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back to article South West Trains puts squeeze on commuters

South West Trains stands accused of attempting to provide more seating on its service between London and Portsmouth by simply reducing the width of seats to such a degree that they're suitable only for commuters without elbows. That's according to Penny Mordaunt, the Conservative MP for Portsmouth North, who told Parliament that …

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I agree

Those seats are a joke, Where I get on the train the only seats left are the one in the middle of the blocks of 3.

Its so uncomfortable being squashed in the middle I often end up sitting on the floor for 45 minutes instead. It's alright as i'm in my scruffy cycling shorts by that point but wouldn't want sit on the floor otherwise.

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FAIL

in order to cram in the most cow-moo-ters

surley the seat layout should be

MWM rather then MMM

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These people from 2007 agree too...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/6288115.stm

Yes, that's a news report from *four years* ago with people complaining about the 450s which were originally (supposedly) designed for suburban journeys and only intended to be used on "short run" local routes, not inter-city commuter routes.

Of course what SWT has found is that it can claim to be "making more seats available", ignoring the minor fact that it's almost impossible to *use* those seats!

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Jobs Horns

MWM?

Much more fun to be WMW.

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Spin spin spin

""Our customer feedback shows that getting a seat is high on the list of priorities for our passengers – these trains, when run as 12 cars, provide 142 additional seats per journey compared to a 10-car Class 444 train."

That's some world class fudging of figures there.

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title/math fail

Indeed, I tried to work out how many extra seats per car the elbow-free 450 had... and kept coming up with figures in the range of 1 to -1. I'm not sure it's possible to solve 12x-142 = 10y, but I tried anyway :)

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Statistics triumph again!

If you ask 100 passengers whether they want more seats available on their journey most are going to say "yes" of course.

I strongly suspect you'd get a very different answer if you included the type and dimensions of the seat!

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re: math file

Could've been worse. I'm surprised they didn't count people's laps as additional "seats" - then the math becomes recursive! The more people sitting down - the more seats you have - it's a win for everybody!

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Boffin

??Huh??

The only way this makes sense is if the new cars are shorter (ie have less rows), so that 10 of the old carriages have about the same number of rows as 12 of the new ones. (This allows the trains to have a similair overall length, usually you can't just keep adding carriages because the train length is limited by platform length at stations)

5 seats instead of 4 = 20% more seats across the width. If that 20% more = 142 extra places, the 'old' trains had 710 seats total in 10 cars (71 per car = approx 18 rows X 4 places , total rows = 180), and the new trains have 852 seats in 12 cars (also 71 seats per car = approx 15 rows X 5 places, total rows = 180). The 71 seats per car is a starnge number, but besides approximations I guess there are some open spaces by the doors where there isn't a full row of seats.

Still can't see why they couldn't make the seats a bit wider and lose some aisle space

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Boffin

is required

All four carriages in a 450 are different (front and back might be the same) so you have different arrangements in each case (one has bike space, one has a first class section).

The carriages on a 444 are slightly longer (23m vs 20m) but a 12-car 450 is still longer overall.

They couldn't make the seats any bigger and encroach on the aisle because there wouldn't *be* an aisle (the width of the coach allows six "narrow" (450) seats, five "normal" (444) seats or four "wide (1st class) seats, one or two of which are missing to form the aisle in each case)

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FAIL

Southeastern

I'm not a spotter so couldn't tell you if they're the same type of carriages but SouthEastern use carriage with a similar 2 - 3 layout... needless to say the rows of 3 seats are best avoided.

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Linux

Yep

There also seems to be another type on Southeastern where the seats are huge bulky things but give you no leg room once you're in the airline style ones. Clear discrimination against anyone over 6ft.

Oh also the overhead racks are a joke, presumably designed so you can only keep your newspaper up there.

<rant>

I hate the train cartels so much. I reverse commute so I'd always have a coach or 2 to myself, shame it cost the same as travelling in though. If they made it cheaper to travel out then maybe more people would do it.

But these days it's cheaper for me to drive out AND pay the congestion charge (I live inside the zone).

Ticket used to cost £8.90 4 years ago, now costs £19.80.

It takes me about 10mins longer to drive but it's door to door and I don't have to mix with the hoi polloi.

If our dear leaders want to cut our carbon emissions you'd think they'd give some incentives to not use a car. Or maybe they'll just ramp up fuel costs so the train becomes the cheaper option.</rant>

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Joke

I like the 3 seater South Eastern trains

But I didn't realie that it was a set in the centre, judging by the woman next to me I thought it was just there for somewhere for her to put all her bags.

