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East Coast to offer free meals in first class

15 Nov 2010 by BusinessTraveller

The rail operator is to offer free at-seat meals to its first class customers from May next year. It has also launched a upgraded wifi service, although it is no longer free of charge for standard passengers.

As posted on our forum over the weekend, the operator - which was taken back into public ownership last year when franchisee the National Express Group stopped providing financial support to the operator (see online news July 1, 2009) – will start offering free meals for first class passengers from the launch of the new summer timetable on May 22, 2011.

East Coast will serve hot breakfasts on weekday services before 1000, sandwiches and snacks between 1000 and 1600 (and after 1900), and an evening meal between 1600 and 1900. Complimentary wines, spirits, beers and soft drinks will also be offered. An “all-day light menu” will be served at weekends.

The operator says it will invest almost £10 million in modifications to catering cars and the training of staff, but estimates the new service will generate around £23 million of additional revenue per year, with research indicating that “between 12 and 28 of Standard Class customers would be encouraged to trade-up to first class, depending on the ticket type”.

Virgin Trains, which operates the prestigious West Coast Main Line service, also offers free food in first class (see our forum for a discussion on the offering).

Meanwhile East Coast has also invested £600,000 in upgrading the onboard wifi service across its fleet of trains, using “a combination of satellites and the latest multiple 3G and HSPA technology”.

Note however that the wifi offering, which had previously been free of charge to all customers, will now be chargeable in standard class after an initial 15-minute free period, at a cost of £4.95 for 60 minutes, or £9.95 for 24 hours. First class customers will continue to have free access.

East Coast says that its new Eureka! Timetable - which comes into effect next May - represents the biggest timetable change on the route for 20 years, with 20 more services every weekday, more than three million additional seats per year, typical faster journey times and a more regular pattern of services.

For more information visit eastcoast.co.uk.

Report by Mark Caswell

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