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's the governments drive to increase rail capacity that's driving these changes, which are specifically laid out in the SWR franchise agreement - including specifying that 2+1 first class seating on 444 trains has to reconfigured to 2+2 seating by December 2018, or March 2019 at the latest. See pages 345 and 346, which I've pasted below. All this to add 34 extra standard class seats to each train.
33. Enhancement of Class 158, 159, 444 and 450s
33.1 The Franchisee shall:
(a) use all reasonable endeavours to modify and refresh all Class 444 and Class 450 rolling stock vehicles comprised in the Train Fleet by no later than 31 December 2018, provided that the Franchisee shall not be in breach of the Franchise Agreement if it has not done so by such date if it has used all reasonable endeavours to do so. Under such circumstances the Franchisee shall continue to use all reasonable endeavours to comply with such obligation as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event shall modify and refresh all Class 444 and Class 450 rolling stock vehicles comprised in the Train Fleet by no later than 31 March 2019; and
(b) modify and refresh all Class 158 and Class 159 rolling stock vehicles comprised in the Train Fleet by no later than 31 December 2020,
to the specification set out in paragraph 33.2.
33.2 The rolling stock vehicles referred to in paragraph 33.1 shall be modified and refreshed to the following specification:
(a) fitted with at least one power socket (230V or USB) per row of seats (each side of the vehicle) for use by passengers;
(b) fitted with table top inductive charging points for use by passengers in first class accommodation so that each designated first class vehicles has one such point per seat (such obligation to be without prejudice to and in addition to the obligation set out in sub paragraph (a) above);
(c) fitted with a commissioned and operational passenger information system which is capable of being updated remotely, providing real-time passenger announcements and displaying live information about relevant onward travel options and disruptions;
(d) in consequence of the reconfiguration of first class seating referred to below provide the number of first and standard class seats in relation to each relevant unit specified in Table 1 to Appendix 1 to Schedule 1.6 (The Rolling Stock);
(e) refreshing and reconfiguring first class accommodation, including by:
(i) fitting of new leather covers, cushions and squabs to all first class seating;
(ii) relocation of first class accommodation at unit ends and the replacement of first class “2+1” seating with “2+2” seating; and
(iii) replacement of all tables located in the first class accommodation;
(f) refreshing all Standard Class Accommodation by replacing all existing seat covers (including cushions and squabs) with new covers;
(g) refreshing all toilet facilities, including:
(i) incorporating decorative decals which are consistent with and/or display the Franchisee’s branding and which are reflective of the region in which the rolling stock vehicles are to be operated; and
(ii) replacing all flooring and toilet seats;
(h) in respect of the Class 444 rolling stock vehicles only, fitting upgraded traction equipment (including upgraded traction software) that will enable Class 444 units to draw two thousand (2000) amps of power so that they can operate to Class 450 sectional running times; and
(i) in respect of rolling stock vehicles which are to be retained in the Train Fleet after 31 December 2020, installing commissioned and operational media servers.