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Southeastern are utter, utter bastards

Their "solution" to overcrowding on their trains on my line was to bring carriages into service with massively fewer seats and big standing areas in the middle. The logic being that more people can get onto a train if they're all standing up - sitting people take too much space up, the lazy, selfish, pie eating bastards.

Which is fine for a 5 minute journey, but my commute is 45 minutes by the time they've spent 20 minutes stood still outside London Bridge. I'm not a lazy bloke but if I wanted to spend an hour and a half a day upright and clinging to a pole I'd have been born an exotic dancer.

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PT

@utter, utter bastards

In this they merely continue the traditions of the former Southern Region. It's been many years since I traveled that route but I remember frequent journeys from London to Portsmouth where I had to stand, in a crush reminiscent of a Tokyo subway, for more than half the distance.

At least they haven't adopted the French practice of fining travelers who don't have a seat.

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Anonymous Coward

Width.

I "suffer" a 2+3 class 450 every day, and am far too tight to spring for the other-worldly calm a first class ticket would afford.

In all honesty, they're fine for two or three normal-tending-to-thin people who have a bit of respect for personal space to share, and I expect that's the benchmark SWT used when investigating them. The problem being that in the real world we know there are people who are overweight, selfish, or determined to read their newspaper spread wide open regardless of how many elbows in the ribs it means for the person next to them.

I would suggest they "solve" the problem by offering a "small people with a bit of decency zone", but given the tendency of the average SWT "quiet zone" carriage to be a cacophony of Blackberries with the notification set to maximum earbursting LOOK AT ME I R GET EMAIL volume, I doubt that would help.

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Anonymous Coward

SWT

It's not just width. On the 450s I can't even sit in some of the seats as there's simply not enough legroom, and even in the facing seats it's a case of juggling legs if two tall people sit opposite each other.

What's not to like on the 444s? Only one thing - the armrest nearest the side of the carriage won't fold up and is always in the way of your arm when using a laptop.

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Anonymous Coward

Leg room

I dont have a problem with the width of the seats, but the legroom is indeed chronic in these trains. I'm only a fairly standard 6ft, but I usually arrive with sore knees unless I can get an aisle seat and take the pressure off every now and again. The seat pitch also makes reading anything bigger than a book an exercise in gymnastics/origami.

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Yes its bad - but better than standing

I get the (packed) 0705 from Woking to Waterloo every day which is a "blue" SWT service described in this article. In a typical week, I will get a seat 3 mornings out of 5 and it is always in the blocks of 3. The middle seats are left empty by commuters who don't want to hold hands all the way to London.

The reality is, however, that despite how uncomfortable it may be to squeeze six people in this confined space it still beats the hell out of standing. I don't think its quite as bad as the MP suggests but she is right about working; reading a newspaper is nigh on impossible in this configuration, let alone doing some work.

I typically return home on a "white" SWT (the lower capacity train mentioned in this article) which is incredibly comfortable IF you can get a seat. Unfortunately, by the time this train leaves Waterloo its 12 carriages are completely full. Short of lengthening platforms and creating even longer trains, I really don't see a better solution than stripping out the tables and using the 3+2 configuration.

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my commute is similar

.... except that I use Class 450 in both directions.

There is "simple" solution though: if train companies can charge more for "anytime" tariffs and thus recognize the problem of crowded trains, they should be also able to put more trains on the rails in peak hours. Like everyone else does, really.

Of course this won't happen unless it's put in franchise conditions, so here's one direction for MPs to follow.

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More trains?

At Woking I really couldn't fault the frequency of the trains, from 0650 they are almost every 5 minutes until the end of peak. Unfortunately, they are all 95% full before they get to us.

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Fine idea but..

Trouble is the network (around London at least) is at capacity during peak times so more trains are rarely an option without there being an ENORMOUS amount of investment in the infrastructure.

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Re: Yes its bad - but better than standing...

If they made misericords available, I'd rather stand.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misericords

Though ceiling to floor air flow would be desirable, given the increased people density that would allow.

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FAIL

You obviously dont have to sit on these for another 40 mins ....

Your comment "I dont think its quite as bad as the MP suggests" shows that you only have to suffer these for the 30 mins to/from Woking, which is what these class of trains were actually designed for in the first place (by SWT own admission, these were originally "suitable for up-to 30 minute commuter journeys"). Try sitting on these for another 45 mins each way, as we have to going to/from Portsmouth - complete torture !

