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 …


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  1. Rastamouse

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward

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

      surley the seat layout should be

      MWM rather then MMM

      1. Mips
        Jobs Horns


        Much more fun to be WMW.

    2. Graham Marsden

      These people from 2007 agree too...

      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!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

  3. Doozerboy

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      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 :)

      1. peyton?

        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!

      2. James Micallef Silver badge


        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

        1. K.o.R

          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)

    2. brightonBreezy

      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!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  5. SamuelB

    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.

    1. Bronek Kozicki
      Thumb Up

      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.

      1. SamuelB

        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.

      2. brightonBreezy
        Thumb Down

        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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

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

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

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

    3. Anonymous Coward

      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 .....

  6. jm83


    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.

    1. batfastad


      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.


      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>

      1. fixit_f

        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.

        1. 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.

    2. Adrian Challinor

      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.

  7. Anton Ivanov

    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.

  8. MrWibble

    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....

    1. Anonymous Coward

      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).

  9. Pete 2 Silver badge

    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.

    1. Bronek Kozicki

      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.

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge


        > airline seats is measured only between the armrest

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

    2. Steve X

      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.

    3. Cameron Colley

      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.

  10. Jim 59


    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.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd


      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.

  11. Tom 260

    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...

    1. Marvin the Martian

      Ach no!

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

  12. Anonymous Coward

    and this... 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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Dr. Mouse

        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.

    2. Paul_Murphy

      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.


      1. TRT Silver badge

        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.

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. JohnG

      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!

  14. Anonymous Coward

    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!

    1. Tom 38

      @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.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        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.

  15. Graham 25

    Not much of a story really is it ?

    More trains = more cost = higher fares so people won't like that.

    Most of the seats on the train are fine, and as has been said, its just the 3 seat bench thats a problem and thats only a problem for a few trains a day during rush hour when used at capacity.

    I use the Portsmouth fast trains to an intermediate stop and out of rush hours its always two thirds empty. Even in rush hour, the person on the end has one 'cheek' half in the gangway, but so what ? Its not for hours and half the folks like me get off partway and people shuffle around.

    If they MUST work on the train in rush hour, thats what First Class is for.

    Or they and the rest of the passengers can lose some weight/width as 'normal' size people certainly can fit in as long as there is no expectations of being able to wave arms around etc.

    1. Ian 14
      Thumb Down

      No, average people can't fit.

      "'normal' size people certainly can fit in"

      No they can't. Your idea of 'normal' is way off mark.

      From standard anthropometric data:

      Shoulder breadth (bideltoid)

      Maximum horizontal breadth across the shoulders, measured to the protrusions of the deltoid muscles.

      British Males, Aged19-65 years, without clothing. Add 10 mm for indoor clothing, 40mm for heavy outdoor clothing.

      5%ile 420mm

      50%ile 465mm

      95%ile 510mm

      Standard deviation 28 mm

      So with southwest trains 430mm seats 10.6% of british adult males will fit, as long as they are naked. If they have the temerity to insist on wearing normal indoor clothing only 5.5% will fit.

  16. Andy 18

    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.

  17. Peter Kay


    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.

  18. some-reg-reader

    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.

    1. Paul_Murphy

      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'.


  19. alain williams Silver badge

    Make rail management travel cattle class

    I have long believed that there should be a legal bar to transport management from travelling first or business class -- even if paid for with their own money. This would result in a rapid improvement of what most of us have to put up with. As it is these people get subsidised first class travel - so what incentive do they have to make life more pleasant for the rest of us ?

  20. Tom 38


    I just saw the photo as well. I can't believe she is complaining about that - she should try the trains on the metro service to Southend - same configuration, except the carriages are well over 30 years old and have tatty soiled seats. Those spanky new carriages look lovely in comparison.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the problem with minimum standards

    Is that the norm tends to drop to meet them.

    Few things are as detrimental to quality than minimum acceptable standards in a monopoly. (It's a monopoly as you normally only have one real choice per geographical region. Occasionally their may be an intercity service of some sort that isn't the main operator, but for most journeys you can only use the incumbent.)

