East Coast London – York 1st Class

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  • MarcusUK

    Taking the train to Edinburgh 2 weeks before, the train was non-stop for 2 hrs to York on East Coast train.
    However, we had the breakfast service, and were still offered drinks several times during this part of the trip.

    On Virgin, this would not be the case!
    But I find , as many on here have commented, East Coast to be very good, better than any UK train service, on their services in terms of food and drink quality, and service.


    Certainly East Coast 1st class is the way to go.

    Numerous reports on East Coast’s Twitter feed of overcrowding in Standard class. It’s especially worse now because of Edinburgh Festival demand but made worse when incidents along the line delay or cancel trains.

    Some of these passengers who paid the flexible Standard class fare (ie the ‘walk-up’ fare) probably never realised they could have gone 1st class for the same price or a little more had they booked a 1st class Advance fare.

    Look at how crowded are the East Coast trains today. Lots of people having to stand on the long journey north.






    2 of the major problems are Welwyn Viaduct and then Hitchin, where the line goes from 4 to 2 so you have to squeeze everything through. The DoT decided a few years back against spending something like £180m to 4 track Welwyn andbuild a new viaduct (along with a cheap alteration at Hitchin). Now these short sighted decisions are coming back to cause trouble as more and more people use rail (these decisions taken under labour). I would be royally upset if I had paid a walk up fare and had to stand for these distances. These trains can’t be lengthened and there is little/no capacity to add extra services. I support HS2 but they also need to get rid of bottlenecks to capacity such as Welwyn. The ROI is much higher.


    The InterCity 125s are still the best train we have.
    Yes, they are old, but on my regular trips on East Coast they don’t feel old. They feel comfortable, seem more reliable that their electric equivalent and that’s what matters to me.


    Hello Tim

    Yes, we’re talking about fares of £120+ plus for a flexible Saver fare. If it were the full fare (ie the peak time rate) it would much higher still.

    So much demand for travel from London to York, Leeds, Newcastle and, most of all, Edinburgh. The arrival of Little Red doesn’t seem to have encouraged rail passengers to defect !


    Had to go to Hull a couple of months ago and got EC up and went on via Doncaster.

    Bit of a cold etc but steward on train was so quick with my G&T and beer chaser I could have….

    Limited lunch/meal big apologies but never mind it was hot…felt a wee bit better (another couple of Gs)…Thanks

    Don to Hull was a old cattle train.

    On return booked with the said Hull trains which were in the past always very good but only saw the femail stewards/ess for 5 minutes…coffee and biscuits and then they did a Houdini act for rest of the journey….not impressed…but well done EC…


    Re Alex…standing on trains…
    There should be regulations that if you do not have a seat, you cannot get on a train. Many countries on the other side of the pond, have this rule for long distance trains. For eg, TGV, Thalys…
    It should be a basic health & safety requirement, no standing. You get announcements not to block the corridor with a bag, but isn’t it worse for 20 people to be standing along the corridor of the train, and sitting in the toilet? If there were an incident of any sort, there is such more potential for greater injury, let alone the discomforts of people paying high fares and having to stand for hours.

    i have travelled many times over the years in the UK where the trains get so busy, so know it well. No seat, no travel.
    If you have to stand on a long distance train, then you should get a refund, and pay less.
    I never have seen anyone standing in First class, so is this not literally a Class distinction?

    Surely it can only be about money with the private Companies?


    You get announcements not to block the corridor with a bag, but isn’t it worse for 20 people to be standing along the corridor of the train,

    That is a superb point!


    Hello Marcus

    You raise some interesting points. There’s no standing in first class because a) the fares are higher so demand is dampened and b) there’s no inexpensive flexible fare.

    With standard class, the TOCs offer Saver fares which are not overly expensive (compared to the cost of an airline flexible ticket) but offer flexibility provided you avoid travelling at certain times. Similar tickets are not available for first class travel.

    See Platform Nov 12:


    The TOCs don’t like Saver tickets at all (they’ve tried to phase them out) but they’re obliged to sell them under the terms of their franchise agreements.

    I’m in two minds whether seat reservations should be compulsory as they are on TGV services in France and, of course, Eurostar/Thalys. (Interestingly, DB has no compulsory seat reservations for its ICEs).

    For starters the TOCs would have to introduce much better booking systems but the main barrier, I believe, is the problem of having to educate the British travelling public that they can no longer expect to turn up whenever they want and expect to catch the next train.

