First Great Western announce more standard class seats and a refreshed first class environment.
First Great Western has secured agreement with the Department for Transport to increase standard class capacity on all First Great Western’s High Speed Trains, by converting some of its first class carriages.
The deal will create almost 3,000 more standard class seats a day for customers across the network and deliver nearly 16% more standard class accommodation on high speed services into London in the busy morning peak.
This is on top of an increase in peak-time seats delivered by the company in the summer of 2012, through the rebuilding and upgrading of disused buffet cars to create additional seats.
This sounds like a long-overdue move. The downside of fixed-formation trains is that the relative demand for first and second class seating varies considerably from route to route, and by time of day. This is one reason why first class tickets are sometimes heavily discounted at weekends. But there does seem to be an long-term decline in first-class travel overall, hence adjusting the ratio make sense.
The press release doesn’t make it 100% clear how many coaches are involved. Most HST formations are eight coaches with five standard class, two first class plus the seated half of the buffet car. Converting one of the two first class coaches would leave a coach and a half of first class accomodation in the train.
The HST fleet is well over 30 years old now, and the way the entire fleet is still in front line service bar a handful written off in crashes is a tribute to the original designers. The best train British Rail ever built, without a doubt.