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I have been traveling regularly to the south and I would love to know the benefits of upgrading to first class because to me it seems like there is none

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    Even if there is no difference in services or facilities, paying more will generally lead to emptier and quieter spaces. At least that’s how it seems to work in the Netherlands. – Eric Oct 20 at 14:52
  • Is standard class four across or five across on the trains you use? – Patricia Shanahan Oct 20 at 15:05
  • @PatriciaShanahan I can’t remember but it’s the trains that go to Hastings, Ore, Hayward Heath (where trains divide) and Lewis. – Ulkoma Oct 20 at 15:08
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    @Ulkoma I turned my comment into an answer. But, no, I found to my surprise that the seat is not guaranteed in law, however, most TOCs will quietly offer you a refund back to standard class if you complain about the lack of a seat. – Calchas Oct 20 at 20:22
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    On many commuter lines during busy hours trains don't have a 1st class technically.Southern is also one of them.Unless you intend to get into an argument with a traveller, hold thy peace.And it would be foolish to upgrade if you cannot be guaranteed a seat. And not on Southern atleast. They are the same seats as the others, with just a First class logo. – DumbCoder Oct 21 at 9:29
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There's the improved probability of a seat during rush hour and (in my opinion) the likelihood of quieter, or indeed absent, companions outside of rush hour. That's pretty much it; there's no difference in the hard product, and there's no soft product to speak of.

This is now counterbalanced by the very small first class section, which means if you have a random distribution of first class passengers, it doesn't take many people to fill it up even on a quiet service, and sometimes you may as well move to an empty part of the standard coach.

For many of us, the prospect of a quiet place to sit to read or work is well worth a few extra pounds on a journey of an hour or more. Yet, even I, who value this enough to travel almost never in standard class on a long journey, think Southern's first class is a bit of a joke, and I have stopped buying first on Southern services. (I am similarly displeased about the new carriages South Western Rail have introduced, with the 2-2 non-reclining first seats. I think it is a big downgrade.)

As I remember the operator would prefer to remove the first class section altogether but is forbidden by its franchising agreement.

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    Some people are entitled to travel first class by their employer when traveling for business (eg, senior civil servants). So if it's offered, they might pay for it even if it has almost zero benefit. If Southern don't offer it then they're leaving money on the table. – MJeffryes Oct 20 at 17:32
  • @MJeffryes That's true but with one class the benefits are reduced need for on-board ticket inspection (replace staff with automated barriers) and increased capacity for standard class ticket holders. For Southern, I suspect the money is in season tickets, less so one-off expensed journeys. Many commuter London services on other operators now run standard class only. But this is just my speculation. – Calchas Oct 20 at 20:16
  • On the Cambridge-London services I've not seen a ticket inspector in years but they still have first class. I suppose they don't care to enforce it when the benefits are so minimal. – MJeffryes Oct 20 at 20:51
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    Fairly certain most trains have a higher proportion of people with no ticket at all than a first class ticket seated in the first class section these days. – Flexo Oct 21 at 8:05
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    I was half expecting any answer to have a reference to bus replacement services, but maybe Southern have improved and actually have trains now. – Peter Taylor Oct 21 at 13:06
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This video did a review of first class and here are the advantages:

  • Reading lights
  • Power sockets
  • Increased privacy
  • More space
  • More luxurious experience
  • Better presentation

But to be honest, on shorter journeys and even on longer ones it isn’t really worth it in my opinion.

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    I kind of disagree with your answer. I have been travelling frequently and it’s the same seats, no extra space no power sockets and even no guaranteed seat. However I’ll measure the seats next week. – Ulkoma Oct 20 at 14:55
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    Power sockets are becoming much common in Standard on other operators, as carriages are replaced or refitted; the seats are certainly bigger and softer in First, on most configurations – Chris H Oct 21 at 8:14
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    @ChrisH I travel regularly on SouthWestern - and there are power sockets in standard class now - on all trains that I've been on in the past couple of months. – Aleks G Oct 21 at 13:49
  • @AleksG I am not sure which trains you travel one but no power sockets on all the ones running on the route I travel via. – Ulkoma Oct 21 at 15:09
  • @Ulkoma It may be a matter of old/new trains. I usually travel Woking to/from London on "fast" trains. – Aleks G Oct 21 at 15:13

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