1st Class East Coast Trains Review .LON-EDI

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  • Anonymous


    Booked a return 1st class two weeks prior to travel on the EC website, travelled Tues / Weds 7/8th June 2013
    Managed to choose good times for an overnight trip, ex LKX at 8am (arr 1.24pm) on Tues, returning 16.30hrs next day a Weds (arr 21.42into KX)
    Each train will have a different price and these can vary considerably, but the times we chose were peak services and £65 each up, £46 back 1st. the booking system is very easy to navigate, tickets posted out for £1 or for collection.

    Interestingly, a First Class fare at the lower rate, can be almost the same as a standard fare, if you choose your trains carefully. For 4.5hrs + with food and drinks, this is excellent value. The earlier you book though, the better the fare, and greater value for 1st class. A “small group discount” factors in for 3 or more, and u could use railcards on all trains.

    Fares from LCY by Air on BA, or Cityjet, exceeded £350, and the time scales were comparable with airport or to Kings X, living in N ldn. Add on travel time and costs £60+, to from LCY the nearest airport for me).
    one way fares proved more expensive overall to mix.

    All carriages in 1st, both ways were almost full .Quiet coaches in both classes bookable, and you can alter your own seat as you book! A good breakfast service on the way out, starting as soon as the train left the platform. Vegetarian option with a chef on Board (just as Virgin trains used to have, meant fresh fare. Traditional breakfast or vegetarian, salmon, or a bacon roll. Hot and cold drinks were served, and have to say the crew worked hard for this 4.5 hrs journey.

    Ever half an hr drinks were offered.

    The trains are rather dated scruffy, and creaky inside and out, and certainly not as fast as the Virgin Trains. They really could do with newer trains or a refurbishment, but they were clean with an on board cleaner all the journey.

    The train back was full in all 1st carriages. You could choose the “all day menu”, selection of sandwiches offered 4 times on your journey, or a hot Frittata vegetarian with salad, or a hot chicken and potato leak pie . Both of these looked very appetising, clearly a high brand item full of character. A full bar service, soft and hot cold drinks offered again every 30 minutes, crew working continuously.

    The Train Manager updates services both ways regularly, and tickets checked twice when changes of crew were made at Newcastle.

    Unfortunately a delay beyond their control, with a man hanging off a bridge added delays to the whole of the line at Peterborough, all commuter and main line trains affected. We were kept informed well.

    To East Coast trains absolute credit, we arrived 1hr 6 minutes late. Staff were at the Kings X Platforms handing out policy and claim forms at their delayed trains. For a change, their was no confusion, a pleasant and honest offer.
    30-59 Minutes you get a refund of your relevant 50% of your one way ticket. 60-119 minutes, 100%, and over 120 mins the overall return.
    Their brochure “Making it up to you if things go wrong” details the policy.

    This is an excellent service to come to you, and open and honest.I see it as excellent customer service.

    We were able to make our claim on line later, by scanning in the tickets, or you can post off your form.

    Paying £232 return for the journey in 1st class for two, our returns were slightly cheaper and we shall get approx £92 refund in National Rail E-vouchers. (fares are generally sold as singles and each carries quite a difference)
    I cannot remember a company being so pro-active and up front in this country.

    To boot, joining their East Coast Membership Club, to also earn 1 point per £1 for standard, or 1.5 points for First Class. You can also book any train in the UK on their site.

    250 points, gets you a one way standard fare, 450 a First, but it is not limited to distance. So an EDI one way costs the same as a York one way. Could be handy for a one way by Air and Train to Scotland as a mix? Makes a change from Airline mileage programs set on distance.

    Excellent customer service, honest, hard working crew, the best food on board (which used to be Virgin Trains). I highly commend them.

    We were reminded on “This week” the late night Politics show this week, that East Coast hand back M£ 640 per year to Government, rather than to shareholders now, not into shareholders profits. So with the right Management, clearly some National owned services, can be excellent, and assist the public purse. they also have a 93% rating from the public, the highest ever.
    Stations at Kings X and Edinburgh are smarter, great facilities, and along the route also. It is also a very picturesque route to take allowing many hours of work or relaxation, no airport security hassles or charges, and rush hour queues to and from the embarkation place

    A terrific show East Coast, I will book via you, and also support this excellent service. It proves Public ownership, properly managed, works well.

    If only the trains could be upgraded, but you must remain one of the best beating Virgin apart from their rolling stock now, in all senses.


    Good review Marcus. As you say it shows publicly owned railways can be run effectively. I can’t see why people bother with domestic flights unless connecting or going to the outer reaches like Aberdeen or Inverness.


    Good review thank you Marcus. I know the trains are now getting on a bit but I still find the seats a lot more comfortable than the ones on Virgin’s pendolinos. IMO the service has never been better on the east coast route than it is at the moment. Long may it continue!


    Hello Marcus

    Thanks for the train check. It seems that East Coast is doing well.

    I wrote in this month’s Platform page that this TOC had increased its market share considerably in recent years. This is an achievment because for decades the Anglo-Scottish rail business has been in decline.

    But it will face more competition from Little Red which may prompt some customers to defect to the ‘high road’ as Little Red has keen prices when you book ahead.

    East Coast operates both electric and HST diesel trains on the route. I presume you travelled in the former ?

