In an interesting announcement, it has been revealed that First Great Western (FGW) will be offering 9% more seats on their services to and from Paddington next year.
Because many of the carriages have been in store at Eastleigh Works after the Department for Transport quietly shelved this scheme over a year ago. This was not mentioned by Rail Minister Theresa Villiers in the announcement.
There are ten or so FGW buffet cars stored under cover out of sight inside Eastleigh Works which will now be converted and put back into traffic within High Speed Train sets helping to provide an extra 4500 seats every day. This was supposed to have happened by now, but the cost of refurbishing and converting the carriages was said to be too expensive.
Other carriages are being provided in the shape of the Alstom built Class 180 units which were ‘less than reliable’ when introduced a decade ago. They were transferred away for use in the north west used by First North Western based at purpose built depots in Chester and Manchester.
The scheme will relieve trains through Reading which sees most of the top ten overcrowded trains in the UK. It has been estimated at costing £29m but while this is great news, the question has to be asked why have the carriages been stored at Eastleigh costing the taxpayer for the last year?
There will be 46 more carriages in total provided which will provide real help in easing overcrowding, so is a good news story tempered with an unnecessary delay caused by the DfT’s policies.
Theresa Villiers said: “We are determined to tackle overcrowding and provide better, more comfortable journeys for passengers. These extra carriages will enable existing services to be lengthened which will significantly increase their capacity.
“Adding carriages to some of the busiest routes in the country is a key part of the major programme of rail capacity expansion which we have promised to deliver. This is a vital way to respond to passenger concerns about crowding and provides important support for economic growth.”
The extra carriages, which are planned to come into service in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games, will be deployed on morning and evening peak services serving the capital and commuting towns such as Bristol, Reading, Basingstoke, Ealing Broadway, Slough and Maidenhead.
Two of the 48 carriages will be used to increase capacity on crowded trains between Truro and Falmouth and Exmouth and Torbay.