Watchdog worried about First Great Western back door price rises

Passenger Focus has opposed First Great Western’s move to deter passengers from upgrading to first class, with concerns it will make standard carriages increasingly crowded.

First Great Western passengers were previously able to pay a supplement to upgrade to first class for only £5 in the Thames Valley area and £10 further afield on weekends and bank holidays. But from this bank holiday weekend the cost of the upgrade will depend on how far the passenger is travelling, ranging from £5 to up to £25.

Under the new rules, passengers can also no longer purchase a through first class upgrade which incorporates travel on connecting trains which are run by other rail companies. This will increase the price of the upgrade for the whole journey as the passenger will have to pay a further supplement.

Ashwin Kumar, Passenger Focus director said: “On weekends fewer passengers are using first class carriages and it makes sense to incentivise passengers to upgrade their ticket at an affordable price.

“For some journeys the supplement price has more than doubled. Standard carriages are going to become increasingly crowded and this is yet another example of a train company slipping through one more back door fare rise.”

First Great Western has also this month increased the price of a number of its unregulated fares outside the Thames Valley area by around 2.5%. Regulated fares in the Thames Valley area have gone up by around 3% for first class and 2% for standard class. Off-peak fares from London and the South East to Devon and Cornwall have generally risen by around 3% and some long-distance weekly season tickets have also increased.

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