Train Review – Bath to Newcastle (Return)Back to Forum
Anonymous11 Apr 2013
I would like to suggest to BT that it should be possible to add reviews of train services on this site. I find the flight reviews quite useful and would value seeing train reviews as well especially for the less well known routes that could benefit travellers.
I intend to make 3 more posts on this thread covering each stage on my journey but at the same time I would like to ask forum members if they agree with me that train reviews would be beneficial on this site?
OVERVIEW OF JOURNEY
The reason for my journey is to see Newcastle Utd play Benfica in the Europa League tonight. With an 8pm kick off, this gave me all day to get up there and I decided to take the following journeys.
1. Bath – London Waterloo, Southwest Trains, dep 0907, arr 1149
2. London Kings X – Sunderland, Grand Central, dep 1253, arr 1639
My plan is to get the Metro to Newcastle, stay overnight after the match and return on the following train:
3. Newcastle – Bristol Temple Meads, Cross Country, dep 0942, arr 1441
before taking the bus back home to Bath.
Normally, I would either take the X-Country service both ways but this service has been more expensive in recent years and cheap tickets are hard to come by now. Alternatives are to take First Great Western to Paddington, tube to Kings X and then East Coast to Newcastle or to fly up from Bristol (EasyJet), Southampton (Flybe) or Heathrow (BA). None of these options were suitable for me this time either on cost or schedule grounds and so I decided to try the slower but cheaper alternative routing as highlighted above.11 Apr 2013
TRIP 1: Bath to Waterloo, SouthWest Trains
I booked both my SouthWest & Grand Central tickets on the Grand Central site about a week in advance. The Grand Central site is useful in this regard in allowing you to book competitors on their site. I am not sure if other train companies allow you to do this. The booking process was typical of other train sites.
The fare for the Waterloo service was £16.50 for a First Class seat. I am registered blind and so have a Disabled Rail Card which gives me 1/3 reduction of all fares. The cheapest possible advance First Class fare for FGW into Paddington is £18.50 (teas & coffees are free on FGW but not on Southwest) but these fares only tend to available in the afternoon. I would have had to pay double to use FGW at that time of the morning.
Tickets were picked up on the day from the automated machine at the station and the train arrived on time at Bath. SouthWest use a 3 coach train for the Bristol Temple Meads (train’s origin) to Salisbury leg whereupon they join this to another 3 coach train for the run up to Waterloo. First Class occupies half of one coach at the end of the train and consists of approximately 20 seats.
The carriage was empty and I chose a forward facing aisle seat which was one of 4 seats around a table. I had chosen another seat to begin with but the recline wasn’t working. There are no power points or wifi on these trains. The seat is very comfortable in my opinion and is the same size and comfort of those on FGW MainLine trains from Paddington. There was plenty of space for me to work on my laptop.
Standard class seats on this train are less comfortable than FGW so it only worth using Southwest for First class travel, especially since the journey time is an hour longer than the Paddington service.
Tickets were checked upon departure and I enquired as to the trolley service. Apparently, there is no service between Bristol & Salisbury but a trolley boards at Salisbury. For a while, it looked like they had forgotten and it wasn’t until the train reached Woking that the trolley appeared by which time I was quite parched. I bought a tea & chocolate bar for £2.80. By this time, the carriage was about half full and we arrived at Waterloo on time.
Given that the journey is an hour longer than FGW, has fewer on board facilities and is less frequent, a decision to use this service has to be based solely on price. However, good deals in first class are possible and the first class comfort is the same as FGW so I would recommend this service when the price is right.11 Apr 2013
Look forward to your review, especially the “Grand Central “sector….they look so much more glamorous than the trains I use : )
And I totally agree that people would find the reviews and advice and tips so beneficial…..
As I found out recently with the split tickets sham!!11 Apr 2013
Thanks for the first of what promises to be a fascinating set of train reviews.
My only concern is your motive for traveling – maybe you should have headed this and subsequent reviews “Travelling for St Jude” – see http://www.luckymojo.com/saintjude.html – in light of the likely outcome to the match. Unless, of course, you are a Benfica supporter…….11 Apr 2013
I like the SouthWest Trains service down to Salisbury/Exeter/Bath etc.
