I have heard from a reputable source that as part of the refurbishment programme, each 444 will loose 3 of their bike racks for seats.
This is, if true, completely inadequate in my opinion for multiple reasons:
During the summertime, and at weekends, many of the 444s, particularly on the Weymouth and Pool routes are already full of bikes from the new forest. Removal of 3 of these bike racks will lead to more bikes being put in the vestibule area by the doors, which disrupts the flow of passengers boarding and alighting the train. This can happen already during the high summertime, particularly at stops with the platform at a different side to what may be considered 'normal' for that direction of travel, such as platform 2 at Woking, where the express trains, including those from weymouth stop. So I can't even begin to imagine what the situation will be like with 3 less bike racks.
Another problem is the location of the seating, if implemented. The bike racks are located right next to the toilet, and are isolated from the main seating area. There is also no window. I doubt these seats would be popular at all due to the location and the isolation of these seats. A solution to fix the isolationist nature of this area of this area would be to remove the doors between the doorway and the main 'seating area'. However, this would be very unpopular with the majority of passengers in the seating area, as it would increase draft and noise coming from the door area, something that would be bad for 'express' units such as 444 that spend a lot of their service time travelling at high speed.
Thanks for taking these into consideration, Peter.
On YouTube, I have seen train enthusiasts do 'walkthroughs' of the refurbished 444s and the bike racks are still there
There's quite a few refurbished 444s about now - 6 or 7 at the moment if I remember correctly.