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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South West Trains by John Balmforth
An excellent account of the history and current situation of the South West Trains Company. It includes a most useful detailed listing of the stock in use by Class. Highly recommended.
Published on 27 April 2011 by Attwood

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SWT publicity department would be proud
This book is the third book by John Balmforth looking at individual franchises, following on from ones on Virgin Trains and GNER. It follows a similar style.

This book is based around three interviews with senior executives of Stagecoach and South West Trains, press releases and a few visits to the company's facilities (three train depots and a training...
Published on 17 Mar 2012 by Twasme


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South West Trains by John Balmforth, 27 April 2011
This review is from: South West Trains (Hardcover)
An excellent account of the history and current situation of the South West Trains Company. It includes a most useful detailed listing of the stock in use by Class. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SWT publicity department would be proud, 17 Mar 2012
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Twasme (Swindon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: South West Trains (Hardcover)
This book is the third book by John Balmforth looking at individual franchises, following on from ones on Virgin Trains and GNER. It follows a similar style.

This book is based around three interviews with senior executives of Stagecoach and South West Trains, press releases and a few visits to the company's facilities (three train depots and a training centre). The result could be mistaken for being an official company history. The interviews appear not to have been particularly challenging. For example an interview described - in both chapters 3 and 10 - as "an in-depth in Brian Souter gave refreshingly honest answers to questions." but produces results such as "Souter revealed that Stagecoach had a good technical knowledge of the bus industry and a lot of business acumen." As an observation on a commercially successful bus company, that is not much of a revelation. Difficulties that the company experienced are given a positive gloss. For example, although the shortage of drivers in early years of the franchise is described, the criticism is downplayed, with no mention of the significant attention these problems received in parliament.Although described by the publishers as "a comprehensive history of the TOC" the book concentrates on each franchise bid and skips over much of what happened in between. And with numerous photographs, little space is left to provide any detail. As noted by a previous reviewer, the book provides a basic overview of the company. Apart from two routes highlighted with their own chapters, there is no description of the train services provided by the company.

As well as the chronological history, there are chapters concentrating on Northam depot, the Lymington branch, the Island Line, and on rolling stock. Here too, the description is uncritical. For example, reliability problems with new trains on the Reading line are passed over with no more than "the sets soon found themselves out of favour".

The book reads more like a series of magazine articles, rather than a well edited book. As with other books by the author, the timeline jumps around. For example there are a couple of pages on Waterloo station (its entire history) inserted into the chapter covering the first franchise period. In contrast the Lymington branch gets a chapter all of its own - all one and a half pages - yet the photographs of the Lymington branch are 7 pages before in the previous chapter. Oddly it is not until chapter 6 , one third of the way into the book, that we are told "As its name suggests, South West Trains operates passenger rail services in South West England". When describing older history, there are some obvious inaccuracies, for example getting confused over nationalisation: "In 1948, when the island's rail services were amalgamated with the Southern Railway" when they had been part of the Southern Railway since 1923.

Photographs draw heavily on South West Trains own library, and online rail photograph library and the author's own work. Other photographs are by more well known railway photographers. This is a heavily illustrated book but, with many of the photographs previously published, rather fewer photographs might have allowed it to be closer to being the comprehensive history that the publishers claim.

Overall, this book is very much an opportunity missed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but feel it could have been a bit more informative, 11 Sep 2011
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S. Taylor (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: South West Trains (Hardcover)
Having previously worked for South West Trains, I felt that the book missed out some information that I knew and there were other parts of the book that I would have liked the author to have expanded on, in particular the refurbishment of rolling stock, the introduction of ticket barriers at stations, plans for the franchise when it was originally tendered for a 25 year franchise, unreliability of the Class 170's and 458's (none of which are not included in the book)

On a more positive note, the book provides a basic overview of SWT since it started and there are a large number of pictures in the book, however to some extent more infomration can be found from Wikipedia than this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Feels more written by Brian Souter than John Balmforth, 27 Aug 2013
This review is from: South West Trains (Hardcover)
Having read John Balmforth's excellent book on GNER I eagerly sought this title on South West Trains.

Certainly its a useful, if brief, reference guide to South West Trains (SWT) and stagecoach's rail business. The interviews with Brian Souter and several other stagecoach managers is in many ways enlightening. They do admit to mistakes early on, such as letting too many drivers go. It also talks through the various "lives" of the franchise, the re-tenders and Stagecoach's efforts to retain the franchise. You will learn things about SWT and its routes that you probably didn't know already.

However, the book does brush over some of the major problems / issues that SWT had over the years. For example, the Class 458s were nothing short of a disaster and its blatant that SWT ran out of patience with Alstom, hence why they selected Siemens to build their new fleet. However the book merely says "a decision was taken to standardise on Siemens Desiro units". It doesn't do a very good job of explaining why they ridded themselves of the class 442s. There are many other things such as overcrowding, fare rises that aren't really mentioned.

The above reasons are why I (and it seems others) feel that this sheds an extremely positive light on SWT. Now I am not saying SWT are a bad Train Operator (in fact they're probably one of the best) but like everybody else they have had problems which are simply written out of this book.

So overall: the book is useful and informative. However you get the impression that this was more written by Stagecoach / Brian Souter than John Balmforth. Having said that though, the book on GNER was published after GNER had disappeared into the history books. Therefore Chris Garnett (CEO of GNER) and John Balmforth could be more open and critical of the DFT, media etc than Stagecoach as an incumbent operator can.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Can only be better than South West Trains, 2 Dec 2013
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This review is from: South West Trains (Hardcover)
I had problems with South West Trains where the online booking system didn't give tickets, I called them and the woman told me that 'My Blindness was not her fault and I should read the email', then she got in a loop and kept repeating it.

I have 30% Vision, so it's not a joke, I am genuinely disgusted

The woman then is Unable to transfer calls to customer services and instead you have to dial another high rate number, which is the first company on the planet that has a 'we don't transfer to customer services' rule.

Feeling I had lost all faith in the company I was given a copy of this book from a friend that is apparently a failed comedian, and then a couple of months after my complaint I got a reply from SouthWest Trains asking to meet up in person, I wasn't looking for a relationship and they are slippery as a KY Jelly Eel I decided not to meet in person, instead they have gone silent again.

The book however is great and highlights a better time when the customer was remotely important.
Was expecting it to be a series with collectable tokens that could be exchanged for a nice Anorak though
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South West Trains
South West Trains by John Balmforth (Hardcover - 3 Mar 2011)
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