FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived at London Kings Cross at 1045 for the 1100 to Edinburgh. The platform was already indicated on the board, but I still had to pick up my pre-booked ticket so it's a good idea to arrive half an hour early to avoid a panic attack when you see the length of the queue for collecting tickets. Luckily it moved quickly and after showing my ticket to get onto the platform, I was relieved to see that first class was at the near end. The service runs on the hour, (some every half hour), during the week and takes between four and half and five hours.
THE SEAT My carriage was almost empty and there was a quiet bustling as people settled into their seats. Mobile phones can be used in some carriages but a sign suggests taking calls in the vestibules, which everyone obeyed. My seat was a single table facing another seat, but with someone sitting opposite, there was little leg room so I moved to sit at an empty four-seated table.
THE SERVICE We rolled out of King's Cross on time and after about 10 minutes the trolley arrived with complimentary hot drinks, water, fruit juices, biscuits and a newspaper. Because I had a lot of work to do and I believed there was wifi on board, I asked one of the friendly staff, while he poured my tea, how to connect. Unfortunately I was on an old train type, and although GNER is a pioneer of wifi, the service is currently only available on about a third of GNER trains – the new Mallards. As I was facing a four-hour trip, I will certainly check before travelling in future (wifi trains change daily; check on the GNER website). If you can connect you will enjoy free access in first class. Fortunately I had plenty to do without having the internet at my fingertips.
The journey was straightforward until we were held up while apparently waiting for two Virgin trains to leave Newcastle station before we could pull in.
On venturing to the spacious white toilet, I spotted a guilty-looking woman emerging from the sliding door and I then found a cigarette butt floating in the basin. She needn't have been so secretive as at the time of writing GNER had smoking carriages in both first and standard class (until August 29 this year). Now there is a complete ban on smoking on GNER trains after customer complaints about the habit rose by 172 per cent since 2003.
VERDICT The service was friendly and efficient although we arrived around 10 minutes late.
PRICERanging from £59 return in first (if you book online well ahead for quieter times) up to £287 for an open return. Call 08457 225 225 or visit www.gner.co.uk.