What on earth is happening to first class seats on Class 444 trains?! Is the purpose of SWR refurbishment to get rid of all first class passengers?
I commute long distance, travelling over 1.5 hours to London Waterloo almost every day. I felt it worth paying for the 1st class ticket, because I want to have space to work on these journeys to make some use of the time or to be able to sleep comfortably. Since I am quite tall, I found it impossible to do so in standard seats, no enough leg space, seats not tall enough.
With the new Class 444 refurbished first class, all the benefits I used to justify paying for my first class season ticket have now gone away. This is madness, what are SWR trying to achieve by this?
Here is the list of changes I’ve observed in the new refurbished first class carriage:
As not to be completely negative, you do now have a new wireless charging area on shared tables, ha!
Class 444 were the last SWR trains where 1st class seats offered a reasonable level of comfort. When the new company with GWR in partnership took over, I expected that GWR standards of first class will be implemented on SWR, only now I see how wrong I was, extremely frustrating!
If this is the way SWR are going with long-distance Class 444 trains, then there is no way that I will continue paying for the 1st class season ticket.
Is there anyone else who feels the same way?
What can we do to convince SWR to stop destroying 1st class travel on their trains?
It isntisjust swr , this is a nationwide thing, GWRs first class offering has also lessened with the new Hitachi trains. The fact of the Matter is that the figures show that, whilst there has been a large rise in standard travel demand, the demand for first class has lessened.
It was the DfT who requested that the first class areas become smaller due to these figures - in the next southeastern franchise they have requested it be abolished all together, unfortunately I can see swr going that way as well in the future.
There are two things at play here, one is the overall trend towards cutting costs and increasing capacity, that is understood, but the other is how SWR (and other train companies) implement directives they receive in conditions of their franchise.
Yes, GWR have changed their first class seats in their new Hitachi trains, they are less thick/bulky and not covered in leather. However, they have retained the 2-1 layout, seats still recline, have large tables on which you can work, also have good legroom and overall still offer a very good level of comfort. There is also a carriage and a half of first class seats available plus free newspapers, drinks and snacks throughout the day. The change to seat thickness and material is a very minor one for me. It does not damage the first class experience on their trains. GWR show their understanding of why people buy first class tickets, they are in a completely different league compared to SWR.
SWR, however, have effectively replaced their first class seats with standard class seats. These no longer offer comfort or space you’d expect to find in first class, lack of reclining and leg room is a big one for me. They have removed all the significant benefits of travelling by first class on their refurbished Class 444 trains. A real kick in the teeth for all loyal first class passengers.
I would love to see the wording of these conditions received from DfT, I see this is being used as a justification for many bad decisions done by SWR. Do these they really say ‘make sure your first class seats don’t recline, have less leg space and offer no benefit of comfort over the standard seats’? I doubt it. It is how SWR have decided to implement these conditions for themselves.
Perhaps the plan is that after a while SWR can claim that no-one is buying first class tickets anymore (since there is now such a little difference between first and standard seats) and therefore first class can be removed completely.
Also, I don’t put much faith in stats claiming reduced interest in first class, my experience is quite the opposite. Travelling to London in morning peak hours, all first class seats are now occupied from Winchester onwards, sometimes even earlier. It is not unusual to see first class passengers standing too. Only 5 years ago, this was not be the case, in first class it would have been very rare to have someone sat next to me. Now, the seat next or opposite to me is occupied every time. I see more first class passengers on peak Class 444 trains, not less.
So going back to my original question – Can anything be done about this?
Any ideas or suggestions on how this trend can be challenged and reversed?
Are you thinking about not buying first class season tickets anymore as a result of these changes?
Do we just sit and watch SWR demolish first class travel while having a bit of a moan about it?
I had the misfortune of spending just shy of 3 hours on one of the newly refurbished 444 units on Tuesday (WEY-WAT).All the points noted above are valid. I was unable to fit a Dell XPS13 laptop (about as small as a laptop gets) on the seatback table, so opted to sit at a 2+2 table so I could work (which is the primary justification for me paying for first). As a fully paid-up member of the hobbit club ( 5'6" with a 28" inside leg ) my feet were firmly past the leg of the table and into the legroom of the passenger opposite. It was impossible for both of us to sit face-on so we each had to sit at an angle, leading to both of us clutching our lower backs when we arrived at WAT.The seating is identical in width and pitch to standard class, yet carries a colossal premium. It's a premium I will not be paying in 2019. By utilising the same seat frames and layout between standard and first, it very much looks like SWR anticipate losing first in the near future and opted for an "upgrade" that allows the lowest cost/effort return to standard class configuration when the inevitable happens. A very curious decision by SWR, and totally at odds with GWR and Virgin, with whom I also travel over similar journey times.
Hi Dr M I feel exactly the same and won't be travelling 1st class anymore it simply has no value. I wonder what planet the people are on who make such decisions. I am firing some mails off to transport correspondents of various papers etc. Interestingly I wrote to SWR about this months ago and nobody even bothered to respond to my feedback. Says it all really !
Had the dubious pleasure of travelling in the refurbished first class 444 for the first time this morning and have to agree with all the comments made above. I cannot believe they engaged with a single customer on these changes? If they did then they ignored the feedback or were hamstrung by specifications handed to them.
I will give feedback but I suspect they don't want to hear.