Great North Eastern Railways (GNER)
GNER now National Express East Coast
This rail service runs from London to Inverness on a regular basis. They claim their website is:
Still the best place to buy your tickets for travel on the East Coast with 10% discount on all First and Standard Advance Fares, plus no postage and no booking fee for all purchases.
I quite often use this rail line, either from Newcastle to London or Newcastle to Inverness. The trains are normally quite clean and do run on time. The staff are helpful and there are usually buffet and or trolley services available on board.
On one occasion last year, my journey was quite badly delayed. There was flooding across England and Scotland at the time so the delay was not the fault of the train company yet the staff came round the seats and handed out forms. We were advised how to fill in the forms and freepost them in to request compensation for the delay.
I did this when I returned home and within a couple of weeks had received a letter of apology and a refund for the journey in the form or travel vouchers. these vouchers have a year in which to be redeemed, which seems quite reasonable.
Occasionally, there are groups of chavs etc who get a bit drunk and rowdy on the train, but this doesn't happen often. I have never actually seen any trouble though, just been annoyed by the noise while I tried to read! I recommend booking a seat, just so that you can guarantee having one as the journeys are often quite busy. That also helps to ensure that a group of you will be sat together.
This is a reasonably reliable service and often bargains on tickets can be found so check their website. I would recommend them and will continue to use them so if you are looking for a hassle way to travel, consider taking the train and leaving the car at home!
You know, I can tell you for nothing that Im going to enjoy writing this review far more than you will probably enjoy reading. Over the last twelve months plus, you see, I have developed something of a love / hate relationship with GNER. I love their services (particularly when benchmarked against the other UK rail companies) but I hate their staff with every vengeful bone in my body. Ill provide evidence of why this is, if youll bear with me.
GNER are an old-fashioned railway company, embracing the traditional values of the British railway. They still seem to believe that rail services should be comfortable, reliable and that they should cater strongly for customers who want to travel in style on a long journey. Virgin Rail, for example, may offer Club Class, but it always feels like an afterthought to me, with one lonely carriage tucked at the back of the train, as opposed to a GNER vehicle with several glorious first class carriages, and a restaurant car. First Great Western arent much better and then when you start to hit some of the smaller operators, its like something out of the Third World. Theres no doubt, therefore, that GNER sits way ahead of the competition in terms of style and standards and this is a key contributor in the regulators decision to renew their operating licence.
Network and Destinations
The GNER network essentially connects London and Scotland with routes that link the East Coast, Yorkshire, and the North East. In old money, GNER operates an Intercity route, only stopping at major destinations along the way.
You can get from London to Leeds in around two and a quarter hours, with trains running at half-hourly intervals at peak times. London to Newcastle can be down in three to three and a half hours with similar regularity. Obviously, the Scottish destinations take longer. The average journey time to Edinburgh is about four and a half hours; Glasgow is five and a half. Generally, the longer the route (London to Leeds is serviced as a separate route from London to Scotland) the fewer the stops along the way and fairly significant distances are covered in pretty good times.
I wouldnt, for example, replicate any of these journeys by car as unless every single speed limit is broken (big time) and the road is completely empty, youll never match the train times. Im not a huge fan of flights either. Whilst journey times are significantly reduced when comparing timetables, once youve factored in getting to / from airports, plus checking in time and the (very real) likelihood of significant delays, flying never really seems like a viable alternative to me (and thats without even considering the comforts of good food and being able to use your phone / move your legs).
Standard of Accommodation
I nearly always travel first class. As a business traveller, I simply dont want to share the carriage with hordes of noisy kids / dogs / adults (first class is seldom full to the brim). The first class carriages are always of a very high standard plenty of leg room, reclining chairs, power sockets on every train and other little touches (such as china cups and saucers) that might not be vital, but do make things more pleasant. The seats are very comfortable indeed although standard class is also pretty comfortable and there are far more seats with tables in first class than there are in second class. You also get free tea / coffee / water, plus at table hostess service, so you dont have to fight your way down to the buffet car.
That aside, the standard class carriages are still head and shoulders above most other operators. The toilets nearly always seem to be working and (fairly) clean, for public loos. The carriages tend to have a lot more storage for luggage than the new Virgin ones and the trains are also much longer, meaning that over crowding is only a problem at the very busiest times. Not being able to get a seat on a Virgin train is almost the norm. Most GNER trains now have power points at the tables too, so you can recharge your mobile / laptop. Wireless Internet is now also available on many trains but seldom seems to be used and I must admit that Ive yet to take up the offer.
