Operator: LNER Headcode: 1A50 Route: LDS – PBO Class: First Seat:
L57 L29 Date: Tuesday 13th August 2019
After a day riding the rails of West Yorkshire, I was back at Leeds station a couple of hours before my train back to Peterborough. As with my journey north (read about that here), I was able to get an Advance Single, just three days before travel, for £29.05 travelling in first class, and so when I got back to Leeds, I headed towards LNER’s first class lounge.
Unfortunately, the lounge at Leeds is only open until 1830 and so I was only able to have a visit before it closed for the evening. The lounge is fairly standard as railway first class lounges go with a variety of seating, hot and cold drinks as well as a range of snacks. I did discover some strawberry pastries which were absolutely delicious and helped fill the gap between my late breakfast and the dinner I’d get on-board the train home.
After putting the finishing touches to some blog posts whilst occupying a stool and topping up my caffeine levels at my favourite coffee chain, I headed down to the platforms to meet what I expected to be the Azuma train forming my service. Unfortunately, due to various issues across LNER’s network earlier in the day (some of which I got caught up in heading north) this Azuma was forming an earlier London service instead of the one it was planned to (i.e. Mine!!). This meant that my service would be formed by another of LNER’s ‘classic’ Class 91s and I would unfortunately miss the opportunity to experience first class on an Azuma.
The inbound service forming my train home eventually arrived about 5 minutes before our departure time, and the LNER team at Leeds did a brilliant job of getting it cleaned and re-stocked in record time whilst we waiting for the driver to take a short break as he had also brought the train into Leeds from London. Departing late, especially on a homeward bound train, is always frustrating however given the inbound service arrived about 50 minutes late, I do think it is a testament to the attitude of most LNER staff that we eventually left less than 15 minutes late.
When boarding I realised that sitting in my booked seat was going to result in me being blinded by the sun for most of the journey home. Luckily this was an extremely quiet service and so I was able to move to a seat with more space on the other side of the carriage. As with all LNER services I was able to quickly log onto the on-board Wi-Fi and charge my phone using the at seat power sockets. First class is in a 1-2 configuration with all seats having access to a table.
Due to various issues, this was the first time in a while that I was able to experience LNER’s ‘Rest of the Day’ menu. LNER has two menus which it alternates and so my choices were a Summer Chicken Casserole; Asparagus and Ricotta Cannelloni; Fish Cakes & Tartar Sauce; a Scottish Beef & Horseradish Sandwich; or a Summer Garden Wrap. All of the choices also came with a packet of Corkers crisps and either a muffin or a piece of fruit. Opting for the Casserole, which turned out to be delicious, I managed to restrain myself from sampling the muffin until after my main course had arrived.
LNER are very proud of the suppliers they have chosen for their on-board catering and the final page of the first-class menu details both the search for those suppliers and the quality and ethos required of them. The vast majority of the suppliers are local to LNER’s routes with the ale having been brewed by Rudgate Brewery in York and the meat having been sourced from Taste Tradition in Ripon.
As with my earlier northbound service, this service had limited calling points and so after brief stops at Wakefield Westgate and Doncaster we were non-stop to Peterborough. Although there hasn’t been access to the BEAM entertainment service since LNER took over the East Coast franchise from Virgin, I find the ECML has some of the best views of any rail line in the country with the scenery ranging from the flatness of the Cambridgeshire Fens to the ruggedness of the Yorkshire landscape. Enjoying the scenery in the failing light whilst enjoying a ‘Hop on Board’ ale is one of the best forms of entertainment I could think of for a rail journey.
Continuing south I was able to vaguely recognise of the landmarks I’ve come to know when travelling on stopping services and shortly after passing through Grantham I started to prepare myself for the end of my journey. It would have been nice at this stage to have a cup of tea, unfortunately the on-board crew didn’t make another pass through the carriage before I alighted. All arrivals into Peterborough from the north are marked by the expansive lineside industrial and retail outlets which at night illuminate the approach into Peterborough and the freight yard to the north of the station. Our fast run from Doncaster had ensured we hadn’t lost any more time an we pulled into Peterborough XX minutes late and just over an hour and 20 minutes after departing Leeds.
In conclusion this journey generally restored my faith in the service LNER provides after being left underwhelmed on my journey north. Whilst the early closing time of the lounge was slightly frustrating it is understandable as LNER’s evening flow is into Leeds. The food on-board was excellent and it was hard to believe it was train food whilst the crew were friendly, helpful and what I’ve come to expect from the people working for LNER.
Lounge 3* Seat/Facilities 4* Food 5* Service 4* Punctuality 4* Overall Rating 20/25 (read about my rating system here!)