Thameslink: Union Reacts To 'Standing' Statement

3 October 2014, 17:14

A rail union has reacted with fury to comments by a train company chief that he intends to make it "more comfortable to stand'' for his rush-hour passengers.

Charles Horton, chief executive of the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) running a new "mega'' south east England commuter franchise, said his company will be providing 10,000 more seats in the rush-hour.

But, in an interview with London's Evening Standard, he added:  "But it doesn't mean I can promise no-one will ever stand on trains into central London.

"What I can promise is that the trains on Thameslink (Bedford-to-Brighton route) will be more comfortable to stand up in. They have big 'stand-back' areas so people can stand in more comfort.''

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said: "This is a shocking admission which will leave commuters rightly up in arms as they are forced to pay some of the highest annual commuter fares on the network to be jammed in like cattle.''

Mr Horton also told the Standard that GTR would also develop smartphone apps with real-time information on seat occupancy so commuters could catch later, less-packed trains.

He added: "We want to put more information in the hands of passengers so they will know which services are going to be the busiest and which trains they are more likely to have seats on so they can travel in more comfort.

"Some people think that getting a seat is more important than the (duration) of their journey - so they will take a slower service if they want to sit down, and there are people for whom speed is all.

"We want to put more information into the hands of people so they can make a better choice.''

The new franchise embraces the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern routes which include Gatwick Express as well as the former First Capital Connect routes.

Mr Cash added: "At the same time this company are planning to axe guards and other staff to maximise profits that will be used by the parent company, French state-owned Keolis, to subsidise rail fares in France.

"The whole sordid story exposes yet again the racket of rail privatisation.''

A GTR spokesman said: "We are providing many more longer and more-frequent trains.''