Operator: Great Western Railway Headcode: 1H49 Route: PAD-BPW Class: Standard Seat: A13 Date: Friday 17th January 2020
The early evening of Friday 17th January saw me back at Brunel’s railway cathedral, London Paddington, having finished work for the week and ready to head to Bristol for a weekend with friends. Due to the timing of my trip, I was unfortunately not able to travel first-class, however I was able to try one of GWR’s new ‘Superfast’ services in standard class.
The ‘Superfast’ services have been operating since the December 2019 timetable change and provide the first non-stop services between London and Bristol (well South Gloucestershire) since the mid-1970s. My ‘Superfast’ service ran non-stop from Paddington to Bristol Parkway, before continuing to Bristol Temple Meads, Nailsea & Blackwell, Yatton, Worle and Weston-super-Mare.
My train was operated by two of GWR’s class 800 bi-mode 5 car units which I saw undertaking their mating ritual (or being connected to form a 10-car train) whilst at Paddington. You can see the video of that on my Instagram here. There are pros and cons to having these 5-car units joined together on services as unfortunately when connected, there is no passenger access between the two halves.
GWR having 5-car sets increases operational flexibility and allows it to have less carriages in service during off-peak times. Unfortunately, due to the length of platforms at some of GWR’s stations, only one of the unit’s doors can open, which means passengers transferring to the correct half of the train at the station before.
Although GWR have a lounge at Paddington, due to me travelling in standard class, I wasn’t able to access this. Luckily the platform for the service was announced about 20 minutes prior to departure so I didn’t have too long standing around. My reserved seat was, unlucky for some, seat 13 in coach A at the very far end of the train, however the fact that the other 3 reserved seats on my table weren’t occupied, hinted towards some positive luck heading in my direction.
One thing I have found on both the LNER and GWR versions of the class 80x trains is a greatly improved leg room in standard class. At my table seat I felt as though I had almost unlimited leg room, as well as a large table space to do some work as we headed west. The actual seats are fairly comfortable, although could definitely be more padded, and free WI-FI is available throughout the train.
Departing Paddington on time, we were soon speeding through West London and Berkshire towards Reading. This is one of only a few GWR services that doesn’t stop at Reading and we were timetabled to have just a 68-minute run to Bristol Parkway. Although the time saving between London and Bristol Parkway isn’t much, passengers travelling to Temple Meads can save as much as 27 minutes by taking a ‘Superfast’ service.
One negative of GWR’s new trains compared to the classic HSTs is that no ‘buffet’ or café bar is available and so passengers have to wait for the trolley service to make its way through the trains. Unfortunately for me the trolley didn’t make it through to Coach A before we arrived at Bristol Parkway and so I was unable to gauge its selection or pricing. Given that on this 10-car train there was a trolley serving each 5-car unit, there must have been a lot of passengers being served in the other four carriages.
Despite the new timetable being the first that is based on the performance of the new Class 80xs, our train had recovered from running 6 minutes late as we passed through Reading to being on time as we passed Swindon. Unfortunately, a late running CrossCountry service being allowed to run in front of us at Westerleigh junction gave us a handicap that was impossible to recover from in the few miles to Bristol Parkway resulting in us arriving into my destination 10 minutes late.
All in all, my first journey with GWR in standard class was underwhelming, especially due to the delayed trolley service and lack of any alternative options for a cup of tea. The Class 800s performed well, making up time during the trip, only for this to be wiped out by a third party. Whilst for my journey the ‘Superfast’ service didn’t make much difference to the journey time, I think that the faster service to the centre of Bristol can only be a good thing and hopefully this will help boost the economy in the SouthWest.
Lounge 0* Seat/Facilities 3* Food 0* Service 3* Punctuality 4* Overall Rating 10/25 (read about my rating system here!)