Date: Wednesday 14th April 2021
With England’s ‘Stay at Home’ order removed, and the law now stating travel was allowed, Wednesday 14th April saw me at Peterborough station nice and early, ready to begin my first railday in months. Having looked at tickets just after the Prime Minister announced that the removal of restrictions was going ahead, I was able to grab a first-class advance single up to Leeds for just £20.70.
The 1D03 service from King’s Cross to Leeds is one of the fastest connecting Peterborough and Yorkshire. Unlike most services which stop at Newark, this service stops at just Doncaster and Wakefield Westgate, and is scheduled to arrive in Leeds just 84 minutes after leaving Peterborough. Departing Peterborough on time, we were soon flying up the East Coast Mainline past the former stations at Walton and Helpston, with the goods shed of the latter still standing, now as a private residence.
Although I’ve reviewed LNER’s first-class a good few times before, I’ve not yet been on a ‘breakfast’ train during Covid and so was interested to see what differences there would be. Very soon after leaving Peterborough a member of the on-board crew came through delivering food to other passengers and upon noticing me, paused to take my order.
LNER reintroduced their onboard catering shortly after the end of the first UK lockdown, although with a much more limited offering than before. Initially in first it was just drinks and biscuits, however during our time in Scotland last year a more substantial offering of sandwiches was reintroduced in time for our trip home (read about that here). With no changes since then, the breakfast offering on this journey was a hot drink and a bacon roll, both of which were delivered about five minutes after I ordered.
Whilst the coffee was good, the bacon roll was rather chewy, however it was free compared to the £5 I’d have to pay for the same deal in standard-class. Disappointingly the staff did not make a second run through the train after Doncaster, and so the bacon roll and one coffee were all I got additionally for my first-class ticket.
Although not quite as comfy as the large leather seats on LNER’s Mk4 carriages, the first-class seats onboard the Azuma’s are still comfy and more than sufficient for long journeys. Certainly, after the 7+ hours from Inverness to London (read about that mammoth journey here), the hour, and a half trip up to Leeds didn’t faze me. Unfortunately, the one negative I found with the facilities onboard this service was that I couldn’t connect to the wi-fi for some reason.
Less than an hour after leaving Peterborough we were arriving into the South Yorkshire town of Doncaster, one of the key railway hubs of England. South of the town are a number of goods yards and train depots, with one, Belmont Yard, currently housing a number of LNER Class 91s as these are temporarily stored following the reduction in services due to the ‘Kings Cross Uncrossed’ project.
The LNER staff that I interacted with during this journey, at the station, online and onboard were as friendly as always, with the ticket office staff being very apologetic at not being able to find the rover ticket I was looking for on their system. Thankfully ˄SM on LNER’s twitter account was extremely helpful and found the details for me so I could pick this up easily when I reached Leeds. Supposedly to find the ‘East Yorkshire Round Robin’ ticket office staff need to type ‘Northeast’ into the system… Because that makes complete sense!
As we approached Wakefield Westgate on the viaduct above the streets, it made me think of the engineering marvel of the railways. On this train’s journey north, it has departed from one of the most marvellous London stations, passed under the Grand Union Canal, hurtled north at 125mph, has travelled through cuttings, tunnels and along embankments and viaducts to reach Leeds less than two hours and twenty minutes after leaving London. On average, over its 187-mile journey, it travelled at just short of 80mph.
Having arrived into Leeds exactly on time, I was glad to see that LNER are still fighting strong through the pandemic and hopefully, given the progress being made, there will soon be an improvement in catering onboard. The staff, as always, were excellent and the journey was quiet and comfortable. Overall, although nowhere near where it used to be, if you can get a cheap ticket, LNER first-class is still the place to be!
Overall Rating 15/25 (read about my rating system here!)