Operator: LNER Headcode: 1A41 Route: LDS-PBO Class: First Seat: L51 Date: Wednesday 18th September 2019
Three hours after having arrived at Leeds with LNER (read about that here) I was back at the station for my trip back to Peterborough. With about an hour until my train back south, I headed to the first-class lounge at Leeds, which is located next to the ticket machines in the North Concourse. The lounge itself is quite small with about 30 seats mixed between bar style, lounge chairs and booths with tables. As expected, there was a small range of snacks and drinks, although on my visit the coffee machine was out of order with jugs of coffee provided instead.
The lounge in Leeds is tastefully decorated with a neutral grey and white colour scheme with splashes of LNER red. On the walls there are a display of famous Yorkshire cultural venues and events such as Opera North and Leeds Festival. Whilst quite small, the lounge still provides various seating areas including booths and a breakfast bar style workspace with plenty of power sockets and free wi-fi. The lounge was certainly a pleasant and quiet environment to get some writing done away from the hustle and bustle of the main concourse, and the free refreshments are always an added bonus.
About 20 minutes before departure I headed over towards the platforms as there can be delays around the ticket barriers at Leeds during busy times. LNER services usually depart from platforms 6 or 8 which are adjacent to each other and as I arrived it was confirmed the Azuma in platform 8 was forming my service. Unfortunately, on my last journey back from Leeds (read about that here) I had been due to travel on an Azuma but this had been changed last minute for one of LNER’s Mark IV trains.
Whilst I have travelled on Azumas a number of times in standard class for my commute to London, this was the first time I was travelling on one in first class and I was excited to see how it compared in terms of comfort to LNER’s other trains. Upon boarding, I found a similar layout to the ‘classic’ trains with the first class carriages being in a 1-2 layout, with a number of the single seats being ‘airline’ style with their own table rather than have another seat sharing a table.
I was sat in one of these individual seats which provide more space and privacy than those sharing a table. Although the seats were fabric rather than leather (old trains can be retrofitted with leather seats but new trains can’t have them installed), the seats were extremely comfortable and on par to the seats on the classic trains. Each seat has a conventional power socket and the reclining seats can be set at any intermediate point between the upright and fully reclined settings.
As with most of the Leeds services stopping at Peterborough, our only intermediate stops were at Wakefield Westgate and Doncaster before running fast to Peterborough, the service’s final stop before London King’s Cross. Soon after our departure from Leeds the on-board service began with the initial service of drinks and cold food whilst staff took orders from the menu for hot items. Many of the items provided on the LNER menus are from suppliers across the company’s routes, something which LNER is rightly proud of and displays within the menus.
In addition to the Salmon roll and Deli box available from the trolley, there were three hot items to choose from: a Spinach, Pea and Sweet Potato Curry; a Broccoli and Blue Cheese tart; and my choice the Pork in Cider & Mushroom sauce. The food did not take long to be delivered, with mine arriving just as we approached Doncaster. The meat for the options on both the Breakfast and Rest of the Day menus are provided by ‘Taste Tradition’ a supplier based just 30 miles from where I started my journey, in the Yorkshire town of Ripon.
Just north of Doncaster, as we joined the East Coast Mainline (ECML)proper at Marshgate Junction, an LNER Class 91 service passed up heading north towards York and eventually Scotland’s second city of Glasgow. By the time this post goes live very few Class 91s will be left operating on the ECML as they and all of the HSTs will have been replaced by various types of Azumas.
Having had a busy time since my arrival into Leeds earlier in the day, I was happy to relax as we sped south from Doncaster knowing that the next stop would mean I was home. In addition to the delightful Pork in Cider & Mushroom sauce (served with crushed potatoes), I was also provided with a packet or Corkers crisps and a Chocolate & Caramel pot that is only available on Azuma services.
Thankfully, unlike some recent trips, the railway gods were in my favour on this trip with us arriving into Peterborough only a couple of minutes late without encountering any issues on the journey south. My first experience of first-class on LNER’s new Azumas was extremely pleasant and certainly met my expectations. Whilst journeys on the classic HSTs and class 91s will be missed, I feel the Azumas and the product provided onboard will certainly retain the ‘premier’ first-class experience that is offered on LNER when compared to most TOCs.
Lounge 3* Seat/Facilities 4* Food 4* Service 5* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 21/25 (read about my rating system here!)