First class rail travel grows as passengers opt for 'affordable luxury'29/06/2011
Demand for first class rail travel has risen despite tough economic times as operators have successfully encouraged a wider range of passengers to trade up from standard class by offering affordable train tickets and better services.
Figures published today by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) show that despite an expected decline in first class rail travel following a Whitehall-wide clampdown and belt tightening by the private sector, first class train journeys not only recovered but increased by 3% in 2010-2011 when compared to the previous twelve month period.
In particular train companies have increasingly targeted leisure travellers, who may not previously have considered travelling first class, with affordable tickets and the opportunity to upgrade from standard to first class on the day.
In particular, sales of cheap first class Advance tickets have increased by 17% in 2010/11, up from 5m to 5.8m, suggesting that first class users are booking further ahead to make the most of good deals being offered by train companies.
The total number of journeys made in first class rose by more than 280,000 in the past twelve months.
Train companies have been rolling out a range of initiatives and improvements to tempt greater numbers of people to travel first class. These include:
- Millions of pounds invested in building or renovating first class lounges at stations across the country;
- Introducing improved ‘at seat’ catering;
- Investing in upgrading on-board Wi-Fi systems;
- Offering tickets aimed at business travellers that include car parking and breakfast;
- Reducing some fares;
- Refurbishing first class train interiors, introducing more comfortable seating, new carpeting and additional power points for laptops for mobile working.
Edward Welsh, Director of Corporate Affairs for the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), said:
“Train companies have responded to tough economic times by persuading a wider range of passengers to upgrade to first class. People who in the past may not have considered travelling first class are increasingly taking advantage of good value deals offered by train companies.”
“Around 120,000 cheap first class Advance tickets are now sold every week in the UK with increasing numbers of passengers deciding that first class is increasingly an affordable luxury, either for business or leisure travel.
“With overall passenger numbers now the highest they have been in a peacetime year since the late 1920’s, this is further proof that train companies are successfully catering for a wide range of budgets, whether for people looking to economise or for a growing number wanting to trade up to first class."
Notes to editors
Examples of what train companies have been doing to encourage more people to travel first class include:-
- CrossCountry, East Coast, East Midlands Trains, First Great Western, First Transpennine Express, National Express East Anglia, South West Trains and Virgin Trains all continue to offer passengers the chance to buy a Weekend First upgrade.
- Virgin Trains introducing free Wi-Fi for first class and a Best-Fare Finder tool on their website two years ago, making it even easier to find cheap Advance first-class fares.
- First Great Western running a promotion with American Express offering cardholders 15% off first class tickets.
- National Express East Anglia offer free Wi-Fi in first class on intercity mainline and Stansted Express services.
- East Coast has introduced a new timetable which provides 117 more services a week, faster journeys and a new complimentary food and drinks offer and a Quiet Coach in First Class. East Coast is also running various discount fare promotions to attract new customers to try First Class travel.
- East Midlands Trains are nearing completion of a £6m investment to upgrade their entire fleet of Meridian trains that operate between Sheffield and London including installing new carpets and leather seats in first class to improve passenger comfort as well as offering free Wi-Fi for first class passengers.
- CrossCountry is undertaking a ‘refresh’ programme in the first class areas of its Voyager fleet of trains, providing new carpets and reupholstered seats and will this year begin installing Wi-Fi on its long-distance high speed services, which will be free for use first class travellers.
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