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Beware of Stampedes
Member Name: Brooke3
Advantages: lots of places to eat
Disadvantages: Cold. Rude staff
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.