Rail review agreed for London line

UNCOMFORTABLE The South West Trains 450 rolling stock
UNCOMFORTABLE The South West Trains 450 rolling stock

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RAIL users between Portsmouth and London Waterloo have won a breakthrough in their battle for better trains.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and David Habershon, founder of the No450 campaign, met transport minister Norman Baker on Tuesday. He has agreed to review South West Trains’ use of 450 Desiro which have more seats than the type-444 carriages.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘We told him our concerns, which are that the 450s are designed for shorter journeys, meaning on longer journeys the toilets often overflow and the seats are too small for people to sit in comfortably.’

The rail company has argued the 450s are needed to beat overcrowding at busy times, but Mr Baker agreed to investigate the carriages’ replacement with 444s, at least on off-peak services.

Mr Habershon said: ‘There’s no overcrowding on the Waterloo services, except some peak-time commuter services.

‘We want more than a return of the 444 at off-peak but we’re pleased the minister has agreed to take a look at the issue.’

Under the current contract, the government can’t order SWT to change its trains but refusal could be taken into account when the franchise is renewed in 2017. The review will end in September or early October.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘This is an important first battle and gives passengers hope they will one day travel in comfort. I and others will not rest until they do.’

Mr Baker said: ‘I will examine the campaign’s passenger count data. Ultimately it is for a company to decide how it makes best use of its train fleet.’