Chiltern is launching its new ‘Mainline’ service between London and the West Midlands, with loco hauled stock, a simplified fare structure and a first class – well, sort of, as its a business premium obtainable for a £20 supplement.
Chiltern in fact scrapped first class on its first trains years ago, arguing that it took up more space and did not bring in much revenue. Its return to having a premium product is interesting and may point the way to the future. It is clear that with private business under tight constraints and civil servants and even MPs now banned from 1st class, there is much overprovision on other routes and it is high time that was recognised. The Pendolinos are only the most obvious example, and I suspect some of the more innovative bidders for West Coast will realise that converting some of those ever empty carriages to standard class would bring in extra revenue.
The other interesting aspect about the Chiltern launch is the extent to which the new improved service will take people off the Pendolinos. The prospect of sitting in a Mk3 coach for 100 minutes, rather than a smelly (sorry Virgin but they still are) cramped Pendolino for 85 at a cheaper price is very tempting. Adrian Shooter, Chiltern’s boss, is a fan of HS2 but by adding so much capacity on the route, is he not undermining the case for it?