“ Great North Eastern Railway. „
Now that GNER has been taken over by National Express. the service has gone down hill, once upon a time you could board a modern electric 225 service from Newcastle and travel in comfort anywhere on the East coast mainline, now everytime I have traveld I have been stuck on one those old Intercity 125 pre 1980 trains, the carriages are dirty, uncomfortable and not all of the trains have been modified with the laptop/mobile power supplies which means that a 3.5 hour journey from Newcastle to kings cross becomes boring to say the least if you can't power your computer or charge your mobile, the trains are more cramped unlike the 225 service which has much more space than the old 125 service for wheelchairs, prams and bikes etc, and as for the free WiFi, well no wonder they are giving it away, you can never get online because they are using a poor quality GPRS connection which at the best of times is slower than 28K dialup internet, it is crashing always and they do nothing about it, staff are rude and can't be bothered, toilets are just terrible, pee and poo everywhere, they are cramped and stink, just so un-hygenic and to top it all off when National Express took over they put all of the modern trains down south! They don't even service the North East hardly! Now I look to use Virgin Cross Country when ever I can, well done Virgin you have got it sorted and I think National Express should take a leaf out of Virgin trains and start servicing the East Coast mainline with the newer 225 trains again like GNER did!
Living in Belfast, the journey from London to Leeds by rail is not one we make very often.
However, last Friday I had an important medical appointment in Reigate, Surrey at the start of a weekend we were scheduled to spend with my mother in Yorkshire.
I therefore bought first class advance purchase tickets online to travel north on the 13.05 service from Kings Cross.
Unfortunately, my medical appointment lasted longer than anticipated.
When we got to Redhill Station we discovered there were delays because of a landslide at Haywards Heath and when we got to London Bridge there were further delays on the Northern Underground Line.
The result was we missed our train by two minutes despite a frantic dash up the escalator.
We then found out just how unpleasant GNER staff can be.
We approached a young man in the GNER Travel Centre and explained our predicament.
He left us to confer with someone else twice, returning with another man on the second occasion.
This man did not even approach the counter but stood someway back and loudly demanded (and I mean demanded) to know why we had not changed at East Croydon and taken the Thameslink train to Kings Cross.
We explained we had been advised not to do that as the Thameslink Station is 300 yards from Kings Cross Mainline and we had several items of luggage.
The underground, on the other hand, has an exit right in the station concourse.
He and the original young man we had spoken to then wandered off again.
His attitude proved too much for my wife who was already stressed after my medical appointment and the series of delays we had encountered. She broke down.
Not one member of GNER staff had a kind word to say and simply ignored the fact she was distressed.
The young man then returned and told us our first class tickets were being transferred to the 14.35 train.
We were sternly warned if we missed this train - how he thought we would do that I don't know - the tickets would become invalid.
We left the Travel Centre and decided to wait for our train in the First Class Lounge.
However, there was yet more humiliation to come.
The member of staff on the reception desk looked at our tickets and said they were 'the wrong type of first class ticket'.
As they were 'cheap advance purchase' we could not use the First Class lounge.
Apparently, there are different classes of first class on GNER.
We were forced to wait in the customer lounge situated beside the station entrance.
However, it must also be said when we did board our train it was extremely comfortable and the staff very helpful and friendly.
It was also very punctual.
But I'm afraid our experiences at Kings Cross will make us think twice before travelling with GNER again.
I am a student living in Edinburgh, however I originally come from Yorkshire and travel back on a regular basis. I have found the train service from GNER to be excellent and will try to convey what I like, and also dislike about the service.
One of the advantages of being a student is the student railcard. I obtained my railcard free of charge from my bank and it is valid unitl 2007. The card offers 34% discount on all travel and gives real value for money. I understand that not many people will have a railcard, or be eligable for one, however if you do use the trains regularly and are able to get one it is well worth it (it is possible to buy one). A disadvantage of the trains is with the pricing system. If you can book early and specify dates and times then you can get a very reasonable price. However if you wanted to travel at short notice and all the cheaper tickets have gone, remaining ticket prices can be through the roof.
With regards to the speed of the trains, a car journey from Edinburgh to Yorkshire typically takes between 3 and 4 hours. The train however takes only 2 to 2.5 hours, a significant reduction in journey time. I often experience trains that arrive early at my destination and only once in two years has there been a delay.
Moving onto the trains themselves, many have been recently upgraded further improving the service. Even when travelling on the older trains they are comfortable and provide all the facilities you need. The new trains have wireless internet, power sockets in all carriages, and increased leg room. A mobile buffet moves throughout most services, and there is a buffet carriage offering a good selection of snacks to keep you going. There is room at either end of carriages for larger luggage items, and a luggage rack above all the seats to hold smaller backs and coats etc. As far as I know you can even take bikes on the train - and I have seen people with dogs also.
I have always been impressed with the quality of servivce from the GNER staff. Particularly, on one occasion I forgot to bring my student railcard and my ticket was only valid if I could show it. After reasoning with the ticket collector I escaped having to buy another ticket on the train and was allowed to complete my journey.
In conclusion if you have a journey to make, take the train. Paricularly GNER where available. I think you will find the service supprisingly good.