* Prices may differ from that shown
I travelled on an advance ticket from Birmingham New Street to London Euston on a slow stopping train, didn't bother me it had so many stops as the fare was only £8 an absolute bargain.
This isn't the first time I have used London Midland as I worked in Coventry a few years ago and used them for local journeys between Coventry & Birmingham but this was the first time I'd used them for a trip to London or any long distance journey.
The train turned up on time which was great it pulled in on platform 3A and we were allowed straight on to find a seat. The train was very clean & tidy, modern looking and the seats were rather comfortable although I've been on better. At this point there's plenty of seats available as we were the first stop.
The announcements made by staff were very clear and easy to understand and felt very professional yet friendly and not too scripted, I think that's better and makes it more relaxed and friendly rather than dull formal scripted messages that show no personality.
The train set off from New Street on time which is great but that's when I remembered that London Midland don't have wifi on trains, a long distance train operator in this day should have wifi for a company who is supposedly modern... this was very disappointing, I did know that before I booked but forgot until I got onboard.
The train also has no catering facilities, not even a trolley service which is also frustrating, not too much as I don't always use them but its nice to have it incase as I hadn't had time to grab a drink before hand as my coach got me in late so wasn't much time.
The train got very busy as we hit Coventry and further down it was crowded as commuters piled onboard. This is when it got a little hot and uncomfortable for about 40mins until we hit London Euston.
At Northampton the train had no driver all of a sudden so we waited for another one and got delayed 15 minutes however staff kept making friendly announcement apologies for this which was good that they kept us informed.
I would use London Midland again the journey was only 2 hours 30 mins (ish) and the train was comfy plus it only cost me £8 but would choose other operators over them for the reason they have no wifi which is annoying.
I have to say first off that, although I am far from being a snob, I do not tend to use public transport unless absolutely necessary. This is simply as I don't mind driving and will happily travel around to wherever in my car. This has included in the past London for days of shopping, sightseeing and seeing shows. But as the price of fuel increases, and the congestion charge and parking fee's rise I have started to look into public transport more and more and on a recent trip to London myself and my boyfriend decided to try the train.
We had heard that the train prices were increasing and figured that when we added it all up the price would be about the same as the cost of driving down to the capital from just outside Birmingham. We first looked at the Virgin line which was giving us prices of around £70!!!! And that was each! I mean I know we had planned to go down there on a Saturday but still! After the shock at the prices I looked at the trainline.co.uk site and this highlighted the London Midland service on the weekend rather than Virgin. I popped in our details and the times we wanted to travel expecting a similar price to appear on the screen.
At first look the price seemed only around £10/12 difference, but then I noticed that if I tweaked the times a little the savings could be huge! By picking a train just 40 minutes earlier on the way there, and coming home an hour earlier on the Sunday I could get a return for £19 each! I couldn't believe it! £19 as opposed to Virgin's £70 price tag. ~So as we knew we could not get anywhere near to London for any cheaper in the car we ordered the tickets. Within 2 days they arrived and we were ready for the off.
We caught the train from the start of its journey at Birmingham New Street, it was on time, and there were plenty of seats to choose from. The exterior of the carriages looked clean enough and pretty new. Inside the carriage was more basic and the seats were quite crammed together, you had little leg room and the seats weren't very wide. Two sets of seats per carriage also had a table seat which was nice if you wanted more room but these we're taken up quite quickly. Each seat has a fold down table attached to the seat in front but with these down you are very limited on space. I also noticed that the tables were dirty with mark all over them. Overall the carriages weren't very clean or tidy and were in need of a good clean and some TLC.
However, we thought that for the price we had paid we could put up with this for the sake of 2 and a bit hours and the journey kept to time and went quickly. There are 9 stops in total including Birmingham New Street, the journey takes the following route:-
Birmingham New Street
The journey took around 2 hours, and as the carriages got full with many passengers having to stand. This made the cramped feeling more overwhelming but thankfully not for very long. London Midland trains run around every 20 minuted from Birmingham so you do have plenty of choice to pick and choose.
The train arrived in London Euston dot on time and our return journey the next day also ran just as smoothly, and was very quite so we had plenty of room. I have to say that the cleanliness of the train however was much the same.
