Virgin Trains East Coast
THE BACKGROUND: Virgin is trying hard to win passengers from airlines on Anglo- Scottish routes, offering trains every 30 minutes on the London-Newcastle- Edinburgh route with a journey time of around four-and-a-half hours. I travelled on the 0900 departure from King’s Cross.
PRE-DEPARTURE: The first-class lounge at King’s Cross offers coffee and wifi, and the one-off pre-registration process is quick and simple.
THE FACILITIES: Most of the first class seats were reserved, with roomy leather seats in 2+1 configuration at tables and power points by windows. Email onboard the train worked well but loading websites was rather slow, and this is likely to be the case especially at busy times. Catering is a plus point with hot and cold food and drinks included for first class passengers. After tea on departure, I was tucking into a full English breakfast 40 minutes later. By the time we reached York lunch was being served, with dishes including Moroccan lamb couscous or gourmet sausage roll.
THE JOURNEY: The train quickly reached its 125mph top speed but the ride was lively at times, making it difficult to type on my laptop. Arrival in Edinburgh was a few minutes late but still under four-and-a-half hours from London.
THE VERDICT: The big plus points comparing rail with air travel are the unbroken journey from city centre to city centre, the ability to work comfortably and use wifi throughout, and the availability of a good meal service on longer routes. On all three points the train delivered, and when journey times come down to four hours on London- Edinburgh in 2018 with the introduction of new 'Azuma' trains then rail – usually marginally slower than flying on centreto- centre journeys – will win over many more business travellers. But wifi speeds need to be improved. And don't expect lots of working space, even in first class, during busy times.
THE DETAILS: Trains operate every half hour for much of the day, but fares vary widely depending on when you book. Typical fares are from £68 one-way in standard class and £142 in first class (Advance), or from £138 return in standard and £221.50 in first. ‘Walk-up’ Anytime one-way fares are £151.50 in standard and £237.50 in first. Lower fares may be available on Virgin’s Euston-Edinburgh route, but this takes about one hour longer.
Reviewed by Dave Richardson (2017)