Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, is calling on the Rail Minister to back new measures to help tackle overcrowding and improve the passenger experience for commuters between Reading and London Paddington.
In a letter sent today to Paul Maynard MP, who was recently appointed as the new Rail Minister, Alok has requested a meeting to discuss issues relating to delays, overcrowding and passenger compensation.
In the letter, Alok has called on the Minister to consider introducing a policy which leads to the compulsory declassification of First Class carriages if trains are delayed during peak operating hours by more than a specified number of minutes. Alok noted in his letter that thanks to significant Government investment in upgrading the Great Western line, passengers would soon benefit from faster electric trains with more seats. However, he said that in the interim, ‘commuters are not getting value for money when they are forced to endure overcrowding during delays’.
Alok also recently held a meeting with Great Western Railway (GWR) Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, during which he called on the rail operating company to introduce online refunds. Mr Hopwood explained that this would be more feasible following the introduction of smart ticketing on the network and that discussions with the Department for Transport about this issue were ongoing. Alok will also be raising this issue with Mr Maynard.
During the meeting with Mr Hopwood, Alok made a number of further suggestions to improve the passenger experience, which Mr Hopwood promised to investigate and consider implementing, including the possibility of electronic signposting on platforms to vacant seats on trains.
Alok previously led a successful campaign to increase the number of Standard Class seats on Great Western Railway services between Reading and London Paddington by reducing the number of First Class carriages on high speed trains, as well as abolishing First Class entirely on local stopping services.
Alok Sharma said: “I am pleased that working with the Government, Great Western Railway have pledged to introduce 9,600 more seats a day across its fleet of intercity trains, following the completion of the electrification of the Great Western line. However, in the interim I believe that more that can be done to alleviate overcrowding by ensuring trains are regularly declassified when there are delays.”
Alok continued: “At present, declassification of First Class carriages is solely at the discretion of on board staff and in my experience of commuting on a daily basis over many years, rarely actually happens. My suggestion would be to introduce rules to franchise agreements which dictate that First Class carriages should be automatically declassified during peak operating hours if trains are delayed by more than a set number of minutes. This would provide a further incentive to rail operators to run efficient services and provide greater clarity to passengers who face lengthy delays to their journeys.”