1st Class Trans Pennine Express train review

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  • Anonymous


    Last week I took the train from Sheffield to Doncaster to change for an East Coast train. This is only a 25 minute journey but as I had missed my original Cross Country train, it allowed me to experience TPE for the first time and it was a better experience than I expected.

    For a start, I thought there would be no 1st class and had purchased a Std class ticket. However, when the train arrived, it did have a 1st class section and given it was busy, I decided to use that and pay the upgrade. In the event, the guard missed me holding out my proffered ticket and so I ended up not paying it.

    The compartment covered about half a car with seating that reminded me of the 1st Class seating on FGW’s Adelante trains that run out of Paddington (TPE is operated by First Group). Some are banks of 4 around a table, others are side by side airline seats and that is what I chose as I thought the carriage would be full. In the event, it wasn’t and I could have chosen a table instead.

    I would recommend that you do that if you want to work from a laptop. Whilst my airline seat did have a folding table it was not really long enough to balance a laptop on comfortably as it did not have an extension as you see on some other trains. There are power points throughout the carriage so you can keep your devices charged. There is no wifi but I wouldn’t have expected that.

    There is a small cubby hole where an attendant makes teas & coffees and keeps snacks. Service begin very promptly after I sat down and I had a cup of tea. Annoyingly I had already bought something to eat as I didn’t expect there to be a 1st class but the snack selection was basic so if you want a meal, you are better off buying it beforehand.

    All in all, the quality of this 1st class was much better than I expected and is definitely an option to consider with the longer regional routes that they run in the North. I had steered clear of them in the past but I won’t do that now.


    I had a very bad experience recently on TPE from Manchester to Preston. Thankfully I transferred at Preston to Virgin onwards to Edinburgh.

    The overcrowding was riduculous, I had reserved seats in First but there was no chance of anyone with standard tickets who decamped into First carriage. TPE don’t officially declassify their trains now but, as their conductors are told not to go through packed trains, this situation had that effect.

    I wrote to the customer services department but after two weeks I wrote directly to their CEO, thanks to another poster on the forum giving a website to CEO’s email addresses.

    I thought I would share the eventual response from their Customer Services Director.



    Dear Mr ******

    I am writing in response to your email to Nick Donovan, which he has passed to me for addressing.

    Please accept my sincere apologies for the lack of a response from our Customer Relations team and the delay in responding to you. We have received a high volume of customer correspondence over the last few weeks, and as the acknowledgement from Customer Relations stated, this can significantly lengthen our response times. There were also some technical issues with our webform at the time you tried to submit it, but this issue has now thankfully been resolved.

    My apologies also for the crowded conditions on board your service, this was largely a result of two particular challenges we are currently facing. Firstly, in the last couple of months our fleet has seen an unprecedented increase in attrition damage, with three of our units taken out of service due to extensive damages caused by unfortunate incidents on the network. As a result, we haven’t been able to provide as much capacity on some of our services as our fleet is now stretched quite thinly. The units are due to come back into service during the next few weeks, so capacity should see a marked improvement soon.

    The other challenge was at the time there was an extensive engineering blockade underway at Chorley which essentially closed one of our core routes to the North West. As a result our services needed to divert via Wigan, but due to this line already being used by our Anglo-Scottish services, Virgin’s services and various freight operations, we could not provide as many services as we could have done had the Chorley line been open. This meant we were offering a reduced capacity between Manchester and Preston, increasing crowding on board our services. Fortunately this engineering blockade finished at the beginning of September, so again services should see a marked improvement now.

    I would like to reassure you that while the crowding did present a clear loss of comfort, there was minimal risk to your safety. Extensive safety testing when we first got our Class 185 trains showed that a full train is no less safe than an empty one, and the trains are designed so that they completely fill before they reach a capacity/weight that might affect its structural integrity.

    Regarding the threat to your safety from the emotions of other customers, while the poor service quality most likely did flare tempers somewhat, there is little we can do when it comes to controlling the actions of people. However, we are quick to involve the British Transport Police (who have offices in various strategic locations on our network) when customer safety is under threat from others, so had anything happened we would have called someone out immediately to put an end to it.

    I am sorry for the lack of visibility from the conductor, however he was acting under our advised policy; we ask conductors not to pass through the train when it reaches a certain level of crowding as having them squeeze through with a ticket machine would only serve to increase customer discomfort. However, they are still happy to come through to attend to any issues customers may have if alerted to them, and in the case of an emergency there are devices by the doors in every carriage that customers can use to contact on-board staff for aid.

    My apologies for the poor First Class management this lack of conductor presence wrought. The conductor was correct in that we have ceased to declassify First Class, as we found that with our old crowding issues it was happening on a daily basis for a high number of trains and our First Class customers were continually being let down by this. In anticipation of the delivery of our Class 350/4 electric trains and the May 2014 timetable change, which we knew would improve capacity enough to justify it, we stopped declassifying First Class in April 2013. However there are times, such as on particularly busy services or during bouts of engineering/fleet reduction (as explained earlier), that crowding can increase on services to the point where First Class is essentially ‘unofficially declassified’.

    As a result of all this, I would be happy to provide you with compensation for your tickets. If you could, by return mail, provide a copy of these, I will ask our Customer Relations team to compensate you fully for these.

    Again, my sincere apologies for the poor service you experienced.

    Yours sincerely

    Kathryn O’Brien
    Customer Service Director


    The paragraph that gets me is the one that blandly writes off safety concerns is where I’m put down with the comment that ‘a full train is no less safe than an empty one, and the trains are designed so that they completely fill before they reach a capacity/weight that might affect its structural integrity’.

    In terms of its structure that may be true but that doesn’t take account of a large number of passengers in the aisles and vestibules who had nothing to properly hold onto in the event of the train having to brake suddenly and sharply. What an unbelievable comment to make – that’s what TPE think of its passngers.


    How to polish a t**d by TPE.

    Sorry that so many people are complaining that it takes us a long time to respond.

    Sorry that our website was unstable and your complaint was lost in the ether.

    Sorry that our trains were unreliable with three sets out of service.

    Sorry that there were problems on the network (bonus prize – blame on Network Fail).

    Sorry that the conductor was nowhere to be seen as he was hiding from angry passengers and it would be unpleasant for him to have to be part of the same crush you had to endure.

    Sorry we sold you a first class ticket knowing that with overcrowding there was no chance of using it. But rest assured our trains are designed for people to be crammed in like sardines.

    What a shower.


    Well said that man! What a croc of bull …….!


    For a start, I thought there would be no 1st class and had purchased a Std class ticket. However, when the train arrived, it did have a 1st class section and given it was busy, I decided to use that and pay the upgrade. In the event, the guard missed me holding out my proffered ticket and so I ended up not paying it.??


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    Every year I travel to Blackpool 4 times. Every year TPE have a TV advert boasting savings of up to 40% on fares. I travel by either a local 4 times weekly non stop coach or National Express daily sevice via Leeds. I checked the TPE fares looking for the advertised discounts. I checked very day of the week from Middlesbrough to Blackpool via Preston. The fares were the same every day on all services throughout all seasons. I can travel to London on the East Coast service for £12 each way in economy or £44 each way in First Class including food and Wi-Fi. TPE discounts do not exist from my region which is why I will continue using the Coach almost from door to door for a senior fare of £24.50 return. Where are you hiding these discounts TPE?

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