  22. Bronek Kozicki


    ... and make that travel, in the standard class, part of the duty of all management, under terms of franchise!

  23. dotdavid
    Paris Hilton

    What do they hope to achieve?

    I can understand the concerns; yeah the seats are ridiculously tight - anyone can see that. But are Southwest Trains going to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds replacing them? Unlikely to say the least.

    Unfortunately it's just another reason for commuters to resent the train companies who run effective monopolies on travel into London.

    On a slightly related note, I once saw an advert for a train company in London asking "When was the last time you were in a train jam?", with a photo of a long queue of cars on a motorway. Actually as any commuter knows, these "train jams" can happen, and besides some might ask when was the last time you failed to get a seat in your car.

    Or failed to fit into it.

    Paris because she'd fit into one of those seats.

    1. John Sturdy

      Looking to the future

      Even if the rail companies don't replace the seats, it might be possible to pressure them away from using this seating arrangement in future designs. But if that worked, we could all fly pigs to work.

      1. Dave Walker
        Thumb Up

        2+2 seats replacing 3+2 in Philadelphia

        Our local transit agency (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority or SEPTA for short) after running 4 generations of cars with 3+2 seating has now seen the light and is using only 2+2 in its next build of cars.

        People are getting *ahem* bigger, and it became obvious that almost no one wanted the middle seat, so out they go and there is more standing room.

  24. Leona A

    Not the first

    to use this configuration, we have cattle trains down in the South West with that configuration and they are a good 20 years old! (class 143?). Typical commercial attitude, pile them in, take the profit.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what kind of seat the driver gets

    human sized one? no shit.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're full so they're popular?

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

    Yes - what happens is two trains arrive at the same time. One with 2+2 and another with 3+2. Then we all decide which one we like best (think "Runaround"). We love the 3+2 so much we all go for it and the poor old 2+2 is left empty most days.

    I should like this person to turn up on the platform and repeat that quote to our faces.

    "It is also clear from our battery cage loading statistics that these cages are well used by chickens. They must love 'em."

  27. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    discuss the matter further

    "Transport Minister Theresa Villiers agreed to meet Mordaunt to discuss the matter further. "

    If I can mis-quote the pointy-haired boss of Dilbert: "Kill her before she infects the rest"

  28. Christoph

    That's all right then

    "In addition, an independent assessment of the seating design and layout demonstrated that the seats on the Class 450 are ergonomically sound."

    Well, there you are. The studies show that it's perfectly OK, so the trivial detail that people don't physically fit can be discounted - the theory says it's fine so the data can be ignored.

    (Maybe they should get their carriages from Elbonia?)

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a spokeswoman for South West Trains owner Stagecoach ...

    Demonstrated an aspiration to politics by completely avoiding the points put to them and answering the points their pre-prepared spin.

    Perhaps rather than get bogged down in the details of one poor service vs another, why isn't the political asking why so many people have to travel so much to get to work?

    Could it be that to afford to live in this place we need to earn way more than is available locally?

    e.g. in order to afford a house in Brighton you have to work in London. If you work in Brighton then you are lucky to be able to afford a house there.

  30. Paul 172
    Thumb Up

    Relevant title

    She is a bit of a fox though...

  31. Cosmo
    Thumb Down

    Nothing new here

    People have been complaining about these class 450 3+2 seat patterns for years now. I'm fortunate that the train I normally get into work from Portsmouth to Basingstoke is a call 444, but if the trains are swapped around and it ends up being a 450, it's a nightmare.

    The leg room is not enough for anyone who is 6ft+ and the only way you can sit in the middle seat of 3 is if you sit bolt upright with your arms tucked in by yours sides. Not comfortable for any journey over 10 minutes.

    SWT used to wheel out some sort of design study that they had done when anyone complained during the "Ask the manager" sessions, but the fact that their PR department always spout weird and wonderful BS when pressed on the matter indicates to me that they know full well that these seats are not comfortable.

