Virgin Trains East Coast. London to Newcastle.

So I debated if I should actually write this trip report.  Trains in the UK aren’t always the best experience – in fact lets be honest, they can be awful.

However felt it was worth writing something about my journey from London to Newcastle (and back) in first class over a weekend.

Firstly, I managed to book my tickets during Virgin Trains’ 50% off sale, meaning my first class ticket cost me £26.50, each way.  That’s really good value in my book.

Virgin Trains on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) are actually only 10% owned by the Virgin Group of companies; the rest is actually Stagecoach.  The firm is run by a rather unpleasant Scottish man called Brian Souter.  He’s vehemently homophobic having bankrolled a private referendum in Scotland to try and stop repeal of the homophobic law, Section 28.  This banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools as well as a number of other things.  It was repealed by the Labour government in 2003.

I was booked on the 13.00 service from King’s Cross to Edinburgh but rocked up a little early at around 12.30.  Virgin provide a first class lounge in the station where you can sit down, charge your phone and grab a drink.  There’s also alcohol available for purchase.

It wasn’t too busy when I was in there, and it pretty much emptied out when they called my train.  What’s quite nice is that rather than having to down into the main concourse, the lounge leads to an over-bridge directly to the platforms.

Over-Bridge at King's Cross
Over-bridge to the platforms at King’s Cross station

My train today was a 40 year old Intercity 125, or Class 43 for the geeks.  From the end of next year, they’re due to start being replaced with the new Class 800/801 IEP trains, but let’s see how that goes.

I had reserved a single seat although the carriage was only about 1/3 full so could have moved if I wanted to.

At weekends, there’s no free alcohol available, just sandwiches, wraps and snacks.  Still, that said, it wasn’t bad value for the price of my ticket and the staff came round two or three times in the journey to offer more tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks.  Before long, we were pulling into Newcastle station, only one minute late, mainly due to being held at signals just outside.

The return journey was very similar.  There were a couple of minor differences, mainly the fact I travelled on an electric-hauled Intercity 225, or Class 91 train with the newer Mark IV carriages.  The interiors and service was identical to the outbound, however it was a slightly slower service with more stops, taking an extra 30 minutes.

We eventually arrived about three minutes late into King’s Cross.  Overall, for the price paid, it was great value and would have no hesitation in taking the train over the plane.

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