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Definately not worthy of the name 'First'
First Transpennine Express
Member Name: Mrs-LT
First Transpennine Express
Date: 16/02/09, updated on 16/02/09 (1254 review reads)
Advantages: None that I can think of (other than that they do cover the route to Manchester and nobody else does
Disadvantages: too many to list
Well as you will know if you read my last review, I travelled from Newcastle to Manchester earlier today. I wrote my National Express East Coast review from the comfort of my train seat, and I know you can do the same for free on Virgin trains. So perhaps this is why I presumed I would be able to do the same on the second leg of my journey, which was with First Transpennine from York to Manchester.
Sadly, I was wrong. Unlike so many places nowadays (even McDonalds for heavens' sake!), the First trains do not offer WiFi which was really irritating as I had planned to catch up on emails on the way. What frustrates me most of that the Newcastle to Manchester route is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination - you can often get cheaper tickets to London actually - yet the service provided is completely substandard in comparison with that of Virgin or National Express. My ticket cost just under £60 and the leg of my journey that I travelled with First was from York to Manhchester which took 1.5 hours.
Unlike the National Express service, this one was not running on time. It arrived in York 5 minutes late and got to Manchester 7 minutes late. Not massively late but if you had an onwards connection this could cause a problem, especially when the ticket sites don't leave more than a few minutes between connecting trains.
The Transpennine Express service runs from Newcastle (or sometimes further up into Scotland) to Manchester Airport, so it is useful for anyone flying out of there. However with a journey time of over 3 hours from Newcastle to Manchester Airport I certainly would not do this given any choice - if I needed to fly from a big airport I would always do an internal flight into Gatwick or Heathrow as it is just so much more pleasant.
I have a lot more experience with First Transpennine than National Express trains as when I was younger my best friend moved to Manchester so I used to visit by train at least once a month. As I was a teenager and the First Transpennine service is the only journey which has no changes between Newcastle and Manchester I was pretty stuck with them as my parents would not let me take a service which involved changing trains, they wanted me put on one end and met at the other (I was 17 by the way so not exactly very young!). Back then, the service was uetterly atrocious. The trains were so old and they were literally like sweatboxes in the summer and freezing cold in winter. I never once managed to make a journey in summer without being sick from the heat; it was just indescribably unpleasant. There was little (if any) ventilation which just added to the awful, chlostraphobic feeling you got and I literally counted down the minutes of my journey, willing it to be over.
I did not use the service again for a couple of years as my friend relocated to Scotland, and in this time the trains were all scrapped and replaced with new ones, so I was confident that when I travelled to Manchester in October 2008 I would have a completely different experience, as being brand new the trains would be state-of-the-art and rival the Virgin trains surely. Unfortunately this was being rather too optimistic. While the carriage temperature is much improved, the service has not. It is like travelling in an old fashioned train with a modern exterior.
The seats are narrower than on National Express and the tables are also much narrower which causes big problems if TWO people are both using laptops as there just is not enough room. Surely they could have thought the sizes out a bit more carefully!
The window table seats do have a power socket though, which is very useful for charging laptops or phones. Hard luck if you aren't seated next to one but this is the same on all standard class trains so it is not a problem that is specific to First Transpennine in fairness.
In the entire journey the refreshments trolley did not come round once which again just really lowers the standard...they were quick enough to check tickets though!
Overall, I would not recommend First Transpennine to anyone but unfortunately if you are travelling from Newcastle to Manchester by train you will have no choice but to endure half of your journey with them.
Summary: Aviod unless it is unavoidable
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