    Ironically, if the ripped out the aisle seat in the 3+2 combination seats, more people would probably sit down

  32. Tom Wood

    Move North.

    Overcrowding problem solved.

    Beer because also ours comes served properly with a nice creamy head, not all flat and southern.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How North?

      Which bit of the North?

      I can tell you from sitting on the train station that at least Manchester to Blackpool North is packed as far as Bolton, Manchester to Kirby is sardine city, Manchester to Southport isn't always that spacious (sometimes has some seats though) and Manchester to Blackburn is usually full.

      That comprises pretty much all peak time services going North of Manchester, so whichever bit of the North you're referring to, it's not Manchester going North after work.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You've never been on the laughably named TransPennine Express. Overcrowded by the time it leaves Manchester (or Leeds).

  33. Sabine Miehlbradt
    Black Helicopters

    So normal size people don't fit?

    These cars are made to last for at least 30 years.

    So maybe the rail companies know something you don't. Like in a few years only imported Asians are expected to actually go to work, because they are better value.

    The British Brit is to stay home and eat his food stamps. Those will not provide enough nutritional value to get you up to what is now average shoulder width. Productivity will soar! So will bonuses.

    Cynical? Moi? Jamais!

  34. brightonBreezy

    I couldn't agree more

    It's not just South West Trains.

    3 + 2 seating on british trains is wholly inadequate in pretty well every dimension. They are there due to political and media pressure on train companies to increase the number of seats and have NOTHING to do with passenger comfort (although they have a great deal to do with passenger DIScomfort!).

    I'm a daily commuter and stand rather than endure such seating.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if they considered...

    ...making the middle seat of the three sit a little further forward that the outer two? Repeat in a nice tessalated pattern down the carriage and at least five out of six people should have a little bit of elbow room.

  36. John Sturdy

    Brunel was right all along

    If we'd stuck with Brunel's broad gauge (7ft 1/4 inch) we would have plenty of room for more seats (and, I suspect, a more comfortable ride with less swaying).

  37. Nick Sargeant

    A problem shared ..

    I travel on a 444 on the way in from Havant to London in the mornings - and I delay my journey to do so; that gives me the chance to read the paper, do the sudoku and read a book. On the way home, I would have to delay by 30 minutes to get a 444, so I sit quietly by the window on the 3 side of a 450, and hope that it doesn't get so full that we have compression. There is a chance that nobody goes for the middle seat so there is more sideways room. The downside is that the legroom suffers, as the banks of three seats face each other; and I do mean suffer - my varicose veins give me serious jip until the carriage empties at Guildford.

    On the subject of IT, when will we see power being supplied to ordinary mortal seats on SWT?

  38. Elmer Phud

    No, Minister

    "Transport Minister Theresa Villiers agreed to meet Mordaunt to discuss the matter further"

    And offer up some platitudes, say it's nothing to do with her - it's the train company - and then fuck off in a car.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Teresa Villiers

      Was on 'Dispatches' this week saying how awful the trains were but how it was nothing to do with the Transport Minister because it had all been privatised doncha know and she was just there to pay £5 billion a year over to the assorted shysters (First Great Western), bus companies (Stagecoach) and banks (HSBC) that run our railways.

      I just wish SNCF or DB would come over and run the whole thing.

  39. Ian 49
    Thumb Down

    So what's new?

    Our Regional Railways sorry Centro sorry Central Trains sorry London Midland sorry network West Midlands (with a small "n") branded Class 150s and 323s have had 2-3 seating that no-one can sit on the middle seat of since the 1980s. Hence most people stand at rush hour.

    Chiltern offer seats that people can sit on... So most people still stand at rush hour.

    Where's the news in this, exactly? The fact that it has happened in the South and South East to catch up (down?) with the rest of us?

  40. The Jase

    Working on the train

    I love people working on the train. Its amazing how many company secrets they give away with their open laptops, documents and phone calls.

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Top Tip...

