IT’S the end of the line for first-class seating on many Greater Anglia trains.

The premium service has been declassified on all mainline services, except for the company’s flagship intercity trains which still run through Manningtree and Colchester.

Passengers may be able to take advantage of a small snack bar and trolley but it will be a far cry from the dining service which operated from London to Norwich until about 2010.

The news has been met with disappointment from self-confessed train enthusiast Mike Stanbury, the curatorial trustee and museum secretary at Chappel’s East Anglian Railway Museum.

However, he says it is an understandable sign of the times and the end of an era, as first-class travel dates to when the railway first opened.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Special service - being greeted at London Liverpool StreetSpecial service - being greeted at London Liverpool Street

“The first-class service has been very limited for a while, so it doesn’t surprise me to hear it’s being reduced even more,” said the 80-year-old, who said Colchester was first reached by Eastern Counties Railway in 1843.

“It’s gradually fallen by the wayside and just isn’t a practical proposition anymore.

“I can understand why they might not think it’s worthwhile but that doesn’t stop it being a terrible shame because in its day, first-class travel was very popular indeed.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Let the train take the strain - first-class seatingLet the train take the strain - first-class seating

“It really disappoints me because I’m a bit old-fashioned.

“The word service really should mean service, and, from personal experience, I can safely say there’s no better way to travel.

“It’s something special and while it obviously costs more money, you accept that if you’re eating on a train you have to pay a bit more.”

All railways had classes of carriages from the outset so the option to travel first-class has always existed.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Train enthusiast - Mike Stanbury, en route to Weymouth for a seafood festival in July 2014Train enthusiast - Mike Stanbury, en route to Weymouth for a seafood festival in July 2014

Fourth class disappeared early on and second class was removed progressively after the Second World War, leaving first and third class. Third class became second in 1956 and changed to standard in 1987.

Mr Stanbury has been involved at the museum, which is at Chappel station, since 1968 and travelled extensively in this country and across Europe and America.

“I’ve only been in a position to afford to travel first-class in the last ten years or so,” he said.

“It’s a special experience and there’s nothing better than getting on the train, settling down and having a complimentary coffee straight away.

“Although it will still be available on a limited number of services, it feels like the end of an era and I’ve seen it diminish over the years.

“Catering on other trains has also diminished.

“It’s a great shame but only diminished because people don’t take advantage of the trolley service available in standard class.

“There are coffee shops at stations and how many times do you see someone hop on their train already holding a cup of tea or coffee, rather than buying it on board?

“It’s a shame because they’ve missed out on a super service.

“Our trains are pretty good and in terms of safety they’re top of the tree.

“The industry has had one or two bad patches, but our punctuality rates are way out in front, compared to overseas.

The reason for the change is that existing services on non-intercity trains are being replaced with new, longer, state-of-the-art new models that do not have any first-class seating.

To avoid confusion while services are operated with a mix of new and old trains, the company has decided to declassify all first-class seating on non-intercity stopping services operated with old trains on Great Eastern routes.

All change.