These questions come from I Hate First Great Western and can be found here so in the interest of continuing co-operation between staff and passengers I have taken it upon myself to answer them.
The NCC does indeed say that if Standard Class is full, you can ask the Tm for permission to sit in First Class for no extra charge. Condition 59 also says that rail staff and agents have no authority to waive or change these conditions. However, it is not First Great Western's policy to allow these free upgrades unless the train is declassified completely. So, while there is very little chance of you actually gettng the TM to say yes, FGW have no way to take away your right to ask.
Not allowing paid upgrades to First Class on the train is a silly rule. It goes back to the NCC again, which says that all tickets, including upgrades, must be bought before you get on the train if there is the facility to do so. Most TMs though, see the sense in not enforcing that in this situation.Since I'm all pally with Anrew Haines now (smug mode engaged) I'll ask him for a formal policy change on that one and see what we can get done.
Overcrowding is a pain in the backside, no question. Hopefully in December, that will be eased with the new HSTs and the refreshed sets with more seats each. As to where al the cariages went, that's a long and complicated story. Back at the start of the franchise, the DfT made the infamous SLC for December 2006. Part of this included removal of a lot of carriages so that they could be used elsewhere. I'll not blame the DfT completely on this one as FGW did make some cuts above an beyond what they had to do, partly thanks to all the money the DfT gets paid for the 'priviledge' of us running the franchise.
In February, it became clear that this was a big mistake. We leased some extra trains from TransPennine Express and made some short term deals but most of the trains from TPE are going back in December, hence the appearance of the 142s. I agree that maximum seats at peak time should be a priority. That is why I'm all for the refresh and the extra seats and have little time for the whining about the lack of tables. I'm also glad that the Adelantes are going. Most of the time, a couple of them were out of service, leaving us short and now that they are being replaced with HSTs, that's more seats and more reliable services.
I sympathise with the complaints department. Sometmes I think that customer service from a rain company should be made the new National Service, everybody has to put in a year or two. You get standard letters because most complaints can be pigeonholed. The team has targets to meet, a lot of letters to get through and a 5 day response target.
The sytem has it's disadvantages of course. A more involved letter deserves a more involved response but this is not always possible in the time allowed for each letter (15 minutes in case you're interested). Most people will be happy with the standard responses as most of them do explain the issues. Therefore, it's as well to try the standard response first and, if that does not work, then it gos to someone who has more relaxed targets and can do the proper response. It's annoying, yes, but you'll probably find it's the same with most companies.
I'm not impressed with the FGW website. I find it easy to get around, because I know what I'm looking for. The best advice I can give you is scroll to the bottom and click the 'site map' link. Navigate from there, it's much easier.
As for reserving seats as a season ticket holder, you can do this. E-mail email@example.com with your journey and the dates you want and any seating preferences and they'll do it for you This is only for block bookings of 1 month or more though.
Finally, a shout out to Tim who has commented on the post.
1. Depends where you're going. Let me know and I'l tell you.
2. It finished in May. There is, as yet, no replacement. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be kept up to date with any info.
3. Yes. Let me know eher you're going and I'll give you specifics.
4. 60 mins on an FGW or ex-Wessex service, 30 mins on ex-Thames services. Doesn't count if you're travelling on a season ticket.
Til the next time peeps.