Mind you - at least living here on the coast I can usually get a seat in the mornings. I have real sympathy for the poor folk getting on at Haslemere/Guildford/Woking in the mornings, who have to spend over £3k a year for a yearly ticket and don't even get a seat for their money most mornings .....

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Joke

Quoting Monsters incorporated

Quoting Mike from monster incorporated: Work that flab that is hanging over the bed!!!

43cm is a bit too tight though. Even for a non-overweight person.

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WTF?

no shit...

"these trains, when run as 12 cars, provide 142 additional seats per journey compared to a 10-car Class 444 train."

So a train with more "cars" can carry more people? Wow, I never knew that....

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The trains are the same length

Just that the each carriage is slightly shorter in the 12-coach 450 compared with the 10-coach 444.

I'm lucky in that my train is a 444 which are pretty good. I really don't like the 450, although I accept that they do carry more people (assuming that anyone actually uses the middle seats).

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Not only SWT

First Great Western use this seating arrangement on some local trains in Devon too, probably so that they can get away with using less coaches per train. These are probably not Class 450 given that they're powered coaches (trains being typically 2-3 coaches long on local routes), but the seating arrangement of 3+2 is the same. Along with the reduction in the number of rush hour trains from my station compared to 5-6 years ago, and the complete lack of consideration of legroom for anyone over 5'9", this does lead to overcrowding situations where you'd prefer to stand than sit! Then there's the facing seats, where a row of 3 faces another row of 3, no table inbetween, and 1.5 times the legroom of an ordinary seat, fine when its not crowded, but you'd better be an amputee at rush hour...

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Troll

Ach no!

The crush of the rural Devon commute! When all 12 inhabitants + their ponies are on the move, it's bedlam.

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Shoulders

For many years Thameslink has been using seats that are simply unsuitable for men. Three average sized blokes sitting side by side will find that their shoulders press hard against each other, to such a degree than the end guy has to lean out onto the aisle, and the middle guy has to sit forward. Ridiculous. This has nothing to do with obesity, it's simply purely width.

The decades wear away and Britain continues to have the worst trains in the western world, and the most expensive train service anywhere.

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Pint

Measurements...

I am roughly 40cm across the arse, sitting down.

My shoulder width is 55cm.

My chest width is 35cm.

So, I'll just cut my arms off then. Not that big of a deal.

Could some-one hold my straw please.

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Airline width?

Normal airline seats are about this wide, too.

I suppose the real question is whether the load factor on these trains actually warrants the extra seats. Will SWT be able to get more fares from more pax squeezed into these trains, or does it just mean that the half dozen or so passengers you normally find on a train outside of peak-times will be able to spread themselves across more, smaller seats?

As for stopping people from working on trains? If these smaller seats somehow prevent people from jabbering into their mobile phones for the entire trip, I'd say they're just the right size.

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you missed something here

"Normal airline seats are about this wide, too." width of airline seats is measured only between the armrest; these go beyond this typical 17" which means at least half of the passengers have a place for their elbows.

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Normal airline seats

in economy are 17" - 18" *plus armrests* which in a row of three adds another 6 inches or so to the overall space.

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Correction

> airline seats is measured only between the armrest

I stand corrected. I would sit, but the seats are too narrow

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I suggest you change your airline then.

While I have experienced cramped seats on Easyjet they're no where near as bad as the seats being described in this article -- and the ones on non-budget carriers are slightly bigger again. I'll admit I do still usually try for more leg room when flying, but the width is only what I would describe as "a bit close" and not "almost impossible to sit" as it is in these trains.

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and this...

...is why I drive.

Oh and the fact I'd loose an extra 2 hours / day off my life, stand in the rain waiting for a train not to turn up only the get to sit next to some gobshite chav on his mobile all the way.

Even if petrol went to £4 a litre I'd still use public transport only as an utter last resort to get to work.

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Anonymous Coward

Depends on your route

In more than one case the difference between driving and taking the train is minimal, or little difference and the train is actually cheaper (with a yearly season ticket).

OK, so you have a comfy seat in the car, but concentration and motorway monotony is involved. On a train you can catch up on sleep and make the decision that evening to go out for a drink with friends before returning home.

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If I took the train

I once worked this out to try to save money. I have moved further from a train station now, so these figures are not accurate any more.

If I took the train to work, I would need to be on the first applicable train from my local station, at about 6am. I would need to change 3 times, and would arrive at the station nearest where I work at 9:30am, giving a total of 3 and a half hours travelling. The situation is the same on the way back. Therefore, I have spent a total of 7 hours out of my day, nearly a full working day, just travelling.

