“ The station was first opened in 1854 and has recently benefited from a major redevelopment. This has included a new customer information system, new platform surfaces and a new shopping, eating and waiting area called "The Lawn". "The Railway Station" (1862) by Frith illustrates passengers boarding a train at Paddington station. The detailing of Brunels roof and Digby Wyatts ornamentation is exceptionally clear and has assisted in recent restoration works. „
Paddington has been my main station in and out of London for the past couple of years for a number of reasons - we use it at least once a month to visit my husband's family in Bristol, and I often find myself running to catch the Heathrow Express when flying out of LHR. Prior to that, when I was in law school and my husband was already working in London, I took the train back and forth from Oxford every weekend. Paddington is an unavoidable fact of my life, but it could be much worse.
As anyone who has tried to catch a westward bound train out of the Big Smoke on a Friday afternoon can attest to, Paddington can become the scene of nightmares. Pushing your way through ticket machine queues and crowds staring hopefully up at the train time boards, visions of Times headlines featuring 'fatal crush' and 'hundreds missing' and 'delays across the country' flash through your mind. In more morbid (typically, rush hour-induced) moods, you worry about some sort of public catastrophe, with the sheer number of people crammed into an otherwise massive train station suddenly very, very 'real'.
On literally any other day, however, Paddington is lovely - on Sunday afternoons, coming back into the city, the atmosphere is much more relaxed, and on any other afternoon, there's only a fraction the number of people at the station. It's always clean, and very easy to find people in - not many hidden doorways or obstructions to get in the way of spotting people. It has an M&S Food Hall, Boots, Sainsbury's, Starbucks, and a few sandwich/lunch-type places (EAT, Paul's, etc.) that are all really handy for either grabbing another toothbrush or just something to eat on the train. If you'd rather jump straight from the Tube on to your train, though, this is easily doable, with Paddington Tube station being easily accessible from literally all four corners of London - the Jubilee to Bakerloo platform change at Baker Street is particularly convenient for those coming from Canary Wharf.
One thing that I haven't been able to figure out is anywhere nice to go outside of the station whilst waiting for the train - Paddington is a bit of an island, so if you wanted to go window shopping before your train came, your choice is between Accessorize and WH Smith! Particularly problematic when you realise you've forgotten to pack something quite big - like a nice dress.
But besides Friday afternoons and the lack of pre-ride entertainment (which is unfair, as no train station is really known for its proximity to fabulous shopping - can't really compare it to T5!), Paddington is great - there's a little stand with Paddington Bear memorabilia, so you can even commemorate your trip to London that way.
Nearly every Friday night for the past four months I have found myself sitting at Paddington station, waiting patiently for peak hours to end so that I can visit my family. During this time I feel that I have gotten to know Paddington Station a lot better than i would like to. So, it seemed fitting that I write a review on the station that is fast becoming my home away from home (slight exageration but two hours in Paddington does seem longer than two hours anywhere else).
-Tickets and Travel-
There are a number of ways to buy your tickets. You can order them online and have them delivered to you which is by far the easiest way to avoid the long queues. Alternatively you can use their self service machines or buy your tickets from a person.
I know that usually it's more pleasant to deal with an actual person but at Paddington I would suggest you avoid interacting with the staff if you can. I've been travelling from Paddington for years and although occasionally you get a friendly member of staff the majority of the time they are very rude. It seems to be pretty consistent accross the staff- from the people selling tickets to the people checking tickets. You can be as friendly as possible and most of them still won't even smile at you.
Anyway, back to tickets. I've never had any problems with the ticket machines. They are very easy to use, you just follow the instructions on the screen.
Queues sizes do vary depending on what time you're travelling (as you would expect) but I find that it doesn't take as long to queue for the machines.
If you want to travel during peak times then you will have to pay more. Personally I don't think that it's worth paying the extra so I usually wait until 18.45 when ticket prices go down (I think this time varies depending on your destination).
