First class carriages could be removed from Go-Ahead trains
Commuters with deep pockets could soon be bundled in with the riff-raff, under plans to remove first class from suburban trains in and around the capital.
The proposal was part plans to tackle rampant overcrowding on commuter services - revealed on Tuesday by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, as the government prepared to tender for the next term of the Integrated Kent rail franchise, which are the services currently operated by Govia under the brand name ‘Southeastern’.
Govia is a joint venture between the FTSE 250 passenger transport operator Go-Ahead Group at 65%, and French provider Keolis at 35%.
Under Grayling’s plans, first class carriages would be considered for reclassification on suburban routes to make more room for passengers, along with the implementation of ‘metro style’ carriages, with fewer seats and more standing room, to meet the demands of a growing passenger base.
The plans also proposed to run trains faster and more regularly, introduce smart payment systems including the use of smartphones, and bring in an automated system to claim compensation for passengers when they suffer delays of more than 15 minutes.
New routes were also possible under the plan, including an “orbital” London service between Ashford, Tonbridge, Redhill and Reading, to provide a public transport alternative to the M20 motorway, and high speed services from Hastings, Bexhill and Rye into St Pancras International via Ashford International.
Suburban trains would be extended to a standard 12 carriages, and terminals would be rationalised, so services on one route out of London would always terminate at the same station in central London.
“Services on the Southeastern rail network have been unacceptably poor for far too long,” Grayling said.
“Passengers have endured disruption, overcrowding and delays, particularly during redevelopment work at London Bridge Station, and they deserve better.
“Appointing a new franchise operator from 2018 provides us with a great opportunity to sort out the problems which have plagued Southeastern, and deliver the high quality of service that customers expect.”
The rail industry was keeping a keen eye on the tender process for the Integrated Kent franchise, as it was the first to be negotiated under Grayling and his plan to supposedly revolutionise the rail industry, as he outlined in a December speed.
London mayor Sadiq Khan was elected in 2016 on a platform that included the progressive takeover of all suburban services by Transport for London, starting with the Integrated Kent franchise.
Those plans were denied by Grayling in late 2016, in a move that proved controversial after a letter from 2013 surfaced, showing Grayling did not want to devolve rail services to TfL for fear of giving “a future Labour mayor” control of key transport links.