In August, GNER finally came round to everyone elses way of working and banned smoking on all its trains. It stunned and amazed me to find smoking accommodation on these trains prior to this, which, despite air conditioning, impinged on the rest of the train. Of course, they cant ban the smokers themselves and occasionally you get a particularly desperate one who lights up in the toilet and sets the alarm off, leaving a lovely smoky smell behind for everyone else to enjoy.
Im not sure that GNER caters very well for passengers in wheelchairs. Not all the toilets are suitabled for disable passengers and Im not as aware of seats that can accommodate disabled passengers existing in enormous quantities. That aside, in all fairness, only somebody who is disabled themselves could probably comment on this properly.
I dont have problems with my mobile phone signal on GNER trains either. Somebody told me that the coating the windows on Virgin trains blocks your signal and this certainly seems to be the case.
Like most of the main line rail operators, GNER recently tidied up its fares to try and make things simpler. There was plenty of room for improvement! Now, the operator offers a basic range of return fares (saver return, business saver and open return) and then layers on a selection of discounted single fares on a first come first served basis.
For example, for an off-peak return journey from London Kings Cross to Newcastle a saver return costs £88.00. However, if you do the journey as two singles (and provided you book far enough in advance) the journey could cost as little as £20 standard class. Even the first class eviquialent on this basis would only cost around £60 cheaper than going standard class!
As with anything else, to take advantage of these offers, you need to book in advance and you also need to be aware that refunds arent always possible if you change your mind. Also, if you get on the wrong train (deliberately or otherwise) then your discounted ticket is invalid and you have to pay the full standard fare. GNER train managers rigorously warn of and enforce this policy too.
Nonetheless, the opportunities to save money are really there and sometimes you can still get discounts at short notice. I have booked trains 1 or 2 days before the journey and still realised significant savings this way. To make the bookings, you can either use www.thetrainline.com or GNERs own website www.gner.co.uk. Alternatively, book by telephone and enjoy your call being handled by a real Geordie as opposed to somebody in India.
Again, GNER is light years ahead of the competiton here. The food on board the trains is nothing like your usual rail fodder and whilst it is over-priced, it is at least edible. Food on the trains is prepared in a real kitchen, by real chefs (shock horror) and is really quite nice. You can either purchase snacks and drinks from the onboard shop or trolley service or if youre really hungry, why not go for a meal in the restaurant car? (Its offered to first class passengers first, but there is normally room for standard class passengers too.) If youre travelling for more than three hours, the opportunity for a good meal is very welcome indeed. Ive tried various meals guinea fowl, fillet steaks, chicken, and vegetarian dishes and have found them all to be excellent (if not rather pricey). When travelling from London of an evening, I personally think there is something rather romantic about dining on a train and I think GNER cater for this superbly.
The restaurant car isnt always what you need though and the on board shop still caters well. I am completely addicted to their hot scrambled egg and red leicester paninis, bacon toastoes and chicken caesar crepes, all of which only cost between £3 and £4 and are absolutely delicious. They also sell a good range of beers, wines and soft drinks and their Cider Vinegar crisps are too die for.
I can honestly say that if Im in meetings and I know I have a GNER train journey home I really start to long to get on the train purely because of the standard of the food.
Punctuality and Reliability
I have to say that GNER generally offers better punctuality than other operators. They dont seem to get caught up in the ridiculous excuse and blame scenarios of other operators. Trains are often 5 or 10 minutes late but long delays are unusual and I have NEVER seen a GNER train cancelled. You always know where you stand with GNER trains too they seem to use the same platforms and they have the first class and quiet coaches in the same place.
GNER staff are unconditionally and virtually withour exception ignorant, rude and portentous in fairly equal proportions. The level of service is astoundingly poor and symptomatic only of the fact that they simply dont have any competition in their particular market. On pretty much EVERY GNER journey that I make, the staff are dreadful, such that my friends and colleagues and I now find the journeys more entertaining simply by watching and waiting for the next mishap. Examples include:
The waitress who dropped a bowl of milk on the floor, splashing it up my trouser leg and then simply told me if I hadnt been stood there, it wouldnt have happened.
The waiter who would not accept my request not to have cups and saucers on my table and as fast as I moved them would replace them every time he walked past.
The platform attendant who, when asked whether the train went to Edinburgh, replied rather sarcastically I think the sign saying Edinburgh in the window and the announcements saying it goes to Edinburgh rather indicate that, dont you?
The hostess who was so busy talking to her colleague, failed to notice that she was pouring tea on my paperwork not in the saucer and who when challenged simply shrugged her shoulders and said there wasnt much spilt really.
The staff member huddle, where three staff members were chatting about TV or something and when I asked if I could get some food, replied that somebody would be along in a minute. Twenty minutes later, they were still chatting.
The train guard who, upon seeing me entering first class, dashed over, looked me up and down and asked whether I knew that this was first class.
