First Class Refurb Fiasco (Class 444 trains)

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:

  • seats don’t recline (!!!), it is impossible to sleep in them, seats are very upright and not tall enough, my head keeps on dropping and I keep on waking up;
  • seats are really hard and uncomfortable, they feel like wooden benches covered in leather, standard seats are now softer and better to sit on;
  • seats are narrow and short, impossible to find a comfortable position;
  • upright position makes sitting over longer time uncomfortable, my back starts hurting after 30 minutes, really stiff and painful after 1.5+ hours;
  • seats have much smaller leg space, because of my height I find my knees are lodged in the seat in front, making finding a comfortable position impossible;
  • seats have very small folding tables, my tiny 11 inch laptop cannot fit on them, you can forget about having space for doing any paperwork or somewhere to put your drink;
  • seat arm rests are even narrower than in the standard class, you end up touching the person sitting next to you, trying to negotiate precise elbow position, really uncomfortable;
  • there are more seats around shared tables, but with more restricted sizing so one ends-up having to negotiate leg positions with the person opposite to you.

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?

No Data
  • Many thanks to all of you who have responded and shared their frustration here and/or complained to SWR directly. There is a slim chance that SWR will listen, but if we remain silent, definitely nothing will change.

    After I had to suffer in those torture seats twice in the last week, I am returning to this topic with renewed enthusiasm! I thought that SWR have reconsidered as I’ve not seen these new carriages on my long-distance service for a while… that is until last week.

    Peter, thank you for your last comment. My main frustration is not about the reduction of the 1st class seating to benefit standard class, which is unwelcome but inevitable. It is about SWR deciding to make these so called ‘1st class’ seats as crammed and uncomfortable as they could. That’s just mean.

    SWR did not have to remove all 1st class seating comforts (reclining, leg space, width, softness of cushions, large desks and arm support). I’d rather have less seating with proper 1st class seats, even if that meant compulsory reservations.

    I will be making enquiries about what exactly were the relevant conditions of the SWR franchise and will share the evidence here.

    Sitting in these torture seats for about 30 minutes gives me pain in my lower back. This may be acceptable on a suburban service, but having to suffer this for 1.5-2.5 hours is just unbearable. Standard seats are softer and somewhat more comfortable, but since they too cannot be reclined, my back still suffers and so do my legs squashed against the seat in front. This is one of the reasons why I was happy to pay for 1st class tickets in the first place, but this choice is now being taken away from me by SWR.

    Once the old Class 444 stock is completely refurbished, I will have no other option than travel by a car or find a longer alternative route which provides more comfortable 1st class service (CrossCountry, GWR). Hence fighting this change makes a lot of sense to me.

    If you too feel negatively impacted by these changes and have not responded yet, please drop a quick note below, even if that is just ‘me too’. This will give us all better indication of whether pursuing this further is worth our time. Thank you!