Newest Review: ... take it. I commute Sheffield to Manchester and back every day. Problems include: There is always a scramble to get a seat, as TP only put o... more
Not Quite Express Service
First Transpennine Express
Member Name: musicmad2020
First Transpennine Express
Date: 09/08/10, updated on 18/06/11 (1134 review reads)
Advantages: Can be cheap if booked online, many routes to choose from
Disadvantages: Seats arn't comfy, not always enough space for luggage
On average, I travel with Transpennine Express every three weeks (usually there and back) on the Cleethorpes - Manchester route, and more recently their service from Middlesbrough where I am at uni. I have been travelling with them all my life on a regular basis, so I hope I can give you an informed review on my experience with them.
From 2006, Transpennine Express brought in their new range of trains which have given an overall more positive customer experience as opposed to the old trains which were certainly "past it", by the time the company pulled them from their routes. They are now easy to spot purple/pink and blue trains, which operate a number of routes in the north of England and also Scotland.
On board, Transpennine Express trains have purple seats which in all honesty are not comfy if you are doing the entire route from Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes, yet they are adequate for journeys lasting about an hour. I definitely think there is room for improvement though, as East Coast trains seems to have much comfier seating in standard class than Transpennine express do.
There is a mixture of standard two seaters which face both forwards and backwards, and then about 4 tables per carriage. There are also radiators that run alongside all of the seats, although I'm not sure how often these actually get turned on! There are typically 3 carriages in total, with half a carriage dedicated to 1st class, and the rest standard class. There are also toilets located in each carriage.
In terms of cleanliness, it can be a bit of hit and miss. It is certainly unpleasant if you happen to be sat in close proximity of the toilet, and sometimes if you get on TPE trains towards the end of the route, it can be littered and generally a little grubby. I definitely think the inside of the trains could do with a deep clean every once in a while, particularly down the sides of seats as it's just nasty. Again for short journeys though, it's never too much of an issue and certainly not the worst I have seen.
The catering service on Transpennine Express services leaves alot to be desired, that's if it happens to be running on your service. Expect to be offered tea and a range of chocolate and crisps at not too outrageous prices. This is fine for shorter journeys, but again 3 hours to Manchester can seem a very long time with just a cup of tea and a Mars Bar! I think it would be great if they followed suit and offered a variety of hot pinini's and toasties, like East Coast and Cross Country do.
In terms of the staff, on the whole I find them quite polite and helpful. I have more recently encountered a conductor who made me re-buy my ticket, despite me telling him I didn't have any money on that card to do so. He was quite rude about it, considering it was a genuine mistake. This was also a little humiliating, however as this has only happened to me once it's not something I would normally expect from their staff who are usually quite the opposite in attitude.
A definite room for improvement would be in regards luggage and seating space. At peak times during the holiday season, when many families are heading to the airport, there is simply not enough room for larger cases as the luggage racks are tiny. There are overhead racks for smaller bags, but in terms of bikes and suitcases and other larger items, you can often expect to be hard pushed to find a storage space for them.
Between Sheffield and Manchester, there is also a very high customer demand meaning there aren't always enough seats. I was once at Sheffield on a Transpennine Express train whereby they did add an extra 3 carriages, but I have only seen this happen once. It is not nice to see people standing especially when they give you evil looks!
When it comes to fares, as always advance and online is the best way to go. If I book a return to Meadowhall which is a 90 minute journey, at least a week in advance then I can usually get this for about £8 return. However, buy at the station or on board and you can be left with a nasty shock!
If you are not a fan of rail replacement bus services, you probably will not be a fan of TPE. Last summer, all TPE services between Cleethorpes-Doncaster were closed for about 4 months for some unexplained reason. This meant the only option was to find alternative means of transport or use the rail replacement bus. I have since had to go via a rail replacement bus on their services, so it's not as uncommon as you would think. This is fine in terms of it still gets you there, it's just I paid to go on a train, not a clapped out 1970's coach! Enough said.
In our local train station, there is a sign claiming that TPE get 98% customer satisfaction for being a reputable train company/on time services. I can certainly back them up on the most part, however I have also waited 2 hours for a delayed train in the freezing midwinter at Doncaster station. On that note, I think they should adjust their timetable as people getting off at Doncaster waiting for their connecting train to Cleethorpes are often faced with a 45 minute wait, as the service only runs every hour.
Overall, Transpennine Express makes for a pleasant travelling experience but it's certainly nothing special and there is room for improvement. As they provide the main train route out of my hometown, I will probably continue to use TPE for many years to come. In the future, I hope that they will consider increasing their hourly service, particularly at peak times and consider adding more luggage and seating space. I think TPE and customers alike would also benefit from a more desirable trolley service.
Summary: A good train company, but not a brilliant one
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