Sharma holds constructive meeting with First Great Western and Rail Minister on overcrowding

15th January 2015


Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, held a constructive meeting with First Great Western Managing Director Mark Hopwood and Rail Minister Claire Perry MP last week to discuss solutions to alleviate rail overcrowding.

Working with the Department for Transport, FGW has previously committed to converting First Class carriages in its fleet to increase the number of Standard Class seats to help reduce overcrowding. Before work began some of the trains had 2.5 First Class carriages and others had 2 First Class carriages. After all the work is complete, all High Speed Trains serving Reading will have 1.5 First Class carriages, adding 80 and 38 Standard Class seats to each train respectively, delivering a total of an extra 3,000 Standard Class seats every day.
The conversion of all trains with 2.5 First Class carriages to 1.5 First Class carriages has already been completed.

During the meeting, Alok called on First Great Western (FGW) to:

  • Make sure that the additional seats from the conversion of the first of the trains with 2 First Class carriages to 1.5 First Class carriages are delivered as quickly as possible, which First Great Western has agreed to do. This will deliver a further 38 Standard Class seats on each of these trains
  • Work with the Department for Transport to remove First Class carriages entirely on local stopping routes and convert them all to Standard Class. Given the length of journeys between Reading and London on local stopping services Alok noted that it is not acceptable to have passengers standing when there are seats free in First Class

During the meeting, Mark Hopwood confirmed that the train operating company has already increased standard seats on local Reading services by 21% and is two thirds of the way through converting a First Class carriage into Standard Class on every High Speed Train serving Reading, meaning 2,000 of the extra 3,000 seats promised are already online.

Significant additional capacity is planned for the months and years ahead to help alleviate overcrowding in Reading through the extension of Crossrail, the ongoing conversion of First Class carriages to Standard Class and a new fleet of intercity trains due to be introduced during 2018, which will increase capacity by an additional 20 per cent.

Alok Sharma said: “I would like to thank Claire Perry and Mark Hopwood for a constructive meeting. It was good to hear about the progress being made on converting First Class carriages into Standard Class but I have asked First Great Western and the Department for Transport to go further and see what more can be done to speed up the conversion to Standard Class seats, and on local stopping services, to consider removing First Class carriages entirely.”

Alok continued: “I will be following up on both these points related to increasing Standard Class seats with the Minister and First Great Western and will continue to press for further declassification of First Class when there is a clear need.”

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “It is good news that thanks to Government and FGW investments, passengers from Reading are already seeing more seats on these busy services and with the electrification of the line and the introduction of brand new high speed trains from 2017, more improvements are on the way. In the meantime, I was pleased that FGW have agreed to consider other ways of increasing capacity including declassification of First Class. I congratulate Alok on his campaign and hard work to improve his constituents’ rail journeys.”

Mark Hopwood said: “We appreciated the opportunity to take Alok through what we have done, and what we are planning to do to ease capacity for our Reading customers. In the past two years we have added around 7,000 additional seats to our Reading services at peak times, and we are always looking at new ways to secure more. However, given the growth in popularity of our rail services, it is a challenge keeping pace with demand.”

Mark continued: “The long term solution is, of course, the electrification of the main line, which will deliver bigger, faster trains for our customers. The first of these new trains will be introduced in 2018.”

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