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?

  • It seems that ever since this thread has gone quiet, I am seeing more and more of these crappy first class seats on my route (Weymouth – London Waterloo), it is now almost every morning. This is indeed life changing as I can no longer sleep or work on these trains. I arrive to work with a painful back every time I have to travel in one of these crappy first class seats. I now try to avoid travelling on SWR trains as much as I can.
    I find it utterly despicable that SWR management have not felt it necessary to address any of the concerns raised or indeed to respond to this thread on their own forum. Instead they are just blindly ploughing ahead with the current refurbishment programme. Those who complained seem to have received ignorant responses saying nothing more than ‘Yeah, suck it up, we don’t give a f*** about you’, only embellished in corporate customer service speak.
    Having spent £100k+ on first class season tickets over the years, I find this sort of treatment from SWR management completely disgusting. They know that first class passengers are a minority group and therefore discrimination against us is unlikely to result in a successful rebellion. They also expect that it is unlikely that 1st class passengers start trashing new crappy seats in protest. Management decision making at its worst.
    Just to clarify who is responsible for what. I have gone over the SWR Franchise Agreement ( and can confirm that DfT indeed mandate the numbers of various types of seats for refurbished Class 444 trains (page 176, table 1, see the two Class 444 rows showing old/new capacity breakdown).
    However, the Agreement does not seem to include anything beyond this (i.e. seat comfort, lack of reclining, cramped space, tiny tables, etc.) implying that the responsibility for all these decisions is with SWR senior management.
    Surprisingly, there is nothing in the Franchise Agreement to mandate minimal standard which first class seats should have. Therefore, I suppose, we should be all really grateful for not having to sit on wooden benches instead...
    Thank you SWR!
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