    The TOCs would welcome compulsory booking (I believe Virgin Trains in the past has mooted the idea but been turned down by the government regulator) because they could make better use of their capacity.

    Right now a certain amount of space on every train has to be kept empty for ‘walk-up’ passengers. The system works well for much of the time.

    But then if the TOCs could sell every seat then wouldn’t it tempt them to hike prices at busy times ? Today’s Saver fares are sold at fixed prices so the price remains unchanged no matter how busy the train.

    And what about the situation with long-distance commuters ? I believe the UK is unique amongst other European countries in the volume of long distance commuting that takes place. As you know, it’s all down to London property prices and the situation can only get worse.

    So if you are commuting in from, say Bedford (using EMT) or Leicester or Grantham or Bath then you would have to arrange your working day around specific trains. What happens if there’s a change of plan ? Say you have to stay an hour longer in the office ? What happens if your meeting is cancelled and you wish to return home earlier ?

    Food for thought.


    Not to mention Season Ticket holders blocking seats on numerous trains just to cover themselves. Easy Midlands Trains had an issue with this with their trains that served Luton and Bedford.


    Marcus – East Coast is not private and they also have people crammed in on busy trains!

    Back in the bad days of BR they used to have on certain trains, usually busy trains on Saturdays in the summer to the West Country and other holiday resorts, there were Seat Regulation which were mostly free but you had to have one of these to travel on specific trains to reduce overcrowding.


    In my first comments i indicated it was not a private Company, sorry if it is misunderstood. I also as others, made the point it is the best service and currently not franchised.

    My general point was that their is resistance to ensuring everyone has a seat from the “Private” rail Companies as a whole, as it would restrict their revenues / profits.

    Ah for the days of Britsh Rail, when trains had 11-12 carriages, and simply Standard fare, Saver, and Super-saver fares, despite all the negatives!
    You could turn up, pay the fare which did not break the bank, and get on any train at yr leisure. Go away for a weekend or the day, and had real freedom and choice for travel.

    I would prefer more of the well run East Coast Train Companies, (with better new trains though), and see that the profit is returned into the services and rail system, openly. But trains often are 7-9 coaches, which could be increased, lessening line congestion, and improving capacity on one train.
    Perhaps we should advocate a Not for profit Rail service?!!!


    Hello Marcus

    I would have to do some research to provide a definitive answer but, if I remember correctly, a couple of years ago Virgin Trains wanted to bring in compulsory reservations for all tickets to better manage supply with demand. But the rail authorities refused its request.

    TOCs would welcome compulsory seat reservations because they could charge market prices on every train.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, the TOCs do not like selling fixed-price but flexible Saver tickets but they are obliged to do so under their franchise agreement.

    Yes you are correct. There is a shortage of rolling stock. But it must be noted that the East Coast electric trains were ordered in mid-1980s when UK rail travel was in decline.

    At that time, nobody could have predicted the UK would see a rail renaissance (in fact back then it wasn’t certain whether the railways would even be privatised) so an insufficient number of trains (for today’s needs) were ordered.

    Back in the state-owned days BR had to go ‘cap in hand’ to the Treasury for any investment. And the financial constraints in the 1980s, meant that the East Coast line was electrified ‘on the cheap.’

    That is why over the years there have been a number of infrastructure failings for which action is now being taken.



    Marcus – I think you are looking at the old BR days with rose tinted specs! As I mentioned you could not just turn up and go on a number of journeys to popular destinations.

    The other point which you mention is the 10 or 11 carriages, which is right, but as Alex points out in the 80’s railways were in decline and it is franchising which has boosted rail travel in the UK. Look at any rail timetable of the late 70’s/early 80’s, every two hours to Glasgow and Edinburgh, every hour to Manchester and Leeds. Compare that to the every 20 minute service to Manchester today, hourly to Glasgow and half hourly to Edinburgh. East Coast as it stands today packs them in and it too has to pay its way.

    I agree that the fare structure was better back then. I can go back further than you when it was Ordinary return valid three months, a monthly return and weekend return. But there were advance bookings available with Big City Savers on selected trains.

    Alex is right that Virgin tried to have an all reservation service, but it wouldn’t work, there are always people who are prepared to stand just to get to their destination, they may moan and groan about it but.


    You cannot say that passenger figures increased due to franchising, in fact industry experts often say that passengers increased despite franchising.

    If BR had access to the vast sums of money showered on todays operation we would have had a gold plated railway!

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