Virgin Trains, First Class
THE JOURNEY: I had a First Class Open Return ticket from London Euston station to Manchester Piccadilly on Virgin Trains’ West Coast network. Trains were departing every 20 minutes on this weekday afternoon so I took the opportunity to check out the First Class lounge at Euston before boarding the 14.00 service, calling at Stoke-on-Trent, Macclesfield and Stockport.
THE LOUNGE: The First Class lounge is located upstairs at Euston station and is open to First Class ticket holders for up to two hours before departure and for one hour after arrival. It was busy when I arrived, but there was plenty of stylish seating options and a quieter business area too. Complimentary soft drinks, snacks and tea/coffee are available from a central bar area, as well as paid-for alcoholic drinks. There’s free wifi access and newspapers – while they last.
THE SERVICE: The First Class carriages were at the front of this Virgin Trains Pendolino service and I opted for an unreserved window seat at a table for two in the sparsely populated second coach. Drinking vessels and cutlery were already laid out and soon after departure from Euston staff came round with a bar service – as they did once again later in the journey – and a choice of four light lunches. I chose the tuna Niçoise salad. Fruit, cake and crisps were also offered. The generously-sized seats had individual power points, reading lights and a recline function and there was good, free wifi access. Upholstery in the First Class coaches was in smart, relatively muted blues rather than Virgin’s trademark red. Each seat had a coat hook and there was ample storage for luggage both overhead and in racks at the end of coaches. The operator has recently launched a free-to-use entertainment system, called BEAM, allowing passengers to stream popular TV shows and films on their own personal devices during journeys.
THE VERDICT: This was a slick and comfortable experience with good service and an environment conducive to getting plenty of work done. The journey felt shorter than it’s 2hr, 8mins scheduling.
THE DETAILS: Virgin Trains services depart London Euston for Manchester Piccadilly three times an hour during weekdays. Fares on the route start from £21 one-way and from £42 in First Class. For more information see: www.virgintrains.com.
Reviewed by Andy Hoskins (2016)