Home Estate Planning Government hits back at reports HS2 first-class seats will be ditched

Government hits back at reports HS2 first-class seats will be ditched

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The government has denied reports that officials working on the embattled High Speed 2 project are considering scrapping first class seats in a bid to solve passenger capacity issues.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled plans to axe the northern leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester in October as costs ballooned far beyond the initially outlined budget.

Trains travelling to Manchester will now be forced to switch to the West Coast Mainline at Birmingham under the new plans.

It means passenger capacity from the capital to the north is likely to drop as HS2’s trains are smaller than than the rolling stock in use between Birmingham and Manchester.

An internal government document, seen by the Financial Times, estimates capacity would fall from 1,690 to 1,530 seats per hour between London and Manchester.

According to government and industry sources cited by the newspaper, HS2 Ltd is now mooting ways to alter the trains it has on order to address the capacity shortfall.

One solution is being posited is to scrap first-class seats on the new trains, which would bring capacity back in line with previous aims.

One senior rail industry figure told the paper: “They are serious about ripping out the first class, it’s another nail in the coffin of this being some kind of superior rail service but it’s probably less embarrassing than ending up with lower capacity.”

A senior industry executive also claimed there had been discussions to scrap first class, which would be a “short-term solution” to the issues raised by October’s announcement. They added it would be “another downgrade” for the line, turning it into a glorified commuter railway.

But in a statement, the Department for Transport (DfT) hit back at the reports as “incorrect.” A spokesperson insisted that the contract to “design and build HS2 trains includes both standard and first-class areas for passengers.”

HS2 train service specification, including seat numbers and service patterns, are still in the process of being determined, and no contracts have yet been amended.

HS2 Ltd was approached for comment.

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