Rail commuters to pay to book seats

COMMUTERS in East Anglia are in angry mood after it emerged they would have to pay to reserve their seats.

James Hore

COMMUTERS in East Anglia are in angry mood after it emerged they would have to pay to reserve their seats.

National Express is to demand �2.50 for reserving a single or �5 for a return ticket from this weekend on its East Anglia franchise.

The move provoked anger following a string of fare increases in recent years whilst union bosses warned ticket office staff could face abuse from angry customers.

North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin added: “I was surprised and disheartened to learn that National Express is planning to charge people to reserve a seat.

“This is a blow for passengers on top of fare increases and the removal of the restaurant cars.”

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Derek Monnery, chairman of the Essex Rail Users' Federation, said: “National Express has said they want to keep them (the reserved tickets) on off-peak trains, but certainly for peak trains packed with commuters, they really are a nonsense.”

He added that he was in favour of the price increase because many passengers do not use their reserved seats at the current �1 cost, leaving empty seats whilst others are forced to stand.

A National Express spokesman said: “We want to improve the on-board environment for our customers. We do find that people are often reserving multiple seats as they're not sure which train they are going to catch.

“Whilst we understand this, by asking people to pay for a seat reservation, seats will no longer be left empty with a reserved sign, therefore being made available for other customers to use.”