I could go. The list is virtually endless. I also hate the fact that the train managers bombard passengers with relentless, repetitive, pointless information (the weather in Leeds, for example) over the loud speaking system, rendering any chance of rest or sleep virtually pointless.
Whilst Ive learnt to see the funny side, it does indicate to me that, all in, GNER simply dont give a fig. Their stations are adorned in posters warning that they prosecute people who are offensive to their staff (always unacceptable, of course) but they dont seem to have any kind of customer service strategy. Even letters of complaint seem to fall on deaf ears.
A good choice for comfort, reliability and catering GNER leads the way in these standards and other rail operators should take note. Basic standards of service, however, are dreadful and GNER really needs to pull its socks up.
Some of the comments on my previous op reminded me that not all GNER journeys went as smoothly as the one I described. (I'll describe it again later). I was travelling from Newcastle to Durham and noticed that there were considerable delays. I asked what the reason was and was rudely told that, in case I hadn't noticed, there had been a thick covering of snow in Scotland. There were 3 reasons I hadn't noticed :- 1. I hadn't been anywhere near Scotland on that day. 2. No-one had provided the passengers with any information whatsoever. 3. The 'thick covering of snow' didn't exist. I was told by the passengers on the train that there was no more than a thin covering of snow if that. On another occasion when I was making the same journey, which should take no longer than 15 minutes, it took 2 and a half hours. The train was already over an hour late arriving in Newcastle. We left Newcastle and stopped at Gateshead where we were told that there was a faulty rail ahead (why did they send us onto that track in the first place then?). We appeared to have been forgotten about as trains sped past us on another track going the same way. We eventually reversed back and onto the other track. By the time we finally got going the train was already 40 minutes late arriving in London. I complained and managed to get full refund. Since then, though, I've not had no more problems with trains. I decided to travel from the North East to London for the day and researched how much the return ticket would cost by coach and train. I discovered that, although the return by coach was £25, I would have to travel there and back overnight. GNER had a special offer on - £59 for a first class return rail ticket or £33 for a standard class return if you booked a few days in advance. I decided to treat myself to the first class ticket and booked 2 weeks in advance with no problems at all getting
my first choice trains and seats. The trains were on time going both ways and I actually arrived in London a few minutes early. On board the train the staff were extremely professional and helpful ensuring that I had everything I wanted and I was served with complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits throughout the journey which took 3 hours on average each way. The seats were very comfortable and I had a whole four-some to myself ensuring that I had plenty of room (quite important since I'm 6 ft 3). I didn't even need to leave my seat to go to the buffet as everything could be ordered from the at-seat menu (even if it did cost £1.90 for a can of beer - I'll buy my food and drink before I get on the train next time). The £59 I paid was a bargain for the service I received and I would recommend that anyone travelling to London should enquire about prices of train tickets as they may be a lot cheaper than you think.
- Introduction - I travel with GNER several times a year, mainly going from Newcastle to London King?s Cross, though sometimes going from Newcastle to York. This year, however, we were travelling to London King's Cross, as were doing a holiday to the south of France differently this year. We would catch the GNER to London King's Cross, have a night in London, get the Eurostar to Lille (see my op 'Why We're Going off Eurostar') then get the TGV to Marseille (see my op 'TGV So Much Better Than British Rail'). - Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) Background (from my own personal research!) - When British Rail was privatised (and no, at the age of 14 I have no idea exactly what privatisation is, nor should I even need to know, except that British Rail ceased to be owned by the government and split of into many privately run sectors ? oh wait - that's pretty much it!) The East Coast Main Line and Scotland's main rail line became part of GNER. The line essentially runs from London King?s Cross to Glasgow Central, stopping at all major stations on the way. The line does, however, branch of to Hull, Leeds, Aberdeen and Inverness though trains going out to these places are less frequent. The company mainly operates the electric 225 units, (from 1991 these are some of the most modern in Britain, with average interiors). The 225 units may look like they have 2 engines at either end but in fact, 1 is hollow and used for storing light freight, and the other actually holds and engine. Therefore in one direction (usually heading south) the train is being pushed rather than pulled. GNER also operate the rather old 125 diesel units, with brown, horrendously unfashionable interiors that make you feel sick, along with the fact the trains are slow. According to the website, GNER are to refurbish the train interiors to include the comfort and facilities of 'modern trains'. By saying 'modern trains', GNER are
