Rail users are right to ask for carriage improvement

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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Is it too much to expect that rail users should be allowed to travel in comfort? We don’t think so. Yet for too long those who take the train between Portsmouth and London Waterloo have had to put up with seats that are not big enough and toilets that often overflow.

Why? Well, South West Trains persists in running 450 Desiros, known as ‘blue’ trains, on this route instead of larger, white 444 carriages that are not so cramped. Apparently, the 450s are designed for shorter journeys, hence their unsuitability when people are travelling all the way to and from the capital.

The train company says the 450s are needed to beat overcrowding at busy times.

But although more people may be fitted into their tightly-packed seats, it seems clear they’re not up to the job.

So we’re pleased to see that Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and David Habershon, founder of the No450 campaign, finally appear to be getting somewhere in the fight to ensure train passengers are provided with decent facilities for their ticket money.

Ms Mordaunt and Mr Habershon managed to arrange a meeting with transport minister Norman Baker this week and he has agreed to a review that could lead to 444s being used instead, at least on off-peak services.

That would certainly be a start, although Mr Habershon makes it clear that he would like all 450s replaced.

Of course the problem is that the government cannot order SWT to change the type of train used on the Portsmouth to London line.

But the company should be reminded that its response to this issue will be considered when the franchise comes up for renewal in 2017.

We accept rail travel has come a long way since the days of the old slam-door trains.

But it’s clear that more improvements need to be made.

SWT should take its responsibility to passengers seriously enough to make the requested change to carriages. Because this issue is not going to go away.

Ms Mordaunt and Mr Habershon will make sure of that.