THE JOURNEY: I travelled first class on LNER’s new super-fast Azuma train service between London King’s Cross and Peterborough, which took less than an hour. It was the first of 65 new LNER trains using Japanese bullet train technology engineered with the help of Hitachi. This month the new East Coast service will extend its reach from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh and the North East of England, cutting the journey time from London to Edinburgh from an average five-and-a-half hours to four. Upon boarding, I was greeted by friendly staff and shown to my seat.
THE SEAT: Compared with the existing trains, the Azuma’s First Class carriages have more legroom, larger tables, reclining seats with adjustable headrests, and both USB charging and plug sockets at every seat. Coaches on nine-carriage Azuma trains are longer, enabling space for 101 First Class seats, 510 Standard seats and 10 toilets. The on-board wifi worked really well for simple tasks such as checking emails.
THE SERVICE: The LNER service provides an inclusive first-class offering, which includes food and drink. All First Class travellers are offered a complimentary two-course meal, with three-course meals served on evening trains coming out of King’s Cross. New dishes prepared in the onboard kitchens using locally-sourced ingredients and served by attentive staff include stilton and broccoli quiche, vegetable curry and chicken cassava, all of which tasted surprisingly delicious. Proper cutlery and crockery made my on-board experience feel much more civilized than your standard commute. There’s a seemingly limitless supply of tea and coffee and passengers travelling in standard class have access to the Let’s Eats Café Bar and on-board trolley service.
THE VERDICT: The First Class experience was akin to the service you would expect on a decent airline. I was well fed and watered, the carriage felt quiet, and I had plenty of space to spread out and work.
THE DETAILS: LNER operates more than 1,000 services a week between London King’s Cross and Inverness, calling at key East Coast cities in the East Midlands, North East and Scotland. Advance First Class single fares between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh can be found for as little as £79.50 when booked well ahead. For more information see: lner.co.uk
Reviewed by Sasha Wood (2019)