practically admitting they operate an ancient and unwanted fleet. - My GNER Experience - The Journey down (Newcastle - London) was pretty uneventful and not worth reporting. The return journey was a different story. If you HAVE actually read my Eurostar op (and if you haven't, feel welcome to) you will know the turn of events leading up to this point (as my TGV, Eurostar and GNER stories all lead into each other like a trilogy. awww.) If you still absolutely refuse to read either review, I'll tell you the story. Basically, the Eurostar was due in Waterloo at quarter to 8, and the GNER train left King's Cross at half past 8 (the last train all night!) But the Eurostar arrived at Waterloo at 8:25, nearly 3 quarters of an hour late. Still, we rushed to King?s Cross (we should have thought sensibly and realized there was no way). Once there we went to the 'Information' Bureau, (as it was now around 9) and asked if there was actually a later train (the lady at Newcastle who sold us the tickets had told us it was possible to get from Waterloo to King's Cross in 3 quarters of an hour, but it was unlikely!). After telling us there was no later train, we asked about hotels. No-one there wanted to help. One said she 'didn't have the authority' and another told us to 'shop around'. The whole experience reminded me of the woman on reception in The Day Today's Swimming Pool documentary. At King's Cross we were unable to find any information on local hotels. It was now half nine and we weren't willing to walk around London with big cases at that time. We phoned a friend who told us the name of a hotel and it's number, and we caught a cab there for the night. That was lucky, but the Information Bureau should have been able to tell us, instead of a friend, and besides it was an unnecessary waste of cash, although admittedly the source of the problem was actually Eurostar. <
br>Th e nex t morning we caught the 'milk train' at 8 o? clock and we were finally going home! When the ticket inspector came round we showed him the tickets, due for last night but thankfully he said it was ok and waved us through. That was lucky, because sometimes you get ticket inspectors who go absolutely by the book. GNER trains are reasonably comfy, hardly snuggling-down positions, but not back breaking hard ness. (Unless you're in first class, which I have never travelled in on GNER). The buffet food is surprisingly good; they do a range of hot and cold sandwiches and snacks, though this is all due to the fact they have teamed up with McCoy?s. I had a toasted bacon sandwich for breakfast and it was alright, some of the other stuff is better. Unless you?re in a quiet coach I?m afraid you?ve got that constant threat: mobile phones. You will always get some noisy, annoyingly-voiced prick saying something like 'Hello? Hello? HI? hi, Dan. Yeah, I'm on a train' (start stating the obvious today). They will always have the world?s crappest ring tone as well. GNER electric trains can, when they feel like it, whack up a fair old pace, though not as fast as the TGV or anything. Still, it manages to do Newcastle-London in 3 and a half hours. Which is not too bad. Tickets are a decent price, but not overly expensive. GNER are a good company who are improving, and a good alternative to Vigin.
I used GNER on my first trip down to London. It was something around £30 the fair and it last 4 hours only stopping at Newcastle and York. The train took me from Edinburgh Waverley to London King's Cross. GNER are the main servie from London to Scotland. They do regular journeys daily. For more information on time go to www.qjump.co.uk You can book tickets in the station, online or over the phone either way you will still get the tickets. Uusally you can pick where to sit and they will have it marked for you. I didn't want to be right near the front or end but I was given carriage B. I always get a table when I am travelling on a train, the seats were actually quite comfortable and everything was very quiet until we went to Newcastle this is when all of the annoying children got on the train and where did they sit? right in front of me , I was so glad I brought music although it didn't block out the nosie much. No offence to people from New castle though screaming is just what children do, well some. There is a food trolley that comes along quite regularly on the journey where you can buy crisps, drinks and sandwiches, I bought crisps which were £1 which is a bit expensive, I suggest youy bring your own food as even in the station food is expensive. If you want to you can go to the Buffet section of the train and get food, I think it's proper meals I don't know if this is always ok though depending on times. The first class area I have never been lucky enough to go to but it looks nice from the outside. The seats look very comfortable, you get free drinks and maybe I was imagining it but it looks like you get lams at your table also, not that it's anything excellent but it gives a nicer look. The toilets are horrible as always from my experience on trains. Rubbish everywhere, small space where you cannot move and also the noise of the train moving echoes more in here then when th
e toilet flushes it frightens you the noise. I have only used this service once they are ok to go to London because they are quite cheap but I would maybe go first class another time and see if there was a huge difference. I personally prefer flying and it can be cheaper with all of the offers at the moment. The tickets are quite cheap here if you book well before the time you are going and also the trains are always on time an there. There is plenty of room to keep luggage so that isn't a problem.
