Wednesday 6 May 2015

The Usual Train

First Class at-seat catering, included in
ticket price and brought to our table
The recent birth in London of our first grandchild has given rise to more trips to the capital than has become the norm, and yet when I stop to think about it, we do actually go there quite often for various reasons.

Occasionally we have driven there but always regret it - the car is something we have to put up with if taking something or someone for which the train is inappropriate.

The trip to our family in west London involves two changes, at Peterborough from our local Cross Country train to (now Virgin Trains) East Coast, and at Kings Cross into a Hammersmith & City Underground train: both of these are simple and the journey is accomplished very easily.

Standard Class at-seat catering, bought from
If we can book early enough (which was not the case when the baby was born!) we travel First Class on the main line. Although it is a short trip on which we are not offered a hot meal as part of the ticket price, we do get drinks (but not wine at weekends!) and snacks on the way there and sandwiches and cakes as well on the return. But it is also much more restful in First: there is more space and a reclining seat and larger table, and fewer passengers in the coach mean less movement, less luggage, less noise (and shorter loo queues!), especially since not many leave their seats to buy things from the Foodbar: all we are likely to need is brought to our tables. Standard Class is OK and we do use it sometimes, and on a short trip like this it is more than all right on this line. A refreshment trolley service is available of drinks and snacks for sale, but when booking early enough we usually get First at such a low fare that it seems penny-pinching not to use it - especially if we'd be buying coffee and biscuits in Standard!

We do not usually bother with First Class for the hop from Stamford to Peterborough (or anywhere else on this line, come to that!) because we can seldom find low enough fares, the extra comfort is not  great and the duration is less than a quarter-of-an-hour. Sometimes, though, as on our way back from last summer's break on the south coast, we can get a cheap enough through fare to Stamford.

It is quite possible to use Great Northern trains rather than East Coast between Peterborough and London, but most of these are very much slower and somewhat less comfortable, and do not carry refreshments. We used to use them at one time but hardly ever do now, especially since Virgin Trains East Coast Advance fares often undercut them anyway. If budget matters more than speed, and advance booking is not possible, then Great Northern trains are perfectly acceptable.

Take a card ... saving money on the railway
Travelling together we use our Two Together Railcard to obtain the very best fares, or if I'm travelling alone I use my Senior Railcard instead. In London our Oyster cards are an easy way of paying for our local travel needs, and I have linked my Senior Railcard to mine to minimise fares in London. My fare from Kings Cross to Hammersmith is 80p cheaper each way than the non-railcard fare.

Returning from London it is important to allow plenty of time to get to Kings Cross if using Advance tickets because they are valid only on one train (and include seat reservations on it), and if we have time to spare there are many ways to pass it: a drink in the Parcel Yard bar, or a meal in one of the many eating places if travelling Standard Class.

The various places to eat are mostly located on the upper level of the concourse and there is direct access from that level to escalators down to the platforms at the Standard Class end of the trains. If travelling First Class we tend to wait at the lower level so that we can more easily walk to the First Class end of the platforms. We can then relax as the crew look after us until we change at Peterborough for the last few minutes to Stamford. We find the 19:30 departure from London gives us a nice length of wait for the connections: not so tight as to make us worry if our East Coast train is delayed by a few minutes (as it was last time), nor so long as to feel like a waste of time - for there is not much to occupy oneself at Peterborough rail station!

We really do need later trains on our local line, though, especially on Saturdays when the service finishes an hour earlier than in the rest of the week. A half-hourly service would be good, too, to end the 55-minute wait for connections which can happen at some times of day, but later trains so that it is possible to leave London after an evening engagement would be really good: see An Evening in the City.

1 comment:

  1. so, congratulations on the new arrival...well not so new anymore, but in terms of :)
    You folks do have some great adventures...I enjoy reading your train information and have managed to glean a few tips....thanks for that.
    Thanks again for downloading the App, I do hope you enjoy it......that's my baby, and like a real baby it needs constant attention....I spend hours of my free time researching events in London....I initially tried to stick with just the free events and the annual/traditional events...but sometimes something comes along that even though it costs £'s I upload it anyway coz it looks amazing.
    I do enjoy it though....also keeps me up to date on things to do.....and in the process I wear myself out and go to work to recover LOL
    Have a great evening.