Operator: LNER Headcode: 1D09 Route: PBO – LDS Class: First Seat:
J03 M03 M07 Date: Tuesday 13th August 2019
After getting back from our trip to York I wanted to try and have another go experiencing and reviewing LNER’s weekday first class service and so decided to make another trip to Yorkshire and visit the city of Leeds. Booking my tickets only 3 days in advance, I was able to get an one-way advance single for £29.05 travelling in first class with my railcard, which worked out about 2/3rds of the price of a standard off-peak single and less than a quarter of the price of a first class off-peak single.
As mentioned in previous blogs, there isn’t a first-class lounge available at Peterborough and so after arriving at Peterborough about 20 minutes before my train I headed straight to the platform. Upon looking at the screens, I was slightly confused as coach J, the location of my reserved seat, was not showing, however a quick tweet to LNER confirmed a ‘set swap’ meaning my booked HST set was now being operated by a class 91 electric train and my reservation would now be in coach K. With the train arriving a couple of minutes early I was pleased to find the train was extremely quiet with only myself and three other passengers in coach K.
Almost immediately after departing Peterborough, a member of the on-board crew came through and took my order for breakfast, which of course was the ‘Full LNER’. Although LNER alternates it’s menu each week the breakfast choices are the same on both menus, with Avocado on Toast; a Bacon Roll; Porridge; and a Light Breakfast joining the Full LNER on the menu. All of the options come with the choice of Toast & Jam (or Marmalade) or a piece of Fresh Fruit.
Unfortunately less than half a mile north of Peterborough we came to a halt as a complete failure of the area’s signalling system left us unable to proceed. Despite the frustration of the delay, the Train Manager kept us up to date with the information he had and after a 53 minute wait we proceeded north. Shortly after coming to the unplanned stop the drinks service came through with the usual range of hot and soft drinks. Although weekday first class does include alcohol on LNER, this is only on ‘rest of the day’ services and so it was not available on our train. Within 15 minutes of ordering my breakfast was served and, and apart from being slightly overcooked, tasted wonderful!
As with all LNER services, Wi-Fi was available on-board for free as well as power sockets being available. First class passengers have an at seat service whilst standard class passengers have the choice of a trolley service or heading to the cafe bar. The first class seat on my train was the standard leather seat found on ‘classic’ LNER services (HST or Class 91 as opposed to an Azuma) which are very comfortable although starting to show signs of wear and tear. Unfortunately both my reserved seat and the seat I later moved to decided to recline themselves without any interaction on my part and so I spent the journey in a rather relaxed position.
On it’s journey from London to Leeds, this service was only scheduled to stop at Peterborough, Doncaster and Wakefield Westgate and so once we were on the move again, we sped through Grantham, Newark Northgate and Retford without stopping and completed the rest of the 90 mile journey to Doncaster in just over 45 minutes. After Doncaster we diverged from the East Coast Mainline and headed towards the north-west passing through a number of local stations before pulling into Wakefield Westgate.
After a bit of research into Wakefield Westgate, it would seem that the station is one that suffered from a 1960s ‘modernisation’ which destroyed large parts of the 19th century structure and replaced them with a functional, yet aesthetically challenged, station. Wakefield currently gets six trains per hour to Leeds, although this is generally the furthest north or west services get with the odd exception continuing to Bradford, a route that was frequently served prior to the Beeching cuts. There also appeared to be a disused bay platform adjacent to the northbound platform although I’m unable to find when it was removed or where services headed to from here.
Disappointingly after our prolonged stop near Peterborough the crew did not come round offering any more drinks and in-fact came round re-setting the tables at least 20 minutes before we had even reached Doncaster. Given at this point there was almost an hour of the journey left to go and two more stops for passengers to board this seemed extremely premature and unfortunately showed that some of this crew were not as proactive as those on other LNER services I’ve travelled on.
One thing I have always found LNER extremely good at is communicating with passengers and on this journey they more than maintained the standard I expected from them. As I’d booked my tickets through my account on the LNER website, I received texts keeping me up to date with my journey including platform details and information about the delay with an up to date estimated time for our arrival into Leeds. The LNER twitter team are also usually good at keeping everyone up to date and answering queries even during the worst of disruption. Given some Train Operating Companies (TOCs) don’t even put out a delay message until over an hour into the incident this can make a massive difference to customers. Unfortunately one TOC is still yet to respond to my tweet from two and a half months ago, so LNER’s communications are definitely miles beyond their competition in this area!
Eventually we arrived into Leeds 47 minutes late having made up about five minutes en route and unfortunately, despite this, I felt frustrated. Even taking into account the delay (which was not LNER’s fault), disappointingly this journey fell short of the standard I’ve come to expect from LNER. The crew were friendly but rather absent and it was frustrating to have the same issues with two different seats. As always the food offered was far and away some of the best on the UK rail network, however on this trip, even this fell below LNER’s usual standard.
Lounge 0* Seat/Facilities 3* Food 4* Service 3* Punctuality 1* Overall Rating 12/25 (read about my rating system here!)