First class to be removed from FGW – TrialBack to Forum
Anonymous2 Jan 2014
This article has appeared in a few papers today:
The trial will first be carried out on the First Great Western routes out of Paddington which affects me. The article is not clear as to whether all the carriages will be replaced with standard class, some of the carriages will be replaced or whether first class will be declassified to allow standard class passengers to use them.
I have seen over the last years a slight change in train configurations. Historically, HSTs had 5 std class carriages & 2.5 first class carraiges with 0.5 carriage for the buffet bar. Recently more train sets are appearing with 5.75 std class and 2 first class with a smaller buffet bar in a std class carriage. So if the trial is to reduce the number of first class seats, I suspect it will be to go to 1 first class carriage.
I tend to travel first class most of the time but only by booking advance fares. If I have to travel at last minute or peak times then I use split ticketing to reduce the cost and have worked out a way to get the better seats in std class. My experience is that overcrowding mainly affects the peak time services (especially between London & Reading) when both 1st & std class are packed. During off peak times, first class can appear empty but this is mitigated by some very good value advance 1st class fares.
Do forum members agree this trial is a good idea? I personally would prefer FGW to be more intelligent with their ticket pricing and reduce 1st class fares to encourage greater utilisation. One option is to allow anyone with an Anytime Std Class ticket to use 1st class during off peak hours. In fact the 1st Class Off Peak return is slightly cheaper than the Anytime Std Class return (something I have noticed on a number of routes) so this would be a very simple change to make and might encourage some peak time travellers to change their journey to off peak hours.2 Jan 2014
I believe a good solution would be to convert some F class accommodation to a sort of business class or premium economy zone.
If you refer to my Platform column of last September you will see that some trains in mainland Europe now operate in three or even four class configurations.
Had First Group won the WCML franchise, the TOC had talked about converting some of the existing first class Pendolino seating into an intermediate product pitched midway between the existing first and standard classes.2 Jan 2014
We occasionally travel to Wales by train and usually buy an advance 1st ticket which is enjoyable and a decent service.
Anything that reduced choice and also consistency of service is bad although overcrowding is also not acceptable.
Problem is that the PAD to RED section is a commuter run and not really long distance.2 Jan 2014
I think it is a sensible move if they convert 1 of the first class carriages to standard (or 1.5) leaving 1 first class carriage. It does seem crazy to have lots of people standing on many journeys whilst having many un utilized seats. Sadly the report doesn’t explain fully what they intend to do.
A mid class – or a 1st class carriage that is available on all services to Saver / Full fares standard class tickets for a small supplement (like weekend first) may also be a good idea.2 Jan 2014
Why is it that whilst other TOCs seem to get things more or less right in terms of seat offer and ratio of first to second class, FGW screw up regularly. Their pricing structure seems to be very badly thought out and implemented.
Reducing the number of first class seats is not a good option. Marketing and pricing them to sell is the correct solution.2 Jan 2014
Main exception is Virgin Trains which is widely accepted as having configured its Pendolinos with too many F class seats.
Here’s a seating plan of an 11-coach Pendolino of which four coaches are given over to F class.
But the point is that Virgin operates Pendolinos in both (revised) 11-coach and (the original) 9-coach formation.
So, as far as I know, the 9-coach trains (of which there are just over 15 in the Virgin fleet) also have four F class coaches.
That is why, as I mentioned previously, First Group (had they won the franchise) was planning to downgrade one F class coach to business class or “premium standard.” I believe the seating would remain the same but there would be fewer frills.2 Jan 2014
re FGW and their HST fleet. Some years ago they removed buffet cars and reduced the formation from 8 to 7 cars on some routes. Now they are replacing the missing car with some stock purchased for conversion to standard class thus increasing their seating.
A member of my family is a senior civil servant who travels Exeter to Paddington once or twice a week. Formerly he travelled in first, but following the MP’s expenses scandal he now travels in standard. He advises that there are regularly several dozen such commuters per day, and this represents a substantial change in passenger loadings on e2 Jan 2014
re FGW and their HST fleet. Some years ago they removed buffet cars and reduced the formation from 8 to 7 cars on some routes. Now they are replacing the missing car with some stock (5 coaches in total)purchased for conversion to standard class thus increasing their seating.
A member of my family is a senior civil servant who travels Exeter to Paddington once or twice a week. Formerly he travelled in first, but following the MP’s expenses scandal he now travels in standard. He advises that there are regularly several dozen such commuters per day, and this represents a substantial change in passenger loadings on each up train in the morning and down in the evening. But because of overcrowding at the London end it has reduced his ability to work by 30 to 60 minutes on each trip of just over 2 hours. The law of unintended consequences applies!2 Jan 2014
I think they need to do two things
1 – reduce the number of first class coackes
2 – use the extra space to create a third class which really packs people in (maybe using the kneeling seats that MOL was interested in.) As it will not be politically correct to call it third class, they could call it sub-standard 😉2 Jan 2014
Interesting points made so far. I do agree that there are too many first class seats at off peak times on the Paddington but it is rare to see standard class full at these times so with a bit of imagination on pricing they could persuade some people to upgrade to first class. I agree that other TOCs seem to be more imaginative here. For example East Coast fares are cheaper in first class than std this Sunday for travel into Kings Cross.
But the main issue which has prompted this trial is overcrowding at peak times which applies in both first & std. So I don’t think changing a 1st class coach is going to solve this. What’s needed is extra capacity at peak times (& the two hours after the evening peak) and I would have thought longer trains would be the best solution here.2 Jan 2014
It’s a pity that the UK mass media is so ill-informed when it comes to rail travel. High-speed trains with three or even four classes of accommodation are now running in mainland Europe. Why is the UK so far behind the times ?
And your suggestion of a “third class which really packs people in” is already available on the SNCF high-speed network in France.
SNCF’s Ouigo is a one-class, no frills TGV which tends to operate (as does Ryanair) from out-of-town stations. Ticketing can only be made online. Each Ouigo can accommodate 1,268 passengers2 Jan 2014
“SNCF’s Ouigo is a one-class, no frills TGV which tends to operate (as does Ryanair) from out-of-town stations”
Jesus, Ryanair are flying out of railways stations, now?
That Ouigo site is cool , you have to be fluent in Franglais to use it, as it swiches lingos from English to French, when you look at the details. I like the rules of life, especially the ones about bringing a picnic and having a shared waste bin.2 Jan 2014
Sorry for the typo … I obviously meant airports.
SNCF has simply copied the budget airline model. I believe passengers even have a longer reporting time than they would for a regular TGV service.2 Jan 2014
Today’s blog from rail expert Christian Wolmar is interesting.
He suggests that the news re the cutting back of F class (which received huge publicity on UK news bulletins today) is clever spin from No 10.2 Jan 2014