East Coast London – York 1st ClassBack to Forum
AnonymousGuest24 Jul 2013
A Mid Morning trip on East Coast 11.08, from London – York with four passengers 1st class, at a cost of £45 each booked 4 weeks prior to the journey. The day return was booked on East Coast website, with a deliberate option to return on a faster train run by Grand Central (standard Class), to compare Services.
This train was stopping 5 times on the way up, due to take about 2hrs and 20 minutes. But an advantage, it ended at York, so not the complete crowds you get on the Scotland trains, much busier than those only travelling half way if you do not mind numerous stops. Immediately upon leaving London Kings X, services commenced with the 1st Class “All Day Menu”. Choice of two types of sandwiches, pork or a vegetarian cheese option directly from the trolley. Or, you had two hot dishes, one of Quiche Lorraine with salad and bread roll, or Vegetarian Lasagne with the same.
Coffee and tea was offered first, followed by a trolley of soft drinks or alcohol (limited choice) then the hot meals followed approx 15 mins later. These were all delicious. Fruit or cake and crisps also offered, and all soft drinks, and some wines and shorts offered from the trolley.
The food was very good, tasteful, nicely presented, a simple meal, and good to see vegetarian options for hot and sandwiches as always. Drinks service was offered every 30 minutes through the journey (as my trip to Edinburgh a few weeks ago), and the staff worked hard, with a genuine smile and good humour, friendly and hard working crews.
The Train Manager kept us informed, checked the tickets after each station for new travellers, and managed the situation of one carriage air conditioning being broken, offering for other carriages to be used. Lucky it was not a busy train, but as usual 1st class was pretty full, but less so as we approached York.
A smooth journey, train again was not especially new either outside or in ( We did see several smarter refurbished trains, but ours was not one of them), but it was clean and comfortable, and plenty of space, with power sockets at the table seats. We chose the “Quiet coach”, which was respected by all inside.
A good service from the train crew, all worked hard on the catering team, and to be offered drinks every 30 minutes is excellent compared to other train Companies. They clearly prepared hot food freshly, which again operators like Virgin (apart from at Breakfast time), have abandoned. There is always a good choice changed each month.
The train ran to time, and we continued for our day business in York.
We chose to return on Grand Central (Standard Class) so see other review for that.
Fares vary considerably, with lower fares on the less long distance and in less demand, with strangely off peak and peak trains offering some of the lowest fares equally.
Book ahead as much as possible for the lowest fare, 3 or more travelling gives you a 30% “Small Group” discount so well worth remembering. Book on their website, and earn points for free standard and first tickets, and you can book any train journey in the UK.
A Journey to Edinburgh a few weeks ago, only re-enforces that East Coast provided one of the best services in the UK, and Virgin now comes no-where near sadly. It used to be the best service as re-enforced with many comments on here, but equally those comments reflect a common perception of decline.
Again to remind you all, there is no Franchise awarded on East Coast currently, so it is Government run, ironic that a Non-privatised service provides one of the best standards in the UK!24 Jul 2013
MarcusUK – 24/07/2013 10:52 GMT
Again to remind you all, their is no Franchise awarded on East Coast currently, so it is Government run, ironic that a Non-privatised service provides one of the best standards in the UK!
Agree entirely Marcus, been using East Coast a fair bit recently, a wonderful experience all round and so much more relaxing than flying.24 Jul 2013
I forgot to add that using Railcards also gives 1/3rd off the trains, so for travelling with children with a Young persons railcard, seniors, and disabled cards the same.
This would easily beat the fares of Airlines that give no such discount.
But the “Small group discount” giving 30% off approx, is also a new one to remember if you travel with a few of you, not needing any railcards. A saving perhaps for Business travellers that is very useful.
And no security or passport checks, and Central city departure points, saving much time, and possible hassles.24 Jul 2013
Good review Marcus – exactly as I find East Coast First, the best in the country in my opinion. I think I said on another thread that I have often found quirks in the system where First Class has been only a few £ more expensive that Standard and on 2 occasions it was actually £8 cheaper. I don’t understand that, but I snapped them up anyway! Staff make a huge difference, and every one on every train has given exemplary service. I hope they sustain these standards.24 Jul 2013
Thanks for the train check, Marcus.
I came back again last Monday from Leeds into Kings X and this time (booking 4 days ahead for a lunchtime train) paid just £39 for a first class Advance one-way.
But like you I found my particular train (it was one of the electrically powered services) to have rather a tired interior. Also one standard coach had no working air-con. I just hope these trainsets (and the even older HST diesel trains used by East Coast) can last out until the new trainsets arrive in 2018/2019.
As Speedbird noted above, the difference between the price I paid for first class and standard class was barely £1 or £2.
The quirks in the system are, so East Coast tells me, because the booking system is slow to update the various price tiers.
All the TOCs use the National Rail booking system which isn’t as sophisticated as the airline ones.24 Jul 2013
Indeed, the trains used on several of these rail Companies varies considerably. Why some carriages or whole trains are refurbished and others not, is a mystery.
