A recent visit to my parents in Derbyshire provided the perfect opportunity to review the standard class facilities on two UK Train Operating Companies (TOCs), East Midlands Trains and CrossCountry. My journey from Peterborough to Derby requires a change of train at Nottingham with East Midlands Trains operating the first leg and CrossCountry operating the second.
Peterborough to Nottingham – East Midlands Trains – Class 158
My Peterborough to Nottingham journey is part of EMT’s cross country Norwich to Liverpool route. Generally, one class 158 travels from Norwich to Nottingham where it joins a second unit to double the capacity across to Liverpool. Peterborough is generally the point where a trolley service leaves (towards Norwich) or joins (towards Liverpool) the train. This route connects the East of England to the East Coast Mainline at Peterborough and also provides an alternative route to the north with trains calling at Sheffield and Manchester en route to Liverpool’s Lime Street station.
My Class 158 departs on time and I’m pleased to find that this 158 has been refurbished and therefore has under-seat USB sockets, comfortable seats as well as a climate control system that maintains a reasonable temperature. As previously mentioned, a trolley service also joins the train at Peterborough and a coffee & muffin cost me £3.65, a perfectly reasonable price for what is surprisingly a decent cup of coffee. EMT’s Norwich to Liverpool timetable is both a blessing and a curse as the additional time built in to make up for delays that may be encountered along the route, also means holding at junctions for the booked time. With just one stop at Grantham, I find myself accompanied at my table seat by just one other person, allowing us both some extra leg room and space.
Unfortunately, my arrival at Nottingham is delayed by about 10 minutes due to reported trespassers on the railway just outside of the station. Whilst on this occasion nobody was injured and the delays are kept to a minimum, this behaviour is reckless and irresponsible and could have a life changing impact on numerous people. Don’t trespass, kids! On a lighter note the East Midlands Trains’ on-board staff are both friendly and extremely helpful providing advice and friendly service. All-in-all my journey took about 75 minutes and I arrive into Nottingham relaxed and on time for my connection.
Nottingham to Derby – CrossCountry – Class 170
At Nottingham I have a cross platform interchange to the bay platform where a CrossCountry class 170 awaits. Unfortunately, this is not my booked train and although I could travel on it with my open ticket, I decide to wait for the train with my seat reservation. There are roughly three trains an hour connecting the two major East Midlands cities of Nottingham and Derby, with two of these operated by CrossCountry. At 41 minutes past the hour, the service operates as far as Birmingham New Street, with the service at 07 minutes past continuing to Cardiff Central. The final service each hour is EMT’s Newark Castle to Matlock service.
I have always found the class 170s comfortable trains with the seats feeling like armchairs. An on-time departure from Nottingham take us to Beeston and past the Attenborough Nature Reserve in the Trent valley, with the latter unfortunately being named after the place not the famous naturalist. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll have seen that I take the opportunity to write some of this post whilst on the move and enjoying the scenery that this journey provides. On this second leg of my journey I am lucky enough to have a table to myself, allowing plenty of space, and with this being a late morning train no-body joins me when we stop at Beeston and Long Eaton. CrossCountry trains provide a trolley service on this route, with the standard range of hot and cold drinks and snacks, although given I have just a 25-minute journey ahead of me, I decide not to buy another coffee.
On this leg of my journey, I also pass the railway oddity that is Spondon station. The station itself is typical of many in the suburbs of British cities with a ticket machine, waiting shelters and no on-site staff. With 9 services a day in each direction, the service is sparse enough, however what makes Spondon unusual is that all of the trains that call at this station, with the exception of one each way around lunchtime and one each way in the late evening, do so within a three-hour period each morning and evening peak. With the timings of the lunchtime trains it is only possible to spend half an hour at Spondon if travelling from Derby before catching the return train.
Approaching Derby station from the south or west always reminds me of the city’s rich heritage as a railway town. Surrounding the lines approaching the station are various sidings and depots including Network Rail’s Railway Technical Centre, East Midlands Train’s Etches Park Depot and Bombardier’s Litchurch Lane works. A railway works has existed on the site of the Technical Centre since 1876 and the time of the Midland Railway. As important to the network as Crewe or York, the city is a major junction with trains passing through to destinations as varied as Aberdeen, London and Penzance.
Derby’s railway heritage is immediately apparent when leaving the station, with the red-brick Midland Railway Institute (now a hotel) directly opposite and the railings surrounding the station car park containing pieces of railway paraphernalia. At the north end of Railway Terrace is The Alexandra pub with the cab of a class 37 locomotive sitting proudly in its car park. On the other side of the railway, Derby College is now resident within the former Roundhouse, with the space being used for everything from weddings to beer festivals.
After five rail journeys over two days, East Midlands Trains and CrossCountry both provided a perfectly acceptable service, with comfortable, clean trains that arrived and departed on time. Although it is quicker for me to drive across to the East Midlands, the journey is a lot less hassle and the time a lot more useful coming by rail. If you can, take the train, let someone else do the driving and enjoy the countryside as it passes you by.