I'm a regular weekend traveller on GNER lines to Leeds, Newcastle and Scotland, and I can honestly say that I've never had a journey that's gone satisfactorally. First off there is the matter of the trains running on time. Generally, on a Friday evening, the trains do leave on scheduled time from Kings Cross station, and everytime I get my hopes up for a smooth, easy journey. What normally happens though is that the trains will speed out of London, but then gradually get slower, often arriving at the first station 5 or 10 minutes late already. I normally get off at Newark or Wakefield and the train is by these points, 15 to 20 minutes late arriving, sometimes even longer. Coming back on the Sunday night, I cannot remember the last time they left on time. On my two previous return journeys the trains were 40 minutes and 20 minutes late. The latter being for vandalism and so out of GNER'S hands, but normally it's signals, speed restrictions, or the train's late on the journey coming up. The journey onboard the trains themselves is no pleasure cruise either. The seating is quite cramped, and even if you get a table seat you're in danger of getting your legs tied up with the person opposite you. The pull down trays on the back of the seats are often grimy, with unidentified, but dubious looking stains on them. Value for money for the onboard refreshments is poor. I paid over £6 for a can of lager, bottle of water, a dry ham sandwhich and bit of shortbread on my last trip. If the products were worth the money then it would not be so bad, but it's as if they think that once they have you on the train you won't be too picky because you have no choice, unless you go with your own well stocked hamper. The toilets, well, it's probably best not to mention too much, as they are very poorly maintained, and sometimes it's better to suffer the pain of holding than to venture in and risk c
atching legionnaires disease. The one laudable aspect of GNER is the staff. They are friendly and more than willing to help, often in the face of irate travellers, and within their limited means, they do try to make the trip as comfortable of possible. Overall GNER would get a 4/10, and that's just for the staff. The Government needs to hit the train companies harder with penalties, not just for trains not running on time, but for the quality of the environment we travel in. 2 and a half hours in cramped seat, desperate for the toilet, whilst chewing on barely digestable food is not worth £45.
Well, I think that's the longest title I've ever given an opinion. GNER (Great North Eastern Railways) are the main operator on the London to Scotland route, travelling as far North as Inverness from London Kings Cross. Now, I'm not going to make this quite the rant that my title suggests, there are certain things that can't be helped when travelling and the delays I've experienced in the past were nothing to do with the company (unless you count their policy of not driving over bodies on the track as a fault - yes, I did see some body parts from the jumper, not too pretty) and were not especially serious. Kids will be kids and you would expect them to cry like mad when forced by their parents to passivly smoke about 30 fags between London and York. Expense - well, anything that's booked 2 days in advance is going to be dear when you talk about train travel - blame me for bnot looking ahead and geting Apex tickets.. Journey, from conception to terminal: ------------------------------------- You've decided to visit the long lost relatives up in bonny Scotland, a trip which will cover 800 miles of travel and a week or 2 of Scottish hospitality (hic!). You live in London so what do you do? Well, the choices are - drive (yuk), fly (quick I suppose but youi've got to get out to Stanstead and in from Edinburgh's airport) or the bus (leg room? What leg room - it's a 7 hour drive if you're lucky). You've chosen to get the train. GNER's the company for the East Coast and so you decide to go with them. Booking - 3 ways to do this: In person, simply go to the station and get your ticket. Over the phone - call in and you'll get the tickets delivered to your door or Online - same thing. The rule goes, the earlier you buy ther cheaper your ticket will be, allow 2 weeks in advance for the cheapest althiough I'd reccomend a month if you
39;re organized enough. The Journey begins: On your appointed day you turn up to Kings Cross station and get on board, if you've booked in advance you'll get reserved seats so you simply find the carriage (don't be fooled, A is the furthest away from the platform entrance) and get yourself settled in. An announcement is given a couple of minutes before departure and, before you jknow it, you're off and away. The trains are usually very comfortable, roomy seats and lots of luggage space, a buffet car is always available on these trains and serves all sorts of food and drink (you can even get booze at 7 O'clock in the morning if you so wish). Beware the prices - massive, you're looking at over £2 for a coffee. This covers the food cart too, dear but with a decent selection of stuff on offer. Loos - never the best feature of a train journey, they just never seem to make the effort. Usually you'll find the seat up (even through there's warnings not to stand and pee as it ends up going all over the place) and wads of loo roll in odd corners of the cubicles. Now, we blokes are used to this type of loo from experience of pub toilets but for the ladies out there, try to sneak into 1st class. 1st Class - apparently there's an option to upgrade to this on the standard tickets, it'll cost you about a tenner and you'll get more room (and "free" tea or coffee) for the rest of your journey. Not experienced this myself but I'd assume it's worth a try. Overall: -------- The trains in the UK are rubbish, there's no denying it. Just today I heard that they've been voted the worst in the world for service! Now, with GNER I can't say I've had a lot of problems. The trains are (usually) on time, not too expensive if you've planned ahead and really beat the slog of driving (which will also cost the same as a ticket in petrol mon
ey) or the drudgery of the Coach. You get the chance to sptread your legs in the aisles and, on the whole, you will have an enjoyable trip with little cause for complaint. The service covers a lot of the East Coast so there's a lot of stops on the route - Peterborough, Stevenage, York, Doncaster, Alnwick, Newcastle, Darlington etc. You can get around quite well and the stops aren's long enough to delay the journey by much. Expect to pay from £35 - £100 for a return (dependant on the time of booking) and then just sit back and let the train take you on your way (we all remember the BR adverts don't we now). For more info see: http://www.gner.com/ Happy travelling folks.