Virgin Trains does offer consistency in this regard, but has fallen way behind with the catering standard, as was once offered.
Like the Airlines, sometimes a cheap Z class Bhusiness fare can prove to be less or a similar price to an economy fare, when the cabin or season price is high.
I find this on many train Companies, and the 1st Class fares not always booked so far in advance as standard class tickets, offer even better value. Add up that which you would spend for food and drink, especially on several hours + trips, it can be very worthwhile.
I do find the “Small group Discount” unique to East Coast, and for business or pleasure, the 30% would offer a great discount, perhaps even enabling travel in First rather than Standard for some travellers.24 Jul 2013
Good review Marcus. Indeed interesting to reflect that it is run by the public sector.
Sadly Conservative dogma means that they can’t wait to get it privatised. Let’s hope the new people have more success than the previous two franchise operators, assuming the DfT don’t balls it up like they did with West Coast.24 Jul 2013
Yep agree with everybody else , great review Marcus…..
I am due to travel south across the border in the coming weeks to Leeds and newcastle …and I will choose East Coast …
As an aside I do agree with you Simon….Dogma : (
Will update when I have a chance….25 Jul 2013
Virgin acquired a brand new fleet of trains, both electric and diesel, and that is why the trainset product is more consistent.
East Coast’s trainsets are long in tooth. They date from the 1980s. They have all been refurbished but they are used intensively.
Trainsets have to be split now and again for maintenance. For example, the power cars of the electric trainsets were rebuilt to improve reliability.25 Jul 2013
Thanks Alex – Re East Coast
The trans sets- well some i have been on seem to have an electric engine on one end, and diesel the other, in fact many at Kings X did the days i have travelled.
Watching others come in and out of York, others appeared to have only diesel, the old IC 125 sets, as indeed did Grand Central trains…much older and a more original feel for the IC 125, with little done inside to them.
Though they look very sparkling on the outside with a very Grand Logo, little has changed for the interiors, or the rather rough ride inside.
A Mystery why the East Coast mix up the sets so much though…and some carriages on the trains refurbished, others not?27 Jul 2013
East Coast inherited the old BR rolling stock dating back to the 1980s.
The electric trains were the original trainsets built for the East Coast electrificatiion scheme. They are push and pull trains, ie there’s a locomotive at one end and a driving trailer at the other.
The HST diesel trains were also inherited from BR. They have power cars at both ends.
Grand Central is an open access operator. And as I wrote in Platform last December, the UK’s open access firms make do with ‘hand me downs’ from the BR era.
Grand Central and Hull Trains (the two open access firms who compete with East Coast) use diesel trains both for flexibility and because their routes take them away from the electrified lines.
It’s not really a mystery why East Coast mixes up its trainsets. The power cars of both diesel and electric trainsets have all received a major overhaul.
Trainsets today, just like aircraft, are extensively utilised. I guess that’s why trainsets are split now and again (for repairs etc) instead of taking an entire train out of service.
All East Coast trains have been refurbished. But as with airline business class, the process has taken a number of years. So I suppose that’s why some of the early refurbished sets are looking tired.
A new fleet of trains, being built by Hitachi in the Northeast UK, is set to enter service in 2018/2019.
I just hope the existing trainsets can last out until then. For the past few summers there have been complaints about air-con failures with the electric trainsets.27 Jul 2013
Found an article showing the new Hitachi trains Alex, thanks for that.
Seems they will be building trains in Britain also, so a win for the UK economy also.
Be interesting where else we shall see these being supplied to out of the UK Companies. Great Western will have these new sets also.3 Aug 2013
By the way, I made a mistake. East Coast’s HST diesel trains are older than I thought. They date back to the 1970s ! But the electric trains mentioned above were introduced in the late 1980s as part of the East Coast electrification.
Yes the Hitachi factory in the NE will be expected to bid for overseas work too. It’s rather like the situation where Nissan and Toyota set up shop in the UK as a way of exporting to mainland Europe.
Alstrom was hoping that East Coast would buy its Pendolinos instead of the Hitachi trains. Earlier this year, under cover of darkness, Alstrom ran a test train from Edinburgh to London down the East Coast mainline. Alstrom reckons it could do the trip in 3hrs 37 mins which is actually some 20 mins faster than the Hitachi trains will be able to achieve.
Why ? Because the Pendolinos would use their ’tilt’ technology north of Darlington and would run at 140mph where permitted (although the signalling systems would have to be modified for this to happen).
In 2010 East Coast came close to operating a Pendolino on a trial basis. But it never happened.
Let’s hope the existing electric trains can last out for another five or six years.4 Aug 2013
Glad to hear you had frequent drink runs through the carriage – on the trains with fewer stops, many crews will cut down the number of runs – which can mean you have your meal served and have no drink to go with it for an hour!4 Aug 2013