First Class Rail Review – Transpennine/Scotrail

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  • Anonymous


    Manchester Airport – Gla Central Transpennine First Class, connecting to Scotrail Glasgow Queen Street – Aberdeen First Class.

    I usually fly ABZ/MAN/ABZ, but had plenty time this past Sunday and thought I’d save myself some money.

    I had to connect between Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen Street, but this is no problem, maybe a 10 minute walk.

    First off there was a replacement bus service from Manchester airport to Bolton due to some works on the Sunday, but no problem, that took about 25 minutes and was pleasant enough.

    I boarded First Class carriage A on this 3 carriage class 185 and found someone in my allocated seat which was a single, but no problem, I got a 4 to myself.

    I immediately got handed a snack box and coffee which was very welcome and a bit of a surprise as I really did not know what to expect on this service. The snack box consisted of a cinnamon pastry, a yoghurt covered biscuit of almonds and apricots and a packet of cranberries and cherries. Very tasty and perfect for this 1135 departure.

    The seat was comfortable and did have a bit of a recline, probably on a par with Virgin First Class seats, but not as comfortable and soft as East Coast ones.

    The carriage was very clean, seemed new, and felt very airy – I find the Virgin carriages a tad claustrophobic, but these are very comfortable.
    Staff were all very friendly, so no problems on that score.

    Whilst these trains are not particularly built for longer journeys – there is of course engine noise that you don’t get on the mainline trains, (which was easily sorted with my JVC Noise-Reducing headphones) and the ride is not as smooth – but for the price I paid (£53 First Class single Manchester Airport/Aberdeen) I really can’t complain and would use this route again when I have time to spare.

    2 Hours into the journey I was surprised to be handed some water, cheese and crackers and a cup-a-soup (very tasty actually) with a bun – again, perfectly acceptable for a weekend service.

    No wi-fi though and only window seats have sockets for re-charging electrical items.

    There are 15 seats in the carriage – 7 were occupied for most of the journey.

    Connecting onto Scotrail at Glasgow gave me a seat in the First Class section – that is all – absolutely no service whatsoever, not even a paid-for trolley. Dreadful, and such a disappointment to connect from such a good service on to an abysmal one.

    Having sampled Transpennine, Scotrail, Virgin and East Coast’s First Class offerings recently – I can honestly say that East Coast is the cream of the crop, despite slightly older carriages. I put a high value on service, and all East Coast staff have been extremely friendly and professional – I only wish the journey to England was quicker ex Aberdeen, so I could use East Coast more frequently.


    Hello Speedbird

    Thanks for the interesting train check. Yes I suppose you get what you pay for. East Coast offers a professional service in first class but the fares are higher and then you would have to ‘downgrade’ yourself between York and Manchester.

    Interesting to hear your comments on engine noise. The older trainsets used by East Coast date to the BR days and they have an engine at each end.

    It means quieter travel for passengers but the TOC loses seating space in two carriages. Hence today’s trend for “distributed power” where the engine is placed under the carriage.


    Hi Alex

    You can’t beat Mark 3 coaches (as you mention) or the Mark 4 used on East Coast (though most people don’t think these are as good as Mark 3’s). One reason I dislike the Voyagers used by EMT and X-Country is the racket from having the engines under the floor boards. When train designers pick up on this (for long distance services) we may get a much better rail experience all round. But the 185’s I have used seem quite good in First though I didn’t get any snacks on a midweek service from Liverpool to Leeds – only a tea. But the First Class area seemed pleasant enough.


    Hello Tim

    Good point. Note that the new generation of Eurostar trainsets (the ones currently being built by Siemens) have moved to distributed power. It means that, at a stroke, Eurostar can raise its capacity per train from 750 to 900 passengers even though the new trainsets are 16 coaches rather than 18 coaches in length.