Why fly to London? Ok, well maybe you're located in Scotland and need to visit England for work on a regular basis. Most business peeps here in Edinburgh can regularly be seen dragging their mini trolleys and their laptops out to the airport - convinced that the one and a bit hour flight down to London town is going to save them time, money and hassle. Oh - and make them look prestigious too. As if! I have been a frequent flyer on the Edinburgh - London route for five years now, and have tried BA, British Midland, Easyjet and Go. All of them are ok, but none of them are or ever will be perfect. Now it is time to confess my weakness - lately I have become a bit nervous of flying. My fear began way before September, but let's face it - recent events haven't exactly inspired confidence in airline safety. So when it came to booking my recent travel arrangements down to London for a meeting - I booked the train. THE TRAIN????? But isn't it horrible, unreliable, laughably expensive, slow, smelly, and with a level of catering that would shame the works canteen? Ummm - maybe, I thought, but at least I don't risk plummeting to certain death if it all goes pear shaped. Tell me I'm not the only one around here having similar, irrational thoughts! My first surprise was the price - my return ticket to London from Edinburgh cost £37.50, booked three weeks in advance. That makes the entire journey a simialar price to the hilariously named 'Stansted Express' that I usually rely upon to whisk me into town when I arrive in Stansted. And by the way - Stansted is as far from London as Edinburgh is from Glasgow. Figure that into your travel time next time you fly! Since I booked, GNER have offered a promotion of any journey made on their route (that now includes Glasgow too) for only £20 - but I still think I got a bargain. OK - next surprise. I was served by friendly peopl
e in the station, and my tickets were presented to me in a v. stylish wallet - difficult to lose on the journey and handy for receipts etc. Now for the journey! My seats had been reserved for me both ways, so there was no need to turn up very early to ensure I got a seat. So I only had to factor in some goodie buying time - Edinburgh Waverley has WH Smith, Boots, Costa etc. I loaded up with mags and snacks, and clambered on board. My seat was 'facing' which meant I was looking forwards as we travelled, and I was pretty comfy straight away. My table-mates were friendly and civilised, and there was no smell of smoke or anything grim like that. There is also a designated 'quiet coach' where mobiles and walkmans (walkmen?) are banned - very relaxing. I then spent the next four and a half hours ignoring the book I had brought and gazing hypnotised out of the window as the beautiful scenery rolled past me to the sound of the rails rattling away rythmically underneath the carriage. WOW. How much more relaxing is this than clinging to my seat rests for dear life during turbulence??? No contest. As I admired Englands cathedrals from the comfort of my seat I felt as if I was going on holiday. I only visited the buffet car once and that was for a cup of tea. GNER now proudly claim to offer a range of 'fresh gourmet sandwiches' - you'll forgive me if I bring my own from M&S, as even I wouldn't go that far in the name of research! The overwhelming impression I got though, was that GNER are desperately trying to offer a serious alternative to flying - and upgrading standards generally. By the time we got past York, the train was much less busy, and I was able to grab a double seat of my own to stretch out on. I nearly fell asleep - and then, bada bing! We were pulling into King's Cross station, the real life jumping off spot for all mini wizards and witches. There were only muggles in eviden
ce when I arrived, but again, I was impressed with the range of shops and services the station had to offer. Without needing to go outside (or through arrivals!) I tootled down the escalator into the underground - and was on the way to my hotel in the time it would have taken me to buy a train ticket at bloody Stansted. HURRAH!! I really can't recommend the train enough for your journey to the south of England - or vice versa. Four and a half hours flew by, and I arrived refreshed, relaxed and with no anxiety. For those of you who still need convincing, here is a handy comparison: Time spent getting to London by air: Bus from my house to Princes Street - 15 min Airport bus out to airport - 30 min Check in time - one hour Flight time - one and a half hours (to include inevitable delays) Time faffing through airport onto rail platform - 15 min Waiting time on platform - 15 min Train into London - 45 min. OK, so now we're in the centre of town. Door to door it took four and a half hours (on a good day, with no major dalays) and I'm knackered, stressed, and feel as if I'm ready for a nice lie down. Compare that to: Time spent getting to London via rail: Bus up to Princes street - 15 min Train journey - four and a half hours. And that's it - I've been sitting on my ass the whole way and I feel great. There were no incidents involving chocolate frogs on my journey - but who knows? Next time I may be whisked to another dimension!
