Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has welcomed progress made by First Great Western (FGW) to increase Standard capacity by reducing the number of First Class carriages on trains running through Reading.
FGW has pledged to reduce the number of First Class carriages on all High Speed Trains providing direct services from Reading to the capital. When all the work has been completed there will be 3,000 extra Standard Class seats into London Paddington during the morning peak – nearly a 16% increase in capacity.
With 2,500 extra seats now in service, Alok attended an official ceremony to mark the launch of the first ‘composite carriage’, those carriages made up of a mixture of First Class and Standard seating, and the final step in converting First Class carriages on the way to providing 3,000 extra seats. The first composite carriage will be available for use from this evening, the second will be available over the weekend and the third by the middle of next week.
During the opening ceremony Alok met with Mark Hopwood, Managing Director and Steve Melhuish, Senior Engineering Project Manager at FGW who provided a tour of a converted coach and explained the work which had been done.
Alok also welcomed the news that work to install WiFi on FGW’s High Speed Trains is almost complete and will be available free of charge to passengers in both First and Standard Class soon.
Alok held a meeting with Mark Hopwood and Rail Minister Claire Perry in January, during which he called on the train company to speed up the conversion works and to make sure the increased capacity trains became available within weeks rather than months.
Alok Sharma said:
“I am delighted that FGW have delivered these increased capacity trains in a timely fashion, which will be very much welcomed by many of my commuting constituents. I am pleased that the train operating company have agreed to seriously consider my suggestion to deliver increased Standard Class capacity on local stopping services, by getting rid of First Class completely on these services.”
Alok continued: “In the long term, I think Reading would benefit from a dedicated commuter service to Paddington and I will be making the case for that during any negotiations on future franchise agreements.”
Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western said:
“We know that, ultimately, the only long-term solution to busy services is more trains. New Intercity Express trains are on their way, however, it is still some time before they will be ready for service. The conversion of these carriages to create more standard class seating is crucial in the interim period.”
First Great Western declassified 21 First Class compartments on their class 166 turbo fleet to improve Standard capacity in late 2013, and began work to convert a First Class carriage to Standard on their High Speed fleet last summer.