The journey to which this review refers is that on a ‘Pendolino’ train from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly, calling at Crewe, Wilmslow and Stockport.
Euston is not the most inspiring of the London terminals, having lost most of its character during redevelopment work in the mid-1960s including the demolition of the Arch and the Great Hall, to accommodate the electrified West Coast Main Line, and the revamped station still attracts criticism over its architecture.
However, one thing it does have in its favour is the Virgin Trains First Class Lounge. It can be found upstairs above the food court and is the place where the First Class experience begins.
The First Class Lounge at Euston
All that is needed to make use of the lounge for up to two hours before the outward journey is to present a valid Virgin Trains First Class ticket. In the Lounge are comfortable chairs and tables at which to enjoy all the free hot and cold drinks, pastries, muffins, cookies and fresh fruit. Alcoholic drinks are available at certain times during the day. There are also free newspapers and free Wi-Fi. Departure information is readily available via screens. The toilet facilities provided were also very clean and free to use.
All in all, a much nicer way to spend the time waiting for the train!
Boarding the famous Pendolino train
On boarding a First Class coach, the difference from Standard Class is immediately apparent. There are no ‘airline’ style seats and instead of having pairs of seats on each side of the central aisle, some being at tables, First Class has a single line of seats on one side and pairs of seats on the other, each seat being at a table. Every window seat has a plug point for iPhones, laptops and tablets. The seats are wider and generally more comfortable than those in Standard Class, with more leg room.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided in First Class.
The on-board service
All food and drink was served at the table by staff who were friendly, helpful and efficient. Unlike the current vogue for plastic cutlery during air travel, real stainless steel is the material of choice for Virgin.
Within ten minutes of leaving Euston, fresh coffee and tea were brought round, served in china mugs, followed by fresh fruit juice and cereals. Almost immediately orders were taken for breakfast itself, this being a morning journey. A good choice of food was on offer, ranging from a “Full English”, through various types of egg dishes and rolls, to smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
Also offered were toast, marmalade and jams and fresh fruit.
Breakfast was very tasty and was served piping hot. As an additional plus free bottles of water were available as well
In summary, although travelling First Class is more expensive, as an experience it is not to be missed, even if just as a ‘one-off’.
The train journey itself
The journey from Euston to Manchester takes just over 2 hours. It is not one of Britain’s most scenic trips, but for train buffs, watch out at Crewe for the Heritage Centre on the left hand side just after Crewe North Junction signal box. The original Advanced Passenger Train can be seen in the sidings.
Brian's top tip:
Watch out for the seat sales held by most of the train operators, where tickets can be booked in advance at a good price reduction. Sometimes they will only charge £10 to upgrade to First Class.