Overall our experience of the London/Midland route from Birmingham was good value. For around £20 (or cheaper) you can get a return from Birmingham to Euston and have a lot of choice on times. The route is quick, and was on time in our instance, and was much easier and cheaper than driving down to London. But you only pay for what you get, simple, cramped carriages that do need a clean and tidy up and a packed train most of the way there. You also get to see countless Virgin trains fly past you at breakneck speed while you chug along. But saying that for conveinence and price I will definatly travel London Midland again!
Living as I do in the west Midlands, London Midland are the people who run most of the trains I use - and since I don't have a car, riding the rails is the only way I can travel long distances unless I can cadge a lift from someone. I noticed the other week that London Midland had come right in the middle of the pack in Passenger Focus's latest satisfaction study of train operating companies, and I think that that was probably a fair result on the whole.
London Midland is really two operations under one name. Firstly, there is the long-distance service from Liverpool to London via Birmingham. This flies under the radar to some extent, which surprises me a little in these cost-conscious times, because there are some excellent fares to be had - and I'm talking about walk-up fares too, not ones you can only get if you book two months in advance and give a secret handshake at the ticket office. If you don't mind travelling at a quiet time of day, you can go from Birmingham to London and back for £17. You can even sit down, if you ask nicely. The catch is that you can only use this ticket on London Midland's own trains, but there are enough of those that it's not an enormous problem.
Now, Virgin would probably point out that their trains were better, which is a point with which I would *partially* agree. Their (electric) Pendolinos are certainly quite a bit faster: London Midland will take anything up to 2 hours and 25 minutes on this trip, whereas Virgin can shave a full hour off that time. On the other hand, the (also electric) Class 350 Desiro trains that London Midland now use are really rather comfortable, and apart from a quite stupidly loud air conditioning system are quite acceptable for a journey of this length. They'll also take you to Liverpool, which Virgin no longer serve!
The other half of London Midland is the one with which I have much more personal experience, and that is the dense network of local services that radiate from Birmingham. Here they operate a mish-mash of trains, some of them very pleasant (the Class 170 Turbostars used on Hereford services, for example) and some of them... well, less pleasant. Into the latter category falls the innovative Parry People Mover used on the very short Stourbridge branch line, which has a truly appalling bumpy ride, worse than any bus, though this isn't helped by the poor state of the track. Also in the "less pleasant" column are the 25-year-old Class 150s that run through my local station. These have 3+2 seating, which is unusual these days and can get very uncomfortable in the rush hour.
And talking of the rush hour, London Midland have now succumbed to temptation and joined some other companies, especially those which operate in and around the capital, in introducing an evening peak period. This applies for trains running to, from or through central Birmingham, which means that a ticket which last year would have cost me around £5 is now more like £7 on weekdays unless I hang around in Birmingham until after six o'clock. I am not terribly pleased by this: I appreciate that overcrowding is a problem, but can't we just for once have a solution that isn't a variation on "Let's put the fares up!"?
I am pleased to say that London Midland still employ guards on their trains, though they seem to be called conductors officially. I'm not a huge fan of driver-only operation as used widely in the south-east: I don't have any particular concerns about safety, but it is nevertheless reassuring to know that there is a second member of staff permanently on board. There are also the usual roving ticket inspectors, though frankly I wish there were more of them as I despise fare dodgers with a passion. A few stations are having automated barriers installed, about which I have mixed feelings (again, I prefer human beings doing the checks).
There hasn't been an enormous amount of new investment visible at stations since London Midland took over, but to be fair to them there has been some. My local station has had a ramp and footbridge installed - although both took massively longer than they should have done to construct - and new signs, electronic and otherwise, have gone up in many places. (Unfortunately London Midland's corporate typeface for station signage - thin white lettering on a black background - is not very easy to read in poor light, and is absolutely not an improvement on the very clear BR-era signs.) There still aren't enough public toilets, though - admittedly hardly a problem confined to the railways.
Reliability and punctuality have certainly improved enormously from the latter days of Central Trains, which by the end of its franchise term really didn't seem terribly interested in running a decent service. My local station now has both the highest patronage and the most frequent services it has ever enjoyed - and it opened in 1852! (The best ever, yes. The glory days before Dr Beeching were not quite the unqualified delight some people - including me - can be tempted to see them as.) The old stock probably does contribute, however, to a slightly less impressive record than I'd really like.
So, some pluses and some minuses, which fits in with what I said up top about the Passenger Focus survey. My local line is due for some new trains in the next year or two, although whether they actually materialise is anyone's guess, and what's going to happen if people hate their design (fewer seats and more standing space) is too. In general, I think London Midland have carved out a decent niche for themselves, and apart from the high fares - which are to a large extent the fault of central government, who now have a lot more control over the railways than I think many people appreciate - I feel they do a reasonable job.