There are four sets of boards with train times on in the main station and another one in the waiting room. Each of the trains that are due to come in within the next hour have their own board, all stops are listed on that board and when the train is ready for people get on the platform number is listed. The areas around these boards do get very crowded with everyone waiting for their platform to be announced.
There are gates on most platforms so you will need to have your ticket handy when you travel.
If I'm travelling standard class I often wait in the waiting room. To be honest it's not that comfortable. The seats are old and very worn and for a train station that's so big in my opinion the waiting room is far too small. The cynical part of me wonders if they keep it small to encourage people to sit in one of their many cafe's.
It is, however, very warm and that's a bonus during the winter when the rest of the station is so cold.
There are a number of places where you can eat in Paddington Station. I haven't tried them all so this is just al list of the places that I have tried.
-Costa Coffee. Those of you who have read some of my other reviews may know that I love costa coffee. In my opinion they do the best coffee in the whole world (or at least the best coffee that I've ever tasted) and the costa in Paddington station is not an exception. However, I find the cafe itself to be a little bit strange. It's like they crammed as many tables as possible into a small space and didn't consider the comfort of their customers. Some tables don't even have space for more than one chair. I find this cafe to be a little bit chaotic. First of all there's the way the tables are set out and then there's the fact that there is always so much rubbish on every available surface and the floor.
- Starbucks. The starbucks in Paddington Station is really small. Like with costa the tables are crammed in and it makes me feel a little bit like I have no space. As it is they have less tables than any of the other cafe's in Paddington station and you should consider yourself lucky if you manage to get a seat.
-McDonalds. The McDonalds that they have is very small. It has a few tables but was obviously built with the intention of being more for taking away food than sitting in. The staff in this McDonalds are actually quite friendly, unfortunately they're also not that competent. It's difficult to be annoyed with people who always smile and ask how you are but when you're about to get on a train and you just want something to drink for the journey you don't want to be waiting for five minutes to get it. Queues are nearly always really long and for some reason it takes them ages just to get a coke.
-Café Ritazza has average coffee, lovely sandwiches and poor service. Sometimes I decide to take the average coffee and poor service because the sandwiches are nice and you can always get a seat. The service isn't really bad, it's just that when they get busy they aren't very attentive and you can tell that they're getting annoyed whenever you take more than five seconds to order your drink.
-Eat. I stopped getting coffee here because I found the staff to be really rude and unhelpful.
-Bagel Factor. The Bagel Factory has possibly the friendliest, most helpful staff in all of Paddington Station. On the rare occasion that I don't have much time between arriving at the station and getting on my train I buy myself a bagel to take away (they do not have any tables or chairs) and I have always found that service is fast, efficient and friendly. If they had somewhere to sit I would probably eat there more often.
When I go to a train station I don't often have shopping on my mind but there have been a few times when I've had lots of time to kill and wanted to browse around a bit.
-LaSenza. This is a very small shop and not really suitable for anyone with suitcases. If you're a wheel chair user you may have trouble getting around LaSenza because it is very cramped. I don't think it's a very pleasant place to shop purely because there is so little space to move around.
-Paperchase. I love looking around this shop. I find it to be a little bit on the expensive side and don't tend to buy things in there but they have some amusing cards that I sometimes read when I'm killing time.
-Boots. The range of products on sale here isn't as big as in many of their other shops but whenever I've realised that I've forgotten an essential (like a toothbrush or deodorant) I've always found that they have it in this boots. The aisles are adequately wide for people with luggage, and I assume for wheel chair users but that probably depends on the size of your wheelchair.
-WHSmith. There are two WHSmith and I honestly do not know why. One of them is quite big and sells a good range of magazines and books, the other is small and sells a tiny selection of what the bigger one sells.
-Sainsbury's. I sometimes buy snacks to take on the train with me but I've found that whenever I buy berries they're always mouldy...so check your food before you buy it if you don't already. I find this Sainsbury's to be very efficient and although queues are usually long they have enough check outs to make waiting times really short.
-First Class Lounge-
If you've paid for a first class ticket be sure to use the first class lounge.
