First Class?

18 October 2013

Bit of a media flurry about the continuing existence of First Class sparked by a re-run of comments made by us some time ago – even made BBC Breakfast TV on Tuesday morning.

Our view is clear. Passenger Focus is a consumer organisation. We like choice – if passengers want to pay more for more that is fine – as long as that choice is not to the extreme detriment of everyone else.

So, train companies clearly need to keep an eye on day-to-day operations and manage busy trains. This did not happen on a recent weekend trip back from Bristol – no trains from Parkway – so Temple Meads trains were very busy. Passengers standing all the way while First Class seemed pretty empty. A sensible decision there would have helped a lot of folk.

Longer term, train companies must watch the balance between First and Standard. It is galling if you have paid for a pretty expensive journey and are crammed in, while First Class has vistas of empty space. Southern and First Capital Connect’s attempts to keep First Class on some trains running inside London seems doomed to fail, especially when some trains have First Class compartments screened off, which Standard passengers can actually use. But, worth bearing in mind that First Class revenue helps fund the railway and seems to be growing again thanks to good off-peak promotions.

Yes, I admit it. This earlier this week I stood in the First Class compartment coming up from Balham. Otherwise other passengers could not have got on. Not a choice I want to make.

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