These trains are not great to look at, but a definite improvement from the old ones. It is not worth travelling first class on these trains as the seats are not noticeably larger and the service is the same to the naked eye. The exception is if you are willing to pay for a plug socket to use your laptop, as these are not available in standard class. There is not much room for your luggage here either.
The trains are pretty slow, taking two hours to get from Birmingham to London, however you can get this route for just £5 if you book far enough in advance. This is the only real selling point, as there is nothing great about these trains. The staff also seem to be more moody than Virgin staff, but that's probably just my personal experience (or maybe this is caused by them wishing they were elsewhere? It's a feeling I've often had on these trains).
In my experience, the trains running from Birmingham New Street to the rest of the idlands are more reliab;e than the route to London.
This is the first time I have travelled on a train in a couple of years after being a regular commutor.
I travelled to Birmingham from Wellington (return) with my husband, 5 year old and 2 year old.
The outward journey was great, the train was on time, clean and not very busy. We were able to sit comfortably and not worry about the children - especially the younger one annoying people.
When we arrived at Birmingham we checked the timetable to see what time the trains ran home so we would not be hanging around too long at Birmingham with 2 young children.
So we were at the station in plenty of time to catch the train - however it was cancelled. To be honest I know these things happen but it was the lack of information as to why and what we were meant to do. This was very frustrating especially with 2 children and that the next train to Wellington was not displayed which meant we did not know which platform. Once you have gone through the ticket check at New Street there is no where to sit other than on the platforms - really inconvenient with 2 children and with me with bad back trouble. Yes ok there are cafe's pubs to sit in but obvioulsy you need to buy something - not cheap when there are 4 of you and you just want to sit down. My 5 year old then announces she needs the toilet - obviously and hour and then the journey time home was too long for her to wait so off we went to the toilets.The charge 30p to use this facility - great but I had no change on me so that meant we had to go back out into Birmingham to find toilets.
Anyway once the train arrived due to the previous one being cancelled this one was totally packed with people standing/squished in the aisle. I do not see how/why they are allowed to do this as I cannot see how it is safe should be unfortunate enough to have an accident. Luckily we got a seat with our children on ours laps but had I not the amount I paid for the ticket - which worked at the same price as driving and parking to Birmingham I would not have been too happy. I felt sorry for some people in particular though - there were so many young people on seats leaving all the elderly to stand. I would have offered my seat but there was no way I was standing with a child although I did make a point of asking a younger person to give up their seat.
This train was full up until the last stop with people standing the whole way despite people getting off at many stops - more people just seemed to pile on.
They encourage us to use public transport etc. but to be honest experiences like this do not give you faith.
If the previous train had not been cancelled then it would have meant we would have travelled back before the majority of the shoppers had finished, as it happened we travelled back at 5pm which after this I think is perhaps the worse time.
I will use the trains another try but only for a short distance and mostly because my children enjoyed the adventure. I will definately avoid travelling past 5pm.
As a regular commuter into London I spent years being frustrated by my train journey. With the advent of the congestion charge trains into London became busier and busier and essentially over crowded to the point where I discovered that I was travelling into work earlier and earlier in the mornings... along with more people who had the same idea!
Initially my service into London was provided by Silverlink trains. This changed almost overnight with the introduction of London Midland trains,. The next big change was the introduction of Oyster cards which enabled me to have a cheaper journey...so far so good!
London Midland may be the beneficiary of good timing, but there is no doubt that the train journey into London from Watford Junction has improved a great deal in the past year in particular.
The first big change was the introduction of new trains. the trains come with better seats, air-conditioning, more toilets and much bette rlighting. You immediately feel safe when you board them. The announcements are better and clear and there are up to the minute screens inside that tell you which stations are being approached.
The next big change was the introduction of longer platforms, so that bigger trains could arrive at our stations. Suddenly...we had space to sit! It is regular in the mornings and evenings now that each train has at least twelve carriages....they used to have four!
Next, the stations were all improved. We had better lighting and security guards late in the evenings which made everyone feel much happier. Better fencing was introduced and the areas directly outside of our stations were painted and new signage erected.
All in all it was a good deal for commuters north of London, particularly at weekends with more frequent Sunday services.