Their staff are far better than FGW in my experience, and of course the Network Railcard Discount gives you 34% all the way to Exeter, a throwback from Network SoutEast days.
Given I live in Crystal Palace, the extra hour is saved by avoiding the traipse to Paddington.11 Apr 2013
Bath…Good luck tonight!
My Newcastle offices look out over St. James ( sorry Sports Direct Arena) only joking and the Strawberry !!
Not really interested in English football anymore, got far, far more to worry about with my first love, hockey & my SPL team…..However I’ve got an admission to make…and……
Well… I’m sure you can guess!! 🙂
Neither of us can be accused of being glory hunters!!
Back to the thread…What class is your Grand Central journey?11 Apr 2013
Good review Bath-VIP and I would whole heartedly support that should also be a rail review section.
The type of train you travelled on (Class 158) are also used by FGW between Cardiff and Portsmouth. On these the don’t have a 1st class, however some of the seats on these units are not as comfortable as the SWT ones.
When these were all new they had a standard seat which was quite comfortable. In the late 90’s I used to travel between Portsmouth and Bath/Bristol on an almost weekly basis for a while and the TOC was Wales and The West who refurbished the seats and they were most uncomfortable.
It is a bit down to the refurbishment of the seat, SWT have given the frame more padding than FGW but it is still more than when they were new. East Midlands Trains have put new seats in which are most comfortable.
Look forwartd to your further reviews Bath.11 Apr 2013
TRIP 2: Kings Cross to Sunderland, Grand Central
This was the first time I have travelled with Grand Central. I have been intrigued by them for a while and I certainly think (along Southern trains) they have the best logo! First class ticket was £37.60 (with rail card) which was about £40 cheaper than what East Coast was offering. Metro ticket for the Sunderland to Newcastle sector was £3.20.
I arrived with half an hour to spare and the platform hadn’t yet been announced. I was planning to eat on board since it was a lunch time departure but as will be recounted, the on-board food is not that good so I would take advantage of the various eateries at Kings Cross. The Lebanese place up in the food court is a favourite of mine.
Celebrity Spot! After a couple of minutes staring at the departure boards, I realised I was standing next to Joanna Lumley! Shorter than I expected but looking just as smart and attractive as she does on screen.
Boarding was called about 15 mins before departure. The train is an HST but with only 6 carriages compared to the normal 8. There was 1 first class carriage, a buffet car and 4 standard class carriages. The first class carriage was laid out in Grand Central motifs and looked attractive. However, the seats themselves are old fashioned and remind me of what used to exist on FGW in the 1990s. These are the seats where the arm rests can’t be raised but they were still comfortable enough.
Crockery was laid out for teas & coffees as they do on East Coast and they looked attractive with the Grand Central logo (which has a very American feel to it). There are power points, table lamps and an on-board wifi. However, I found this to be very slow and my mobile phone was quicker when accessing the web.
ON BOARD SERVICE
First class was looked after by two members of staff who shared the ticket checking and food & drink service. Both were friendly and did an excellent job. The carriage was about 1/3 full so I had a whole table to myself for the entire journey.
The train is non-stop between Kings Cross & York and the ticket was checked on departure. I enquired about lunch as no menu was available at the seat and was told they only served a selection of hot & cold sandwiches which was disappointing. I went for a hot ham & cheese baguette (£3.50) which tasted better than it looked but the food is definitely better on East Coast and I recall is also free in First Class. Teas & coffees (free) were topped up regularly and the trolley made a frequent appearance. However, the trolley only had a limited selection, basically water, juice and biscuits. A free newspaper (Times) was offered about half an hour out of London.
We arrived at Sunderland on time. It turned out that the Metro uses the same platforms as the trains which make interchanges very simple. Ticket machines are upstairs though so it is worth buying the metro ticket in advance with your train ticket if you can. Services are every 10 to 15 minutes and it takes 30 mins to get to Newcastle.
Grand Central left me with a definite no-frills feeling but more on the EasyJet side rather than Ryanair. In general their fares are 20-30% lower than East Coast so they do provide a lower cost alternative for the North East. However, the food choice is limited so do consider buying your food at the station to take on-board. With this in mind, I would recommend them especially when the fares are competitive.11 Apr 2013