    The HSTs are around 30 years old. I travelled back from Leeds to KX in one of these last Monday and I must say it had been extensively refurbished and felt newish.

    The electric trainsets are also quite old and they too have been refurbished to a high standard so am surprised to read your comments.

    Both the HSTs and the electric trainsets operate at the same maximum speed of 125 mph as do Virgin’s Pendolinos. The electric trains and the Pendolinos are actually designed for 140 mph operation but they have never achieved this in regular service.

    Whoever wins the franchise would be expected to operate new rolling stock. The Pendolinos have been tested on the East Coast route but, in a way, they are wasted on this line as it doesn’t twist and turn as much as the West Coast route.

    John Harper is correct in that the Pendolinos do not have the same amount of interior space. To allow space for tilting (the UK has a restricted loading guage compared to mainland Europe) the coaches are not as large as conventional UK rolling stock.


    I wonder if that will really prove the case with Little Red, Alex.

    When you book ahead they both offer competitive prices. For example a trip to Edinburgh between 9th and 11th September has minimum price of £108 economy whereas you can get less than £100 on East Coast for first class and as low as £34 in economy.

    The fact that Little Red are regularly flying round with less than 30 pax suggests that model is fatally flawed. Personally I would take the train any day.


    I suppose it depends on the individual, how far ahead he or she books and the time of day the trip takes place.

    It was ‘canucklad’ who decided to try BA and Little Red in preference to East Coast for Edinburgh-London-Edinburgh as the fare was lower than East Coast’s £126 flexible saver return in standard class.

    Marcus secured a good rate for his trip by booking two weeks ahead.
    If he were to book today for travel next Tuesday/Wednesday the fare (out 2nd, back 1st) would be not far off £200 return each.

    In fact at short notice it would pay to book the £229 return Scottish Executive fare which provides 1st class both ways. The outward must be booked before 1800 the day before travel but the return can be open-dated. This is a fixed price ticket.


    I got a special £50 first class return to Edinburgh last year (you get notification of their special offers by email as soon as they go live).

    As there was not much availability at the weekend when the onboard service is still an acceptable sandwiches, soft drinks and tea/coffee and snacks, I went midweek and had similar great service from a hardworking and efficient on board crew.

    The afternoon tea was also pretty superior to the BA offering.

    My trains were not delayed so no compensation due but this scheme seems to be fair and proportional.


    Alex – for travel to Edinburgh out on Tuesday and back on Wednesday and the cheapest you will get any time of the day is £226 on Virgin, increasing to £260 if you use peak flights.

    On the train the most you will pay is £220, however travel out between 9.30 and 14.00, back any time and you can do it for £123.

    Plus as Keane John says the delay repay compensation on the trains is good – 30 mins late and 50% refund, an hour late and a full refund. No get outs for planes going tech etc or whatever the current ‘get out’ on the planes is.

    No contest really.


    I was just walking along the dock and I looked up to see a rare bit of sunlight light up a sun on the side of a Titan 737-300 on approach into Heathrow so I fired up Flightradar and lo and behold Titan were subbing for a VS Little Red to Edinburgh today (Sunday).

    I think this reinforces the reliability issues they are having with EI’s A320s but the loads are obviously substantial enough that it made commercial sense to get Titan in, rather than cancel flightsand reprotect onto BA.



    I think you got a bargain.

    I travel regularly (i.e. every week at least, sometimes twice a week) from Leamington Spa to St Albans (in practice, to Watford Junction followed by a cab). For this, I pay a maximum of £105.00 First (one way) with Virgin if I take the 08.13 peak, or £82.00 if I delay my departure an hour. This is for a total journey time (to Watford) of almost exactly an hour (and that includes changing at Coventry).

    Coming back, I travel off peak, and a First single varies between £24.50, £41.00 and £64.00. Again, this is for a journey which is not long (about 1hr 10 coming back).

    The service is always, in my experience, fine on Virgin West Coast and it certainly beats between 2 and 3 hours in a car. However, your post demonstrates that you can get very good deals with other franchise operators over much longer distances,

    Regards, Simon


    As an aside: Virgin Trains do still have their onboard chef, albeit restricted to the morning services on Pendolino routes.



    Indeed they do, and he cooks an excellent breakfast selection.

    Even if I get the “shoulder period” train (09.31 from Coventry) I still manage to get the full English before Watford Junction.

    A good start to the week.



    Great review Marcus…

    If I do opt for the rail option, i always try and make EC my first choice..
    I find the seats more comfortable and there is a perception of more space than either cross country or Virgin…..maybe the bigger windows and less airline style seats…..even if travelling by myself I always go for the table seat-backward facing…..

    Hi to the 2 Simon’s……. The fares from Waverley to King’s Cross are usually cheaper than the same train from Newcastle, Durham and even York!

    Due to the competition from the EDI to the South East……so if you live in Newcastle and travel 1st class the Scottish executive offer is ironically probably the best deal! Train time dependant.

    And on cue….as you rightlt advised I’ve just been informed by Ec what I can spend my reward points on…..


    Great review MarcusUK, I totally agree with you. You’ve actually just beaten me to it, I was about to write a review of my trip Manchester Airport to Aberdeen in First on Transpennine/Scotrail yesterday. My conclusion is that out of Scotrail, Transpennine, Virgin and East Coast is that East Coast win hands down. Great product now. I will post my review later.

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