The staff remained the same and yes, it is fair to say that some leave a lot to be desired, but more staff are friendlier before, perhaps in part to happoer commuters on the journeys. I particularly like the extra guards in the mornings who ensure that everyone pays their fares, this of course, reduces the amount that we all play.
All in all the deal that we as commuters get into London is improving which is only good news. The advent of the Oyster and the acceptance of this on London Midland trains has also helped reduce the cost of fares into the centre of the city.
The service runs from London Euston and now goes as far as Liverpool, but primarily it is used as a cheaper, yet longer commuter option to Birmingham.
The website is excellent also and has a great range of special offers, live up to date timetable information and essentially, information regarding track closures and engineering works.
I am for the first time in a long time a happy commuter and even if rarely I am unable to get a seat now...at least I more often than not feel chilled by refreshing cold air!
I have been commuting by train daily between Coventry and Birmingham for almost four years now and the change in reliability that I have experienced recently with London Midland trains has prompted me to write this review.
The main London Midland route runs between Liverpool Lime Street and London Euston. With regards to my journey, London Midland took over from Central Trains in November 2007 providing the service that calls at the local stations between Coventry and Birmingham.
As I touched on earlier, the main purpose of this review was to discuss the reliability of London Midland trains. Up until about two months ago I would have described it as poor with me being delayed on average by at least ten minutes at least once a week. Even when the delays on the trains were not particularly long, dependant on where I was travelling to or whether I needed to get a bus at the other end, slight delays could end up adding an hour to my journey. Now I accept not all delays are down to the particular train company but for the numerous delays of 6-10 minutes that I experienced, it was common that no explanation would be given so I can only presume it's a London Midland issue. My experience of late, however, has been a much more positive one with the trains that I catch (usually between 8am and 9am travelling to Birmingham and between 4pm and 6pm travelling to Coventry) being on time. It's funny how a train actually turning up when it's supposed to is seen as a positive!
For delays, London Midland have a compensation scheme called "delay repay" whereby for delays of 30 minutes or more you can claim compensation (in the form of London Midland vouchers), the amount of which depends upon the actual length of the delay and the type of ticket you have i.e. a single or return. I personally don't think the compensation given reflects the inconvenience caused but I accept it would probably cost them too much as a business otherwise. My usual significant delay is for between 30 and 59 minutes for which I get £1 worth of vouchers. Sometimes it hardly seems worth claiming however for those on a direct debit scheme, you can now save your vouchers up and return them once a year in exchange for cash. I envisage having enough vouchers to cover the cost of my direct debit for one month which is £64. This was not always the case for those on a direct debit scheme as this policy was only really introduced about 6 months ago so up until then you were given vouchers which were of no use as you paid for your ticket direct from your bank. I didn't lose out totally as I used to sell them to my brother at half their value! At least I'm doing better from it now!
When you are on a train and there have been notable delays I feel that you are kept informed of the situation and told what the cause of the delay was and the staff are usually apologetic! Although knowing doesn't change the situation, I personally prefer to be told what the cause is and it usually makes me feel less angry towards London Midland when the delays are apparently not their fault.
The London Midland website (www.London midland.com) like numerous others has a live running page where you can monitor the train times and see where there are delays or cancellations. This is particularly useful for me as my place of work is only 10 minutes away from the station meaning I can monitor the situation and leave 10 minutes before the train is due to arrive. This way if a train is cancelled, I can spend the thirty minutes at work accruing time rather than being sat waiting at the station for the next train.
For me personally, the regularity of the trains is fine. From larger stations there are usually other operators, such as Virgin, to choose from so assessing regularity is more relevant to the smaller "local" stations. On average there are about two trains per hour which I think is acceptable although the trains can be quite busy at peak times. Despite this, I can usually find a seat if I want one. When there are cancellations of earlier services then obviously this has a knock on effect with trains being crammed but my personal experience again finds this occurring very infrequently.
With regards the cost and value for money, this is difficult for me to assess as I buy a season ticket through a partner company that also includes the use of busses throughout the West Midlands. For me personally, £64 a month represents very good value.
Now onto the trains themselves. I find them to be comfortable and clean with very few problems with vandalism. When the trains are waiting to depart the first station on the route, there is often a member of staff who walks the length of the train picking up rubbish or newspapers that have been discarded. Staff on the trains have always been polite and approachable.
In summary, I think London Midland are a good organisation and I have a positive image of them. For me, train punctuality has improved and that is the most important factor. It is still not perfect but in my opinion deserves a better than average mark.