts of the uniform are important for you. For example, what parts of your current uniform do you not want to lose? Or what uniforms have you seen from other companies that you really like the look of? We want your ideas and feedback to make sure the uniform is suitable for your role.

After we’ve taken your feedback on board, we’ll get the new uniform designed. Once we believe we’ve got a uniform that reflects our brand and the new franchise, we’ll get some produced and start the trial stage. From here, a cross section of staff across the business will trial the new uniform, giving their feedback on all aspects from fabric quality to pocket depth.

Once we’ve made amendments reflecting staff comments, we’ll make sure all parties involved are happy and then get them made for everyone. Uniform wearing employees will get to order their uniform, choosing between different options that may be available (e.g. type of tie, type of shirt etc.).

From previous uniform projects that we’ve experienced in TPE and GWR, this process will take about 18 months from start to finish. While this is happening you’ll still be able to order replacement uniform if needed. We hope at the end of this process you’ll have a uniform that you are happy to wear, is suitable for your role and makes you proud ambassadors for the franchise.