More Thameslink commuters will be forced to stand as trains have fewer seats


Thameslink - Credit: Archant

Overcrowding on the Thameslink line is to be alleviated – by taking away seats and forcing more people to stand on trains despite the massive fares paid by regular commuters.

The move by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has been blasted as a “bad joke” by one local commuter.

Others have criticised GTR for treating passengers as if they were transporting a flock of sheep.

Passengers have said the rail firm, which recently took over from previous franchisee, First Capital Connect, has so far failed to provide a promised improved service.

A spokeswoman for GTR told the Herts Advertiser the company will provide more standing room and 10,000 more seats during the morning peak into London from 2018.

She added: “That’s because although there will be fewer seats per carriage than on today’s older cramped Thameslink trains, we’ll have lots of longer and more frequent trains.”

The spokeswoman said GTR will, “do away with the unpopular three seats in a row configuration and create wider stand back areas behind the doors”.

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This change will “make journeys more comfortable” as there is a problem with passengers on busy trains effectively blocking doors with a ‘guard of honour’ either side, which delays people as they get on and off.

A bigger stand back area will give commuters space to move into.

The spokeswoman said wider stand back areas are “essential to allow people to get on and off trains as they cross central London at frequencies similar to those of the Tube, with trains arriving in each direction every two-to-three minutes.”

But the change has prompted commuter Jonathan Devereux, of St Albans, to point out safety concerns.

He said: “I do often have to stand and it occurs to me that apart from the £3,000 plus cost of my fare, having large numbers of people standing on public transport travelling at up to 90mph is essentially unsafe as well as uncomfortable.

“All the trains on the Thameslink route are either very old or have zero luggage space, despite it being a route which serves an international train station and two of London’s airports.”

In light of past publicity heralding a major transformation project including increased capacity on the route, Jonathan suggested: “Why not call it Thameslink 2020 rather than Thameslink 2000 – which now looks like a bad joke.”

He added: “Too often trains are short. Very few are the much-vaunted 12-coach trains, and those that are happen to be either full or have the least luggage space.”

One commuter said it was “outrageous” that people would be treated like sheep.

Another said: “Mile-per-mile the journey from St Albans to St Pancras is more expensive than going from St Pancras to Brussels or Paris, and you are guaranteed a seat on Eurostar.”

GTR is the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue and staff. It is the first one to start operating under the Government’s new franchising programme.