If I could work on the train, then things become a little better. Time I could work on the train, taking into account the changes and some time to get set up on the train, would be approx 2.5 hours each way. Assuming I can get a suitable seat, of course. This then leaves me with only 2.5 hours to do at work, but it leaves you thinking "Why didn't I just work from home in the first place?"

In the car, the journey takes me 30-45mins. It makes for a simple choice.

Specifically with respect to these trains, one of the often-quoted advantages to using public transport is the ability to get work and/or other things done while travelling, which you cannot do while driving (at least, you shouldn't, although I know a few people who check their emails, update client notes etc. while driving). If there is barely enough space for you to sit, there is no chance of you being able to get your laptop out.

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Not when you need to drive though London and back.

I live in Watford and work in South London - the thought of having to drive through that twice a day is bad enough, but I would end up paying more, taking more time each day and end up a nervous wreck by the end of the week.

ttfn

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Me too!

London Midland have been refleeting with Desiro and they're not completely unworkable. The 2+3 arrangement is uncomfortable when you get a slightly wider than usual person on them, and I'm quite wide, even if I don't look it.

I think this is a storm in a teacup. The most annoying thing about Desiro trains is the long, long gap between the train stopping and the doors unlocking. I'm sure they have a built in three second delay.

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This post has been deleted by its author

IT angle

The IT angle comes from showing how computer-aided design can be used to maximise the use of available space. Back in the dark ages before computers, passengers had to travel on trains with larger seats between clean stations, some of which even had porters to assist with heavy luggage. All this in a period before nationalisation when train companies made a profit. Now we have the technology to compress more people into a carriage, whilst charging then a small fortune for their journey and the rail companies still need huge subsidies. That's progress!

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Why work?

She said: "It seems that South West Trains expects its passengers not only not to work while traveling in standard class, but not to have elbows either."

Who in their right mind works on the train? Are you all being paid overtime for the extra 2 hours of checking emails, making calls, filling in Excel spreadsheets and all the other office-related stuff you do 9-5 anyway?

I hate commuting in to London but would rather spend the time on the railway cattle-trucks reading or listening to music.

If you're not being paid for it, don't do it!

Anon in case my employers read this!

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Go

@AC: WTF is this 'overtime' you speak of, and where can I get some?

Pity us poor salaried schmucks please. Either the job gets done, or it doesn't get done, and the reason "there wasn't enough time this week" wears thin quickly.

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Unhappy

I am the AC above

I am a salaried schmuck and I don't get the overtime either. So it doesn't get done on my time.

Anon again for obvious reasons.

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Luxury

Looks rather nice compared to the pile of shite Nothern Rail occasionally springs on the Blackpool North service. Not only is it the 3+2 configuration, but the seats are much less luxurious (no headrest, no space between seats). I'd estimate the Northern Trains as being significantly worse (There's also a 3x2 configuration with headrests but with inferior upholstery to the Southern trains)

Fortunately most of the commuting time it's a 2+2 configuration (heavily used by First TransPennine Express Manchester Airport<->Glasgow) which is quite comfy, but lacking a 4cm gap between seats. (I do wonder if they cycle the nice trains between services, as several days of 3+2 is rather annoying)

Still, I'd rate standing as considerably worse than any of these. 2x2 is lovely, 3x2 upholstered is just about adequate, 3x2 with bench seats is irritating.

This all pales into insignificance compared to 3+2 two carriage days, where the train has no seats left 7 stops before the destination..

I suggest a Kindle for sardine situations; you can read it one handed.

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Unhappy

Under great heat and pressure diamonds are formed (!?)

Personally, I find 1st class seats are too narrow to get comfortable in so this is just insane.

For empirical testing, I just stood next to my training partner after a swimming session. Two slim men with a total shoulder width of 110cm. The person in the middle seat with the remaining 19cm (7.5") to sit in is going to have a really tight time of it. If we attempt to actually do some work or read a paper then we are going to be bumping elbows even if there is no-one in the middle seat.

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FAIL

From South West Trains:

From South West Trains:

"It is also clear from our passenger loading statistics that these trains are well used by customers."

Wow - I didn't know I had a choice... ! I shall remain on the platform until a suitable train comes along next time.

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Is it just me.

Or does the term 'passenger loading' cause a mental imagine of cattle being loaded onto a wagon to spring to mind?

Excuse me I'm off to practice my 'moo'.

ttfn

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