COMPASSION among the travelling public has deteriorated to such an extent that the train operator serving Huntingdonshire is issuing cards to persuade passengers to give up seats to people in greater need of them.

First Capital Connect, which operates the trains calling at Huntingdon and St Neots stations, is giving the 'priority seating' cards to pregnant women, disabled and elderly passengers and those in charge of infants and toddlers.

Not many years ago, such a move would not have been necessary, FCC acknowledges.

Any able-bodied passenger who failed to give up his or her seat in such circumstances would have been shamed into doing so by fellow-passengers.

"It's sad that we need to do this at all," a company spokesman said. "But some people no longer play by what used to be established rules. It's a matter of goodwill and decency, though we can't force people to give up seats that they have paid for, even if other people's needs are greater."

The company says priority passengers' needs are not always immediately, and some people will be reluctant to ask others to make way for them.

Customer service director Michelle Smart explained: "Our new cards make a request for a priority seat that much easier and - for some - less embarrassing. They will be a real benefit to people in genuine need."

INFORMATION: Passengers can apply for the new priority seating card through First Capital Connect's website, www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk, or through the assisted travel team on 0800 058 2844 (textphone 0800 975 1052).