In the first class lounge you get free newspapers, free food (sandwiches and snacks) and free hot and cold drinks. The first class lounge is far more comfortable than the waiting room. There are comfortable chairs that are a little worn in places but still comfortable. There is a good choice of drinks, including coca cola and orangina (the two that I usually go for) and they bring in new sandwiches regularly.
I find the staff to be really friendly here, which is surprisingly considering they work for the train station and all other train station staff are so unfriendly. I guess you have to pay extra for good, friendly service!
I find the first class lounge to be a really relaxed, comfortable place to wait for the train and the only downside is that as far as I've seen they don't have a screen to tell you when trains are coming in.
If you need cash I would suggest getting it before you arrive at Paddington. There are some cash points but they usually have really long queues and sometimes run out of money.
The Toilets cost 30p to use and every time I've used them I've found that they're not very clean (I can only speak for the women's toilets).
I can't say that I like Paddington as such but as far as train stations go I think it's probably one of the best.
Paddington is often very crowded, and as with so many places in London when people want to get somewhere they don't tend to care who they trample to get there.
I don't think it's unique to Paddington, I've found it at pretty much every train station I've been to, but it is very cold during the winter. Even though you are inside, unless you go to the waiting room or a café, it will be cold. I guess that should be expected but I hate being cold and it always really annoys me!
The staff are mostly unfriendly but you can get some good service in some of the café's and shops.
If you're travelling with children I would recommend only travelling outside of peak hours. It just gets too busy and even as an adult it can be quite daunting trying to fight your way through a crowd or just trying not to be trampled. I can only imagine how much worse it would be to be a child.
Paddington Station is located to the west of central London in W2. The original station was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 1840’s though the current station is nothing like the original having being enlarged throughout 2 centuries of use. Paddington was home to the Great Western Railway (GWR) or as it was commonly called by its devoted fans – ‘Gods Wonderful Railway’. The GWR existed from 1835 up until the railway nationalisation in 1951. The name has been revived in the form of one of the companies running services out of the station – ‘First Great Western’ – who will always be associated with the Ladbroke Grove disaster a couple of miles down the line. Paddington is the station to travel from if you want to get to: · Bristol, Bath and Weston Super Mare · Cardiff/Swansea and routes to west Wales · Plymouth/Penzance · Cheltenham/Gloucester and Malvern · Oxford and Stratford –Upon-Avon · Heathrow Airport (using the newish Heathrow Express) The station is being transformed as the result of major building works, which have been going on for the last couple of years. All of the Great Western Hotel has gone except for the façade on Praed Street. In its place is a huge new air-conditioned area where you can check in your luggage before boarding the Heathrow Express. In the same area can be found a Sainsbury’s, Dixons, a large Fullers pub, Carphone Warehouse and other eateries. Just around the corner is a WH Smith. On the platform are a number of retail units including Boots, Burger King etc. There are new toilets but I have never used them. As with Waterloo, there may be a charge. Not so long ago, there used to be a huge arrivals/departure above platforms 4 –8. This has been completely removed and there are now 2 banks of blue screens to the right and left of the platform. Its fascinating watching the crowds waiting
for the platform number to come up for their train – there then follows a charge for the platform. Once you arrive at Paddington, there are 2 ways of getting onto the Underground. One way is to head for the front of the station if you want the Circle/District and Bakerloo lines. The other is to head for the staircases, which connect the platforms. This will take you to the Metropolitan line. If you want a taxi, head out of the station to the right (past the loos) where a taxi rank can be found. Paddington is still a bit of dirty station as most trains using it are diesels and the fumes turn the glass in the roof brown. The Train Operators now do turn off the engines when not in use – which is an advance on earlier BR days. However it is a safe station. It is well lit and there are plenty of places to sit. It is better to remain in the station when dark then outside it. Although not as pleasant as Liverpool Street, Paddington is rapidly improving and in a few more years will have been totally transformed. Give it a visit and check out the facilities.