      If someone in the seat, or a few seats, in front of you is using a laptop on the class 444 or 450, look up at the glass luggage racks above the seating - they reflect the screen image quite often - it's handy for spying! Well actually, its handy if you want to be bored stiff watching someone work on a spread sheet or watching last-nights EastEnders on iPlayer. I did once see someone coding on the train though - probably one of you lot lol!

  41. Jon Press

    Nobody remember the BR DMU?

    3+2 seating on those on local commuter routes as I recall from many years back. Blame the Victorians for putting the tracks too close together.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    How out of touch .....

    .... are MPs that they think people can find room to work on trains? Obviously a bit different in first class!!

    Paul 172 is right though, she IS a bit of a fox!!

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Double Decker

    I wrote to SWT a few years ago to highlight this issue, and got very much the same response from them.

    It's a joke that you have to pay upwards of 60 quid for a day return to be squeezed to death and have your knees knocked together. Maybe that's fine for 30 minutes, but not the hour and half it takes my train to get to London.

    The TOCs should take a leaf out of other countries books, and sort out rolling stock with double decker seating, increasing the capacity but without increasing the length of the train. Sure, they've have to modify a few bridges here and there, but with passenger numbers on the rise, and no space left on the rails, what else is there to do?

    1. rpjs

      Won't fit

      Unfortunately the British loading gauge (clearance of structures from the track) is too small for double-deckers to be practical here. Bulleid tied it back in the 40s but it was not a success (

      The loading gauge on the European mainland and in North America is larger, and so double-deckers will fit. The new high-speed lines have been / will be built to the European standard so we could see double-deck high-speed trains in years to come. The cost of enlarging the loading gauge on the legacy network is almost certainly going to be prohibitive.

      The tight loading gauge is also why the 3 + 2 "high density" seating is such a squeeze. We have 3+2 seating on the Metro-North commuter rail here in the American colonies but the seats are large enough to fit comfortably in (well people here still complain about them but they really have no idea how bad it could be!).

      High density seating is not at all new - much of the old slam-door commuter stock had it, but people have got larger on average over the years and modern trains have thicker exterior walls (for better crash-worthiness) than the old slam-doors so it definitely feels more cramped.

      I'll get me anorak.

  44. Anonymous Coward


    At least when I visit a poorer country, they don't charge me 1st world prices for a 3rd service.

    If train tickets were £1, then they can jam as many sets in there as they want. Heck they can make double-deckers if they want. But for the prices they charge it is not on.

    I wish train companies were forced to automatically compensate passengers when a train was delayed or cancelled. The amount compensated should be proportional to the delay, and anything later than a minute should count as late. However this would probably put them out of business since they rely on charging high prices on the basis that there is little competition (or at best two train companies on one route but with generally different schedules, so if you have to travel around a certain time you don't get a choice) and if even they don't deliver the service they were payed for they get to keep all the money. Talk about unprofessional.


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      In Japan if your bullet train is more than (IIRC 2 minutes) late, not only do you get a full refund, but a written apology and a letter you can give your employer.

      Having said that, you could set your watch by the Shinkansen.

  45. iMess

    Health requirements..

    They don't seem to be taking much into account for people who have specific needs or suffer from pain in the back or lower legs. I am forced to stand as I simply cannot sit in the new carriage layout.

    1. TRT Silver badge


      True that the airline style seats on the desiro are too close together. You cannot stand up in the gap without your centre of gravity being significantly off centre. I suffer from back pain and sciatica, so I have to stay seated until there's a gap in the crowds waiting to get off for me to move into. If I'm in the aisle side seat, there's usually someone trying to push past me from the window side tutting away because I've not stood up.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    London Midland

    I'm sure London Midland has been using 3 + 2 seating on its cattle cars for a couple of years now. They're incredibly uncomfortable for anyone of average height and build. When you then add the lack of places to put luggage and coats, they're oppressive.

