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?

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  • The white trains (sorry, don't know the lingo) are the only trains which provide the comfort and spacer necessary to actually work for an hour which is an essential part of my day - the only thing that can really justify living 1 1/2 hours from work is the use of 2 hours of that time to do work. I therefore used to plan my commute around the only two trains that were reliably white trains - the 0727 from Liphook to Waterloo, and the 1815 from Waterloo to Liphook.

    Paying the best part of £4000 premium for the space and comfort of the seats on those trains was justifiable only because of the extra hours work that I could get done.

    Getting a blue train with the 2x2 seats was much less satisfactory, but obviously required from time to time.

    Then the process laughably described as the upgrade began.

    Suddenly, it was genuinely important to get a white train, since the new leather covered seats were so uncomfortable that one could not sit in them for an hour without getting back pain.  But then the white trains suddenly started to disappear - the 1815 is now a blue train, and the only white train in the evening is the 1700 (there are some randomly scattered later in the day but they change regularly).

    But now the "upgrade" (ha fecking ha) of the white trains has started, and the seats they have put in seem to be even worse than the ones in the blue trains. One can no longer work at a table, since the space is so cramped it makes anything other than the use of a tiny laptop impossible, and the seats are a joke - they are considerably less comfortable than the standard class.

    There is no way I can continue justify travelling first, and I am going to demand a refund of my full season ticket. 

    What truly galls me about all this is that people make life-changing irrevocable decisions based on the service provided by these train companies. More and more at the station my fellow commuters are discussing that the trains are so bad that they will have to move house. I have young children that I don't see for much of the week. I will have to do two extra hours work in the office every day thanks to this refurb, and that means two hours less that I see them every day. I can't move house - the stamp duty is crippling. And I have no alternative transport that is feasible - driving takes 3 hours into London. Obviously we cannot expect there never to be any change at all. But taking away the choice for people to pay extra (huge amounts extra) so that they can work on a train does seem to me to be a pretty fundamental step to have taken without any sort of consultation or notice.

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