Greater Anglia to axe first class on most trains from 2020 to tackle overcrowding

Southeastern is expected to follow

The company predicts that the move will provide around 20 per cent more seats across its network in East Anglia
The company predicts that the move will provide around 20 per cent more seats across its network in East Anglia

Greater Anglia is scrapping first class on most of its trains from 2020 in a bid to ease overcrowding.

The train operator will run single class services on all commuter and regional routes, including the Stansted Express. Only intercity trains, which run between Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester and London, will retain first class seats. The operator will replace all trains with “brand new state-of-the-art longer trains”, which will come into service between the middle of 2019 and the end of 2020.

The company predicts that the move will provide around 20 per cent more seats across its network in East Anglia.

Southeastern, whose trains service Kent, is expected to follow Greater Anglia’s lead. Last year, the Department for Transport stipulated that the new operator for the Southeastern franchise should remove first class accommodation on all passenger trains within 18 months when a new franchise agreement is signed next year. The new operator is expected to begin on 1 April.

“We’re committed to transforming rail services for our customers with the introduction of our new trains,” said Martin Moran, commercial and customer services director at Greater Anglia.

“By only retaining first class seating on our new intercity trains, we can offer a much better service, provide many more seats and reduce overcrowding on our suburban and Stansted Express services in and out of London, delivering a far better service for thousands of passengers.

“By 2 January 2020, the phasing in of our new trains will be well under way, so it is a sensible time to withdraw first class from our suburban services.

“Our new trains will also offer a higher quality travelling environment, making rail an excellent option right across our network.”

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Several train companies have overhauled first class in a bid to stop overcrowding. Chiltern Railways axed business class 15 years ago, but introduced a “Business Zone”, a premium economy service with wider seats and large tables, in 2011. Meanwhile, Great Western Railway has reduced the number of first-class seats on all services.

Govia Thameslink “declassified” first class on all peak-time Thameslink and Great Northern services for two weeks from the end of June in order to tackle overcrowding.

In July, Govia Thameslink’s head of network operations Mark Boon allegedly sat in an “empty” first class carriage on a “very packed” train and told other passengers to stay out of his section.

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