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Transport for Wales Standard Plus – what is it?

We've taken a trip in the Transport for Wales Standard Plus section. We'll tell you how much it costs, what it's like and where to find it.
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Unless you commute on Transport for Wales on a regular basis, you probably won’t have noticed the inclusion of some slightly nicer seats on a few of their trains. At the time of writing, they’re set to be part of a new Transport for Wales Standard Plus product, but what is it, where does it apply and is it (going to be) worth it?

What is Transport for Wales Standard Plus?

In a nutshell, Transport for Wales Standard Plus is a sort of mid-way between Standard Class and First Class. If you’ve tried Standard Premium on Avanti West Coast, it’s much the same. You get a bigger seat and more space to stretch out, but none of the bells and whistles.

The seats are able to recline and they’re in a 2+1 layout. Here’s an example of one:

transport for wales standard plus seat

How much does it cost?

There’s no fixed upgrade price for a journey in Transport for Wales Standard Plus. It’s all based on the distance that you’re travelling, instead. Transport for Wales claims that you’ll pay 25% of the usual on-the-day Standard Class fare, but we’ve found a complete assortment of upgrade fees:

  • Manchester to Cardiff – £13.60 (£108 walk-up single – around 12.5%)
  • Manchester to Crewe – £5.50 (£17.40 walk-up single – around 31.6%)
  • Holyhead to Crewe – £11.00 (£33.90 walk-up single – around 25%)
  • Pembroke Dock to Swansea – £8.10 (£19.70 walk-up single – around 41%).

If you really want to know the upgrade fee in advance, type in your journey on Brfares and search for the fare called Std Plus Upgrde:

TfW Standard Plus fare on Brfares site

According to the data, Railcard discounts apply to these upgrades, too. For example, you can upgrade a Manchester to Cardiff journey for £8.95.

So, the Transport for Wales Standard Plus upgrade fees don’t appear to follow much of a logical pattern when it comes to cost.

How does Transport for Wales Standard Plus work?

So, this is the bigger mystery! At the time of writing, it’s theoretically being advertised. In fact, this is what you see when you visit the Transport for Wales website:

Transport for Wales Standard Plus info stated on their website

In theory, it’s available on the following routes:

  • Aberystwyth & Pwllheli – Shrewsbury – Birmingham International
  • Crewe – Chester – Holyhead
  • Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven & Fishguard Harbour – Swansea – Cardiff – Manchester.

The inclusion of Severn Tunnel Junction is a little strange, as it’s impossible to travel directly from Swansea to Severn Tunnel Junction. In fact, we couldn’t find an upgrade to Severn Tunnel Junction in the fares data!

So, it should be pretty simple (the mystery of Severn Tunnel Junction aside). You jump on board, take a seat and pay the upgrade fee. But, what actually happened when I took a trip? Well, on Tuesday 11th June 2024, I sampled Transport for Wales Standard Plus from Manchester to Newport (South Wales).

What is Standard Plus like?

When I woke up on the morning of my trip, I was pleased to see that I’d already cleared the first hurdle, which was that my service had been allocated a train with a Standard Plus section. This isn’t a guarantee!

All being well, trains from Manchester to South Wales normally arrive in Manchester Piccadilly around 15 minutes before they’re due to depart back south. As they tend to be rather busy, it’s a good idea to turn up then as I did. I managed to locate the Standard Plus section at the front and took a single seat. It had quite a large table:

transport for wales class 197 standard plus

My first impressions were good. I had a good amount of space to get some work done, there was a decent recline and I had access to a three-pin socket as well as a USB socket. We left Manchester on time and I settled in for the trip. There isn’t much more to say about the actual product. You get a nicer seat and more space to spread out. It does exactly as you’d expect.

Very quickly, I did notice a bit of an issue, though. There were no signs whatsoever about Standard Plus! It was fairly obvious that these were the ‘nicer’ seats but that wasn’t enough. You can’t keep things like this shrouded in mystery. As a result, people were just plonking themselves down, commenting on how nice the seats were and just thinking they’d got themselves a weirdly luxurious train.

When the conductor came through, my ticket was scanned with a smile and she moved on. The same applied to everyone in the carriage. So, it appeared that we’d all had a free upgrade.

Is there a charge to upgrade to Transport for Wales Standard Plus (yet)?

After we left Shrewsbury, a Revenue Protection Inspector came through the carriage. In a nutshell, an RPI is someone who can only issue a Penalty Fare or report you for prosecution. If you don’t have a ticket and they find you, you’re probably in for a bad time.

He went through and promptly told everyone they were in ‘First Class’ (Transport for Wales Standard Plus is not First Class!) though he didn’t seem to be doing much about it. As a result, nobody moved!

I challenged him on this. He refused to admit that he was wrong for accusing passengers of travelling without the right ticket or upgrade. I told him that I just wanted to know what the ‘official’ position was on Standard Plus and he promised to return with a ‘manager’, but walked off, took a seat in Standard Class and never came back.

The conductor came through later and we had a chat. She told me:

  • ‘Officially’, Standard Plus does exist
  • However, because there’s no signage or information about it on the train, staff have been briefed not to charge for Standard Plus until this signage is put up
  • The Revenue Protection Inspector was, as I assumed, wrong.

So, most importantly, Standard Plus is not First Class. You can’t be penalised for sitting in it with a Standard Class ticket if you haven’t had the chance to buy an upgrade.

How do I know if my train will have Standard Plus?

At the moment, it’s a bit of a lottery. After all, you can’t pay in advance (or at the time of writing, pay for it at all) so there’s little incentive for any consistency.

To be specific, you’ll find it on the trains numbered 197113 to 197126 (the front of the train will just say 113 to 126 – see the picture below). The Standard Plus section will be at one of the ends of the train behind the driver’s cab.

transport for wales class 197

These are all three-car trains. So if you have a two or four-car train, you know it definitely won’t have Standard Plus.

What else should I know?

First off, we’ve approached Transport for Wales for an official comment on this. I like to think that I’m a ‘well-seasoned’ rail user and even I was rather baffled by my experience. So, what hope does a first-timer or a less confident passenger have?

Transport for Wales Standard Plus has the potential to be a great product. The upgrade price isn’t too steep and it is a genuine step-up from what you’d find in Standard Class. Right now though, the implementation of it is very unclear. We’ll update you when they get back to us.

In the meantime, if you want to book your rail tickets without any mystery, fees or fuss, then you can do it with Railsmartr. We don’t believe in charging any refund or exchange fees. If you change your mind, you’ll only ever pay the difference in price (or nothing at all if your ticket is refundable). Our site is full of Expert Tips on getting the most out of your journey, as well as our Instagram page!

All opinions are based upon the experience of travelling on a Transport for Wales service on June 11th, 2024. All fares and upgrades stated are the ‘Any Permitted’ (or equivalent) fare and are correct as of June 18th, 2024. They’re subject to change at any time and Railsmartr are not responsible for any loss or inconvenience incurred. Transport for Wales may begin officially charging for upgrades in Standard Plus at any time.

Author Richard

Hi, I'm Richard and I've been working for Railsmartr since 2022. I make sure that everything we communicate with customers is top-notch and write exciting and informative content for the website. When I'm not at work, you'll still find me on the rails - though often in the far corners of Europe!