    On a related note, I was wondering earlier this week if rail companies are in breach of their obligation to offer a safe railway by forcing people to stand on high speed services. In the event of a crash or catastrophic derailment the casualties would be horrific. Anyone know?

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SWT = RyanAir

    The world's least favourite airline and the world's ugliest liveried trains have the same width seats.

  48. Sgt_Oddball
    Thumb Down

    Consider yourselves lucky

    Noting a rather large southern bias I'd like to point out that the same train types have been in service with Metro on the Leeds to Skipton line for about 4-5 years (if memory serves though there's probably some train nut who can give a date and time) of which these have had the same seating configuration since launched. Yes, they're damned uncomfortable when you try to fit the seats to maximum occupancy but what tends to happen is out of politeness some of us stand rather than sit and make everyone uncomfortable.

    That and any complaints about the seating have never caught any media's attention before so I'd advise some British stiff upper lip going on as I doubt the seatings going to change anytime soon

  49. Captain TickTock

    three elbow-endowed people

    I can't their 3rd elbows, are they in their backs?

    Jake the Peg, (diddle-iddle-iddle-ump...)

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Musical Trains

    If I recall correctly, the root cause of the problem was not South West Trains having a generous desire to provide more seats for the people of Portsmouth, but being too cheap to pay for the right sort of train for the route.

    Originally, SWT had class 442s (with 2+2) seating on the Weymouth line, 444s (with 2+2) on the Portsmouth line, and class 450s and 458s (with 2+3) on the Reading lines.

    SWT decided they wanted to standardise, so leased some more 450s for the Reading line, and planned to get rid of the unreliable 458s.

    However, they then realised that the 458s were cheaper to lease than the 442s, despite being about 15 years newer. So they kept the uncomfortable 458s and got rid of the comfortable 442s (claiming they were too old and unreliable... they're now working fast trains between Victoria and Brighton for Southern!)

    This meant they had to find some 2+2 trains for the Bournemouth line, so they pinched the 444s from the Portsmouth line.

    Having the extra 450s now spare, they put them on the Portsmouth line, claiming that it was to increase the number of seats, when it was in fact, just a way of using up their excess of trains with 2+3 seating.

    Unfortunately, by the time they realised it was a big mistake, they were unable to unpick all these moves, and instead haves since kept spinning that it's for the good of the passenger.

    Having been squished into the middle seat of a 450 four times in the last 2 days, I can sympathise with the commuters of Portsmouth, even though my journey is only 45 minutes!

  51. Richard Porter

    Put armrests in.

    That would stop people deliberately spreading themselves out over two seats! Mind you, they'd still put thie handbags, shopping etc on the next seat instead of on the luggage rack.

  52. Martin Usher

    Have a look at some old carriages

    Before you get carried away by the layout of those train 'cars' (that's an American term, BTW) go off to one of those heritage railways and have a look at vintage rolling stock. What you'll find is that the compartments in carriages with corridors could comfortably hold six people and the old surbuban stock (no corridor) manages eight.

    Modern train cars do look a bit smaller than old ones, I think its the "straight side" look, makes them narrower.

    BR tried double decker surburban trains once. I don't think they were successful.

  53. Il Midga di Macaroni

    Get a life!

    Out here in the colonies we have 3+2 seating on all our long distance trains (and most of our short distance trains too). And they only go 70mph so they take longer to get there.

    I've made the trip to the mother country several times and let me tell you, you have NOTHING to complain about with regard to your trains. Nothing at all.

  54. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    Or maybe?

    We are all getting too fat.

  55. Mips

    You see, it is not just the elbows.

    The problem really is the shoulders.

    You start to develop the "Pompy slump". If you are in the middle your shoulders come forwards, and your arms, your hands go on the knees (your own knees, oh do keep up).

    If you are on the corridor side, you lean into the corridor space, putting you directly in line to be whacked on the head and other parts of your body by the continuous line of corridor travellers with bags and briefcases, rucksacks, suitcases, brollys, the odd AK47 etc. You can get a really good workout shuffling about in your seat to avoid these.

    What's not to like!

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