I found myself, at short notice, having to travel from Glasgow to Peterborough for a Residential school with the OU. I called National rail enquiries and was given a long convuluted journey with a couple of stops, and a fare of about £60. Although expensive, probably equivalent to car fuel, and at least I could work on the way, I justified to myself. So I rang GNER to book. Long, long delay on answering machine. (Better to press the first class option, and they seem to be used to it). When I got through to an operator, they advise me the fare was £86, but they could do a direct journey, not as previously advised. first class, over a weekend, as I required, was £104, compared to £208 normally. Given I began the process, thinking the total journey would only be £30, I decided I might as well pay the difference for a guaranteed table to work at and so on. The negative aspects of the product were that there really was no choice for me to pay the fare quoted, there are no air links, which probably would have been just as cheap amd much quicker. the positive aspects were, once I had booked and reserved my seat, I knew I would be guaranteed a table, on which I could carry out my essential study work. This was a reasonable size, and the carriage was clean but in no way luxurious. ( My local train, to my home town is far superior.) The train was on time, both there and back, although the day after there was a massive delay, I am thankful I went early. The staff were friendly enough, although I was peeved that they offered to help a senior citizen with her light baggage, yet made no attempt to help me with my own very heavy suitcase. I would only buy this product again if the train track was the most direct route, (which it was for me on this occasion), otherwise, I am sure it would be cheaper, easier and quicker, to fly and then drive.
I used to travel between Edinburgh/Glasgow to Leeds on average twice a month to visit my (ex)boyfriend. I found that the cheapest way for me to do so was by train - National Express and other coach services were slightly more expensive and didn't run nearly as frequently so going by train seemed the best option for me. At first i had no problems with the service - it cost me roughly £35 (return ticket booked a few weeks in advance) to make the journey and it was almost always on time. It's quite a pleasant journey down the East coast and staff were always on hand if you had any problems. Although the trains aren't the most modern and could do with a touch of redecorating they were comfortable enough and because i booked in advance i always got the type of seat i wanted - window seat at a table. The only thing i ever had a problem with was the price of the food on the trains - i always took some sandwiches with me and would recommend doing so unless you want to be skint :) Things started to get bad late summer 2000. After the train crash at Hatfield GNER became a disaster. With a big crackdown on the state of the countries railways, rail companies were forced to close stretches of track to carry out safety work. Many rail companies managed to take this work into account and re-arrange their timetables around it, but not GNER. They tried to continue to run trains as normal - bad idea. I was delayed almost every time i travelled to Leeds from then on, sometimes for hours. People started to get angry on the trains - there was never enough staff to deal with all the passengers and the food would run out on trains and it was murder travelling with them. Ticket prices started to rise and because they started to cut the amount of journeys available it was dificult to get your hands on a ticket for a while. The staff were always rude on the phones and i was once told in mid-October that all services were being terminated until after
the new year - having been told this i started travelling down to Leeds the West coast, only to see GNER trains at stations in both Edinburgh and Leeds. I broke up with my boyfriend in February 2001, so thankfully i've not had the need to travel on a train south since then. I complained about the amount of time i was delayed to GNER and i recieved a voucher for £25 in March 2001. Not exactly as much as i would have hoped for the amount i had given them over the time i travelled with them, but still nonetheless i was happy to have recieved some form of compensation from them. My then boyfriend never heard back from them though even though he complained just as often as i did about his troubles with their service. I'm really disappointed because what was once a great service has turned into a disaster. I hope that they can turn their act around and get back to the way they used to be or i don't think i'll be tempted to board another GNER as long as i live.
