Virgin Trains West Coast
THE JOURNEY: Glasgow-London is now being touted as a business route, but unlike the East Coast route from Edinburgh, no journey time improvements are on the cards. My 1640 departure from Glasgow had plenty of seats available in first class, with a choice of single or double airline-style seats, or seats at tables for two and four – with power points by window seats. As on the East Coast the poor quality of the track may interrupt work, but Virgin’s BEAM entertainment system is at your disposal, including feature films. Arrival was on time in 4h 40m from Glasgow.
THE SERVICE: Wifi worked better than on the much busier London-Edinburgh service I had taken the previous day, but was still slower than many would expect. A full meals and drinks service is complimentary for first class passengers, with sandwiches, wraps and salads available after departure and a hot evening meal after leaving Preston at 1905. This included a choice of crispy chicken with corn fritter, poached salmon with linguine or vegetarian biryani – all modest portions – but with cheese or lemon posset to follow, it made a satisfying meal. Drinks service was generous.
THE VERDICT: These less busy trains offer a good working environment – all the more so if you can bag a single seat, with the last first class carriage (usually at the front from Glasgow or rear from London Euston) having a good choice of these. You can get so much work done that the (probably) longer journey time compared to flying really doesn’t matter. And for dining and relaxation the train beats the plane every time. I found it restful at the end of a busy day to simply watch the countryside go by.
THE DETAILS: Trains operate hourly for much of the day, with a typical journey time of 4.5 hours, and fares vary widely depending on when you book. Advance tickets typically cost from £45 in standard class and £103 in first class, or from £113.80 return in standard and £268 in first. Avoid booking on the day when one-way Anytime fares are as high as £182.50 in standard and £244.50 in first! Note that in addition to the hourly service, there are slower Glasgow/Edinburgh- London trains routed via Birmingham. virgintrains.co.uk
Reviewed by Dave Richardson (2017)