Now first-class rail passengers are unhappy

PUBLISHED: 11:48 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 13:48 06 May 2010

A FIRST class traveller on a train from Gatwick to St Albans is furious at the response he has received from First Capital Connect following a complaint. Ari Sperling of Bricket Wood has been fighting for a refund since May when he found that the first cl

A FIRST class traveller on a train from Gatwick to St Albans is furious at the response he has received from First Capital Connect following a complaint.

Ari Sperling of Bricket Wood has been fighting for a refund since May when he found that the first class apartment he had paid to occupy was flooded with standard fare customers from St Pancras back to the city.

He has asked train operators First Capital Connect (FCC) for a refund of the portion of the first class fare which he paid for his wife and himself over and above the standard rate.

But despite ongoing communications with FCC managing director Elaine Holt, he has still not been successful.

Mr Sperling and his wife are not regular first-class travellers but after a difficult journey home from holiday which included being diverted from Luton to Gatwick, they decided to pay extra for the convenience and privacy of the first class compartment.

When the train, which got into London during the evening peak period, pulled into St Pancras, crowds of passengers got on - and those he spoke to had not paid to travel first class.

They said they used it without paying because the FCC trains in peak periods were so overcrowded.

But Mr Sperling, who sympathises with their plight, maintains that in light of the number of unauthorised users in the carriage, he is entitled to a refund.

In the latest letter from Ms Holt, she says that he was sitting in first class and using the facility available even though he was disappointed with the quality of service because the carriage was so busy.

Warning that customers without a first class ticket face steep penalties and even a criminal conviction, she says: "If customers still choose to take the risk and use first-class accommodation without a valid ticket, it simply does not follow that those who have paid for the first class ticket should be refunded the difference in cost."

But Mr Sperling maintains that the response shows that FCC, "couldn't care less about their passengers."

He pointed out that on the European rail network an inspector was employed on each train to go from one end to the other checking tickets.

And he added: "Ninety per cent of the time people get away with it here. The fares are so expensive but FCC are not spending the money in the right place.


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