A wholly owned subsidiary of the Stagecoach Group, SWT took over the franchise of the old British Rail South West lines in 1996, changing the livery to one with an orange, red, blue, and white stripe. Since then a number of initiatives have been undertaken, including refurbishing stations, better access for the diasbled, and the Customer Information screens showing next train departures at every station.
The hub of the network is London Waterloo station, where most trains operate to and from. It connects London to such major towns and cities in England as Basingstoke, Southampton, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Guildford, Weymouth,Winchester, Salisbury, Exeter and Torquay. However a large portion of services is concerned with suburban and commuter lines to/from Wimbledon, Windsor, Putney, Chessington, Teddington, Kingston and Reading. Nearly all of these trains pass through or stop at Clapham Junction, reputed to be the busiest rail junction in Europe.
The franchise for the line was renewed in February 2003 for only four years, which was against the expected 20 year franchise that the company was hoping for. This may delay the introduction of the new rolling stock, named Desiro.
SWT operates up to 1690 trains per day. Due to the high volume of trains and years of under-investment delays are commonplace and often lead to passenger angst.
Recent developments include the introduction of new rail services and the reopening of Chandlers Ford station in Hampshire.