Operator: East Midlands Trains Headcode: 1P41 Route: COR – STP Class: First Seat: G40 Date: Tuesday 20th August 2019
Having arrived in Corby on the afternoon train from Derby (read about that here), I had about a 50-minute wait until my booked train to London left at 1837. Unfortunately, Corby station has rather limited facilities and there is no first class lounge available. The station does have both a ticket office and coffee shop located within the ticket hall/waiting room area, however both were closed during my visit and the lone vending machine on the platform was ‘in operation’ but empty.
Expecting another of East Midlands Railway’s (EMR) class 222 ‘Meridians’, I was pleasantly surprised when the inbound service from London arrived operated by a High Speed Train (HST) set. Due to the dark art of railway timetabling, the inbound service is scheduled to stand at Corby for about 40 minutes before departing which left me plenty of time to feed my inner train geek and get some photos of the hybrid EMR/East Midlands Train colour scheme. Boarding one of the two first class carriages I found an interior that was much more pleasant than that on my previous journeys and can only assume that this HST set had been refurbished much more recently than EMR’s Meridians.
With the layout in this carriage providing plenty of space, I wasn’t concerned about having enough room, however finding myself the sole occupant of first class upon departure was still a pleasant surprise. Within minutes of departure one of the on-board crew came through the carriage providing the basic EMR first class offering of hot drinks, juice and water as well as light snacks such as biscuits, cake or pretzels. On the tables I had found EMR’s ‘First Class Menu’ which offered a range of sandwiches, snacks and hot dishes which could be purchased at an additional cost. Unfortunately, when I asked to purchase the Meatballs with Pasta from the on-board crew they were unsure if they had any of the food on-board and would have to check.
As one of EMR’s ‘stopping’ services our train was scheduled to stop at four of the five stations EMR serve on this stretch of the Midland Mainline. Ten minutes after leaving Corby we stopped at Kettering with further calls at Wellingborough, Bedford and Luton also planned before we arrived into St. Pancras just before 8pm. Despite the frequent stops, our HST performed admirably with us easily reaching our maximum speed of 125mph after each stop.
Just after Wellingborough a member of the on-board crew returned to confirm that the full food offering was not available on this service and indicated it was due to the length of the journey. Disappointingly the EMR twitter team was not able to confirm which trains the menu should be available on and seemed to be confused over which menu I was asking about. Resigned to grabbing some dinner upon arrival into London, I settled back to enjoy the scenery and get some writing done.
Bedford is another town that has a large railway presence, being the northern end of the part of the Thameslink route and home to one the company’s train presentation depots. Being towards the end of the evening peak the sidings were fairly empty, however up to 20 trains can be stabled and prepared here each night ready to operate services to London and Brighton the following day. The sidings lie either side of the Marston Vale line, the route that connects Bedford with Milton Keynes and the West Coast Mainline.
Our final stop before London was at Luton, the Bedfordshire town home to one of London’s six airport, which has its own station to the south of the town’s more central one. As we departed Luton accelerated south, we passed through Luton Airport Parkway which is undergoing major building work as the airport owners construct a new rapid transit system that will connect the station to the terminal buildings. About 20 minutes before the end our journey we crossed the M25 motorway and began to pass through the capital’s extremities. We soon passed through the tunnels to the north of St. Pancras and the daylight at the end of the tunnels brought with it the sight of a Eurostar service arriving from the continent and the end of my journey.
In conclusion my journey with EMR from Corby to St. Pancras was smooth, comfortable and punctual. The on-board crew were pleasant and friendly and were genuinely apologetic that they weren’t able to offer the food from the all-day menu. The lack of a lounge at Corby wasn’t unexpected and was inconsequential due to the early arrival of the train from London. Considering EMR market these services as ‘intercity’ I was disappointed by their first class offering, especially when you compare it to the offerings from LNER or Virgin Trains on their services from London.
Lounge 0* Seat/Facilities 4* Food 2* Service 5* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 16/25 (read about my rating system here!)