    I certainly got what I paid for on this trip – disappointed with Scotrail, I did expect a coffee if nothing else though.
    I have travelled Aberdeen/York in the past during the week with the full catering/alcohol service and have found on occasion that the First fare has only been about £6 higher than Standard which surprised me.
    Also, one thing I heard the stewardess on the Transpennine say is that the catering is better during the week with sandwiches etc, so certainly worth thinking about if travelling Manchester to Glasgow or Edinburgh at a tad over 3 hours journey time.


    Yes, I agree. Rail service in the UK isn’t the same at weeekends. I did cover the subject of the quirky East Coast pricing a few months back.
    For some trains it can be cheaper to book first Advance rather than second Advance.

    Today, for example, (when I checked on Sunday) a one-way first class Advance from London to Edinburgh with the 0800 train cost £99.50 whereas the standard class Advance was priced at £139. That’s a difference of almost £40 which is silly.

    It’s all to do with price zones selling out and the rail booking system (all the TOCs use a single system) being slow to readjust.


    Interesting review Speedbird__ABZ, thanks for posting it.


    The Man Airport to Scotland service will use new Semiens 4 car EMUs once Manchester to Newton Heath is electrified later this year. The service will be diverted away from Bolton as this line will be elexcrified in the next few years.

    The surplus 185s will be used to increase carrages on the Liverpool to North East Services.


    The new Eurostar trains are electric so will not have the noise problem with the DMUs.


    The EMT trains refered to as Voyagers are actually Meridiens, which I find are slightly more comfortable than the Voyagers


    As a footnote to my journey report, I e-mailed Scotrail Customer Relations to ask what my First Class ticket should have included – apart from the First Class seat. I wasn’t complaining, just enquiring. I got a stock e-mail back 7 days after I messaged (those are the Passenger Charter rules – do they sit and wait for 7 days to reply?).
    It didn’t answer my query, so I replied and asked again what I should expect for my First Class ticket so I can plan future journeys accordingly.
    7 days later I got another stock reply – again just not answering my question! I was getting a bit ratty by now and thought I wouldn’t give up so replied again – a bit exasperated this time.
    Yet again, 7 days later another stock reply!!!
    Grrrr, so I replied angrily this time asking why they didn’t make the effort to answer my simple question and lazily pressed a button instead!!!
    This is the latest reply I got yesterday…

    Dear Mr Speedbird (!)

    Thank you for your further email dated 19 July 2013 concerning your recent correspondence with our office.

    ScotRail are committed to taking every aspect of customer services very seriously, and therefore I was sorry to learn that you were unhappy with your recent journey.

    I would like to assure you that your feedback was forwarded to the appropriate managers for the information. In addition ScotRail will be reviewing all customer feedback on a regular basis, to allow us to identify any areas where there is a clear need for improvement.

    Thank you for taking the time to write.

    Should you need to reply to this email, please respond to <a href="mailto:[email protected]“>[email protected].

    As I say, I didn’t start off by complaining, just asking!!
    Now, I have given up and will avoid Scotrail from now on.


    You’re acting surprised Speedbird…lol

    Remember that Scotrail is nothing more than a subsidiary of First Bus!

    And as someone who uses both services, it’s safe to say I’d rather wait for a bus and train in the middle of the Punjab!


    Couldn’t be in more agreement with canucklad. The scotrail service is appalling. If it’s not cancellations and delays it is breakdowns and poor customer relations. I know a few Scotrail corporate employees and I know for a fact they don’t give a s*^# about the customer, be it corporate or leisure.

    Compared with the level of service you get from EC/Virgin/Transpennine it is shocking.


    I know, I’m old enough to know better, but I just asked a simple question and well, the above says it all. I just don’t normally use them and this confirms what kind of company they are, one of the worst I have come across in quite a while. I had hoped rail might work for me on my Regular Aberdeen/Manchester trips, but seemingly not – I will have to suffer my least favourite/most unreliable airline – Flybe. Bmi Regional seem to be very busy or very expensive, I’m not sure which.

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