Having campaigned successfully over several years for an increase in the number of standard class seats on trains between Reading and Paddington, Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has welcomed the latest commitment made by First Great Western (FGW) to declassify all First Class seating on its fleet of 165 turbo trains, providing more than 500 extra standard class seats between Reading and the capital every day. This adds to the current extra 3,000 Standard Class seats already made available through conversion of First Class carriages into Standard Class seating on High Speed Trains. The work on the turbo trains is due for completion by the end of the year.
Alok visited FGW’s Reading Train Care Depot, where the London Thames Valley fleet is maintained, and saw first-hand the start of the train company’s work to convert First Class carriages on its 165 turbo trains into standard class seating.
Alok has campaigned for a number of years to relieve over-crowding in Standard Class, first leading a Parliamentary debate on overcrowding in March 2012. Since then he has continued to lobby FGW and the Department for Transport for extra Standard Class seats and also launched a petition last year, signed by hundreds of local commuters supporting his campaign for more Standard Class seats.
As a result of campaigning from Alok and FGW’s commitment to reduce the number of First Class carriages on its High Speed Trains, there are already an extra 3,000 extra Standard Class seats in service today and all High Speed Trains running through Reading to Paddington have just 1.5 First Class carriages.
Following FGW reducing the number of First Class carriages on its High Speed Trains, Alok asked for further action to be taken to declassify First Class seating on all turbo trains in a meeting he organised in January 2015 with FGW Managing Director Mark Hopwood and Rail Minister Claire Perry.
Alok Sharma said: “Having campaigned for a number of years for more Standard Class seats for Reading commuters, especially through declassification of under-utilised First Class seating, I am absolutely delighted that FGW have taken on board my latest suggestion, made at a meeting with FGW and the Transport Minister in January, to remove First Class entirely from local stopping trains. I know that many of my commuting constituents will welcome these extra Standard Class seats during peak time.”
Alok continued: “I believe Reading would benefit from a dedicated commuter service to Paddington and I will be making that case to FGW and the Department for Transport, especially in respect of any future franchise negotiations.”
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, as well as new electric units for our London Thames Valley commuters 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.”
Photos: Alok helps FGW to remove paint designating carriage as First Class at the train depot in Reading
and Alok Sharma at Reading Train Care Depot with First Great Western staff. (Left to Right) Jessica Inns; James Crosbie; Sami Elahi; Alok Sharma MP; Richard Powell; Michael Eves