‘It’s simply idiotic’ says Hitchin commuter as Comet reveals new air-conditioned trains for Great Northern line have fewer seats
- Credit: Archant
The Comet can reveal new air-conditioned trains to London will see the number of seats available to hard-pressed rush hour commuters dramatically slashed until next summer – prompting fury from customers who already pay some of the highest train fares in the world for jam-packed services.
Train operator Govia, in charge of Thameslink – the rail franchise running Govia Thameslink Railway – is set to cut the number of seats by more than 30 per cent on some trains.
Govia is to introduce new air-conditioned trains on its Great Northern line over the next three years starting next month – replacing almost all the trains in service at the moment, some of which are four decades old.
The operator confirmed the first of its rolling-stock – the new Class 387 – will have 448 seats per eight carriages. However, its current eight-carriage Class 317 has 584 seats, and Class 321 trains offer 598 seats.
This means there will between 23 and 30 per cent fewer seats for already-crowded rush hour services until another new train, the Class 700, comes into operation next summer at the earliest. The Class 700, which is a fixed 12-carriage train, will then offer 666 seats.
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Govia Thameslink confirmed all its new trains will have accessible toilets, and two-by-two seating instead of the old, unpopular two-by-three – three on one side of the aisle, two on the other.
Commuters with annual season tickets already pay £3,740 per year to travel from Hitchin to London King’s Cross – or £4,944 for the equivalent journey with zones one to six included.
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Consultant Stewart Scott – who uses the 7.18am from Hitchin to London every morning – said: “It’s simply unacceptable for Govia to reduce the number of seats on rush hour trains. The thought is horrific. It’s simply idiotic.
“I’d rather go without air-conditioning and have a chance of a seat. I stand most days so it’s only going to be worse when they bring the new trains in.”
Father of two Stewart, who lives in The Ridgeway, added: “I’d invite the chairman of Govia to come and use one of his trains in rush hour and tell us commuters we get good value for money. It’s actually scandalous.”
A Govia spokesman said: “There will be more trains at Hitchin both in the peak and the off peak with new routes to St Pancras International, Farringdon for Crossrail, London Bridge and Gatwick.
“We will begin to introduce the first air conditioned trains to the route. These are designed to meet modern day accessibility legislation and also feature more comfortable two-by-two seating.”