Operator: Hull Trains Headcode: 1A97 Route: HUL-GRA Class: First Seat:
E21 E17 Date: Friday 10th January 2020
After an excellent but exhausting day in Hull, we were back at the city’s Paragon station well ahead of our train’s departure time. Unfortunately, Hull Trains doesn’t have any first-class lounges, including at Hull, and so we camped out in the Café Nero across the road for 45 minutes or so before heading across to the platforms.
Our train had previously operated one of Hull Train’s afternoon services from King’s Cross to the East Riding town of Beverley and had then ran empty back to Hull to form our service. With the train arriving into Hull’s platform 7 about 10 minutes before we were due to depart, I was disappointed to see that we would be travelling south on one of the infamous class 180s rather than the new class 802s.
The class 180s have had a rather unfortunate life with Hull Trains, having occasionally decided to spontaneously combust and block the East Coast Mainline at Welwyn North and Grantham in 2018 and having also had a period where only 2 of the fleet were fit for service. More recently the fleet has been more reliable (although HSTs were still subbing in during maintenance), and the class 180s are soon to be transferred to East Midlands Railway as a stopgap.
As we boarded, we could tell that these trains were soon leaving Hull Trains as they were beginning to look extremely worn, with multiple seats being damaged, including both of the ones I tried. Despite the damage and dogeared look, the seats were comfortable and as we departed Hull on time, we discovered we were two of only three people in first-class.
As well as meaning a quiet journey south, the empty carriage meant an extremely quick service from the friendly crew. Our food options for the journey were sandwiches or a hot choice of Chicken Tikka curry or Macaroni Cheese. With us opting for the two hot choices, we settled in for the journey and were soon served with our drinks. Hull Trains provide hot drinks and a selection of cold drinks for free in first-class, however alcoholic beverages have to be purchased for and additional charge.
Our food arrived not long after departing Brough, and although clearly basic reheated meals, was absolutely delicious. My Chicken Tikka came with mini poppadums as well as mango chutney and mint raita, whilst the Macaroni Cheese came with a topping of herb breadcrumbs. After our dishes had been taken away, the on-board crew came back through the carriage offering a second drinks service and small cake bars as dessert.
Whilst the on-board service was still excellent, it was noticeable that everything at Hull Trains was now geared towards the new class 802 Paragon trains. Our train had had carriages D & E re-lettered as reservations had been assigned based on the new trains whilst, as mentioned above, less care was being taken on train presentation. The class 180 still performed well, ensuring we arrived into Grantham on time, however the growling engine was a lot more noticeable than the engines on the Paragons.
The journey back from Hull to Grantham showed that the service provided by the on-board crews is of a consistently high standard and that the crew seem to be genuinely happy to work for Hull Trains. Whilst I can understand that Hull Trains is proud and excited about the introduction of the Paragons, it was disappointing to see how unloved the Class 180s had now become. All in all, it was great to experience one of the UK’s open access operators and I was glad that overall Hull Trains certainly lived up to my expectations.
Lounge 0* Seat/Facilities 2* Food 4* Service 5* Punctuality 5* Overall Rating 16/25 (read about my rating system here!)