My reviews are normally very positive but I'm afraid my experiences with GNER over the last few years have not been. The most common problem I have encountered is delays. Maybe I have just been unlucky but it seems that more than half the time I travel there is a delay at some point. A couple of times I have missed the last connections and had a stressful trip as a result. Although, to be fair, the railway staff (not GNER staff in particular) are generally helpful and try to make sure you can get to your destination eventually, even if it is a 50 mile taxi ride! I'm sure you are not interested in details of my bad experiences with GNER but one time in particular, I believe, highlights the unsatisfactory service they provide. GNER trains were not running from Aberdeen due to the Hatfield crash. So GNER firmly instructed me to wait outside the station for a bus to Edinburgh. Sure enough, the bus came, one hour late and we then found out the driver was not going to Edinburgh. By this time, it was too late for any alternative trains and I went home, got my car, and drove to my destination as I had to get there that night. A letter of complaint was not even looked at by GNER and they only refunded the price of my ticket even though I explained that the petrol costs were far higher and it was their fault I had to take my car! So that incident is part of my reason for my dislike of GNER. But I have to add that the trains can be in fairly poor condition in standard class. Often I find broken tables, noisy carriages, dirty toilets, etc. I have also had a number of occassions where I have had to stand for at least part of the journey, because the train was so crowded. Its all very well booking seats, but if you cant get to them because the train is so packed then you have wasted your time. As a plus point, if you do complain about the service they are usually good at refunding at least part of your ticket (even for
the smallest complaint). So if you are not happy, complain!!! One last negative point before you disappear and probably enjoy a flawless journey (!) is the price of the food and drink sold on the trains. You pay through the nose for a ticket, you would think they could at least set the prices so they were not offensively expensive (£3.50 a sandwich!) I seem to remember the alchohol not being such a complete rip-off (£2 a pint). Perhaps thats because they know people are going to need it!!! Anyway, hope you have better luck than I have had. At least the scenery on GNER routes is interesting. And best of all 'the scenery comes free'. On that slightly sarcastic note, I will round off by wishing you a happy and stress-free journey!
Even in the continuing weeks of train 'problems' GNER seem to have overcome most of the problems, even though it was one of their trains which derailed at Hatfield. Travelling from Peterborough to London 3 times since the delays I have found the train times to have already returned to normal, this acctually occured before Xmas so that we were acctually waiting outside the sation on the train so that we would be allowed to pull in because we were 20 mins early. Tickets are inexpensive for children, and adults are reasonable. GNER make it clear which ticket you need either in person at a GNER station or on the telephone. When you get on the train everyone makes a dive for a 4 person table seat (yes even if there is only 1 or 2 of you) More often than not i've been able to secure myself one. Regular announcmnets are made on the journey regarding any delays and the services available. Although I travel standard class I feel that the service and train itself is comparable to first class itself compared to services on WAGN and Central Trains. A trolley service provides slighlty overpriced goods and a buffet car gives a larger selection I have never used the resteraunt car myself although I have heard that, like First Class Service, is excellent. Journey times are very quick in comparsion with other companies mostly due to the direct and often non stop services on offer. A final thing to note is the Excel service offered by GNER. After 3 journeys, providing you keep your tickets you are able to apply for an air miles type rewards card which also entitles you to savings, info and free, yes FREE entry to the 1st Class Lounge at any GNER station (Kings Cross, Edinborough and many intermeiate services) regardless of your ticket purchased. Enjoy Your Journey
I can see that a lot of people have written good reviews, but I like to stray from the pack. Normally GNER provide an adequate service, but over that last few months they have gone down and down. We go to Leeds roughly every other week, and I was not impressed at all by the service of the trains. You may say I have no evidence for this, but listen for a while. More than three times the train has been stopped because it was ahead of schedule, and then had to wait for half an hour to get it back on schedule (a.k.a. late). Once, the 10.10 train and the 9.10 train were combined into the 9.30, fine if you are on the 9.10, but nobody told the 10.10 passengers anything, so 95% of them missed their train. We have also had to change to buses, but there were no signposts as to where the buses were, and so nobody, not even the policemen knew where the hell to go! However all of these pale in comparison to what happened on th 20th of January this year, we were 3/4 of a mile outside leeds station and some damn fool cut the power to the train, literally, someone put a pick through the power cable and we were stuck for 1 hour 40 mins. Though in GNER's favour the driver did try to keep us informed, every 10 mins or so, he would say we know nothing, we still know nothing, we know even more nothing etc, and they gave us a free sandwich and cold drink, although that was probably to prevent football fans from rioting. I am sorry if this sounds a bit unfair, but they really screwed up!
I have travelled with GNER twice, both times from London to Leeds. I have always been very happy; once when they had overbooked their manager was very helpful. They have a buffet car, where food is available, though it is rather expensive. Many people say that since the railways have been privatised that things have got worse. I totally disagree, GNER are far better than British Rail. Safety has not been sacrificed for profit. Other railway companies may cut back, but GNER does not. If anything they spend more than British Rail did.
I travelled to London recently on the train and was very impressed with the service I received. On the outbound journey I had no complaints, but on my return leg I found the service very good. As usual the train from London was very busy so I sat on the coach designated as 'StandardPlus' (which is reserved for those paying full price second class). When the train began its journey the guard start offering the passengers tea or coffee (fresh). I thought this was great, free coffee. Then he returned with an evening paper (free), followed by biscuits and more coffee throughout my journey. Two passengers were giving the guard a real hard time as they shouldn't of been there as they were travelling on Saver tickets, but he dealt with them professionally (I was impressed). This service was great, I settled down to a comfortable journey being filled with coffee and biscuits, and arrived back home totally relaxed.