Operator: East Midlands Railway
Date: Wednesday 11th August 2021
With the retirement of East Midlands Railway’s final HSTs in May and the introduction of their new class 810s a couple of years away, East Midlands Railway (EMR) has needed additional rolling stock to fill the gap. Whilst the introduction of class 360s on the new EMR Connect services (read about those here) has helped by freeing up some class 222 Meridian’s, four former Hull Trains class 180s have been sourced to fill that gap for a couple of years.
Whilst I would usually just jump on an EMR service to London from Derby, some research showed that unless I was going to catch 0356 service or wait around until Sunday and catch the 0700, I was going to need to head to Nottingham to catch a 180. Having booked a seat on the 1312, I caught an earlier train from Derby to Nottingham to give me a bit of time to hopefully explore the first-class lounge and to also get some writing and editing done whilst I waited.
Having arrived in Nottingham on a CrossCountry class 170 (an underappreciated class of train that I may have to do a post on soon), I was disappointed to find that despite the removal of pretty much all government Coronavirus restrictions, EMR’s first-class lounges remained closed for some reason. If there was a legitimate reason for this I would understand, however there was no information other than ‘for your safety’ on the door and the EMR website was essentially useless in terms of finding information about the first-class lounges.
With the inbound service arriving about 25 minutes before departure, I was able to board straight away and settled down in the first-class carriage located part-way down the train in coach B. This odd location is a hangover from the class 180s former operators of First Great Western and Hull Trains, with there being little to no point in EMR moving the first-class carriage for the sake of a couple of years of service. Unfortunately, the intended short life span of the class 180s with EMR means that the interior, whilst comfortable, is looking rather tired with many of the seat recline mechanisms broken with little chance of being fixed.
Whilst the weather outside wasn’t particularly hot, it was reasonably warm and so I was very confused by the floor level vents pumping out hot air to heat the carriages, whilst the air-con attempted to cool it at the same time. Unfortunately, of the two air-con units in coach B, the one nearest me couldn’t cope with the struggle against the heating and so other than making lots of noise was essentially doing nothing for the entire journey south.
Departing Nottingham on time, we had quite a few stops ahead of us with these slower Nottingham to London services calling at Beeston, East Midlands Parkway, Loughborough, Leicester, Market Harborough, and Kettering before running fast to St. Pancras. With a run of just a few minutes to Beeston I was surprised to see the trolley service beginning as soon as we left Nottingham and was happy to take a coffee and some snacks for the journey. EMR has always had a bit of a limited first-class offering, with just biscuits and snacks being included whilst, pre-Covid, there used to be a menu to purchase more substantial meals. Unfortunately, the latter hasn’t yet made a return and so it was biscuits and crisps for sustenance for the journey to London.
Having travelled the Midland Mainline many times, I settled down to get some writing done on this journey, with a couple of part-written blogs being completed and social media being scheduled for the week ahead. After the initial trolley service, the first-class host seemed to decide it was easier to do an individual service for the rest of the journey coming to each of the dozen or so of us and taking any orders before returning with more drinks and snacks. Given on some other operators I’ve only managed a couple of cups of coffee on a four-hour journey, I was impressed by the number of times I was offered a cup on this relatively short inter-city service and so kudos to the host!
All in all, I was a bit disappointed with the class 180s on EMR. Whilst I understand their use is time-limited, their interior is becoming overly worn and broken, having not been maintained by either EMR or Hull Trains and so this journey was overly warm with a seat that couldn’t be reclined. There also seems to be no reasoning behind the continued lack of first-class lounges at EMR stations, something that is more frustrating due to the lack of any information about it. Thankfully the onboard host on this journey gained EMR back some points and it was great to receive such attentive service on a journey that was otherwise nothing to write home about.
Overall Rating 15/25 (read about my rating system here!)