South Western Railway Express Sprinter (UK)

These trains bring to mind the metaphor of ‘never judge a book by its cover’ because externally they look exactly like some of the trains used on long-distance commuter routes in northern England, which have been justifiably criticised for providing an unconformable travel experience.

But these trains operated by South Western Railway have been provided with very different interiors, with comparatively spacious seating compared to their northern cousins, particularly in Standard Class.
They are also currently undergoing a third update in their lifetime, so they don’t appear to be trains which entered service more than 30 years ago.
Though due to their age these trains don’t have power sockets and aren’t wi-fi enabled.

The improved trains have a blue and grey livery, while the other trains have a mainly white exterior, though it isn’t possible to know which specific train will be used on each departure.

Though when travelling Standard Class from London it can be worth being at Waterloo station around 20 minutes before departure, so that you can then be among the first passengers to board.
Because in Standard Class the seats in the centre of the train are arranged around tables and they also line up better with the windows – and if you’ll be travelling through Dorset and Devon you’ll be taking a scenic journey.

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Weekend First:

At weekends passengers with Standard Class tickets can take up any spare seats in First Class and pay the conductor for an upgrade when the tickets are inspected.
This additional charge varies from £5-15 depending on the length of the journey:
London <> Salisbury, Sherborne and Yeovil = £10
London <> Axminster, Honiton and Exeter = £15.

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Catering:

A trolley service with sandwiches, snacks and hot/cold drinks should be taken through the train on each departure providing an at-seat service for First and Standard Class travellers.
Passengers travelling into and from London before 10:00 will be offered a complimentary hot drink and biscuit.

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Bikes:

Bike spaces must be reserved on these trains prior to boarding because the bike storage is located in a part of the train, which is not usually accessible to passengers.
It’s best to add a bike reservation when booking a ticket online, because spaces are limited, so if you book a train ticket for a specific departure and then subsequently arrange a reservation, you may be told that bike spaces aren’t available and you won’t be able to then refund an Advance ticket.

Booking a couple of days ahead if you want to take a bike is particularly recommended on Saturdays mornings and Sunday evenings during the summer – these trains serve some beautiful areas of the West Country, popular with cyclists.

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