* Prices may differ from that shown
I recently booked a couple of journeys from London to Manchester on Virgin Trains for myself and colleagues. If found the website was really straightforward and easy to use. It was very easy to book the trains that suited us and pick and seats I wanted, and I could clearly see the different travel times and options available to me. I also had to cancel one of the tickets on the day of travel, and it was really easy to do this and I was able to get a refund (although they do charge a £10 refund fee, which is a little annoying).
I found the trains to be clean and tidy, with comfortable seats and decent sized tables. It was easy to find our reserved seats. The leg room was ample too, which was good as I was travelling with a particularly tall person.
The trains left on time (well, one was five minutes late) and arrived on time too. It didn't take too long to get half way up the country - nice and speedy.
All the staff I encountered were friendly and helpful, and actually seemed to be enjoying their work which was nice to see!
The trains were exceptionally expensive though, which is the biggest downside I experienced. It's almost cheaper to fly from the South Coast to the North, which is crazy.
In addition to my good experience, I heard that Virgin have recently started offering automatic refunds for delayed journeys which I think is an excellent commitment to customer service, and suggests that they are doing something about the poor reputation of the industry.
Overall, I found Virgin Trains offered a good service.
I have tried with IE and Google Chrome to open the booking page to get an online tkt Glasgow to London and it will not open.Virgin online chat tell me to try another computer.Does anyone else have trouble booking online
Virgin, owned by Sir Richard Branson, is one of the UK's most recognised brands and they have a variety of different companies including an airline, telecoms operator and of course Virgin Trains.
Virgin Trains started operating back in January 1997 when it commenced train services on the Cross Country route which was run for just over 10 years until November 2007 when Arriva CrossCountry took over the franchise. The West Coast franchise (inter-city west coast franchise) which is known today as the Virgin Trains network started in March 1997 and was to finish in December 2012 but a u-turn on the government has mean't Virgin will continue to run the network for a little while longer whilst investigations take place into how franchises are bid for.
The Virgin Trains website is very easy on the eye, its bold and stands out well and isn't too cluttered. It's very easy to navigate with a simple text menu at the top, by clicking these links it takes you to a page for that part of the website i.e. 'Travel Updates' and then a second menu will appear underneath with relative info, this makes it so easy to use and not so hard to look at it and find what your after. I have booked tickets via this site before and thats very easy. The main homepage has a search box on the left, very easy to use just follow the promts and type in what it asks. The booking process is fast and uses HTTPS a secure system to encrypt card payments so its extremely safe.
FARES & TICKETS
As with all operators they give great value advance fares, I always try to get these as their walk-up fares (standard fares you buy on the day or can use on practically any service) are expensive. I don't mind sticking to a specific train and having less or no flexibility as I like the massive savings this can bring. For example I got a Manchester to London ticket for £19 but a normal standard ticket was over £100 for the exact same train.
Their are 6 routes (timetables A - F) stretching from Scotland in the North to London Euston where all lines end up or start off (except timetable F). Trains run upto every 20mins along the core route of Scotland/Manchester to London so if you miss one, you usually have just a 20 minute wait for the next.
They are very easy to spot in their current livery (design) with a silver, red & yellow scheme on the outside I think they look great, very modern and eye catching. They operate a new type of train called a Pendalino which tilts and is very sleek & modern, along with Voyager trains. Inside they are always so clean & tidy, and even after having them for a few years they are still looking as fresh & new as when they first came out. They are spacious too, the seat pitch isn't always so great but if you get a table seat these are fantastic, theres loads of luggage space too and the onboard shop offers a great selection of drinks & snacks although as with all train operators prices are dearer than normal shops so pop to the supermarket or local shop before going onboard as it works out cheaper.
The train crew are always polite & friendly, the staff at Manchester Picadilly not so much so, but the ones at London Euston are friendly & polite. Sadly I have just had a minor ticket issue and wanted to give them more money but their lack of empowerment at their Customer Service Centre has mean't I can not. Apart from that their customer service is great.
me and my friend went on a virgin train last Friday and we both had no trouble on the way to Birmingham it was nice and quite not too crowded, we found our seats straight away and it was very comfortable. but on the why back we thought that the train was far too hot there were not many people on the train more than the morning but still with lots of empty seats. and it was not a hot day sunny but not hot. but the train was just burning so much so that when i got off the train that going from the hot train to the slightly chilly platform i very quickly ended up with a nose bleed and as we had to get two more trains we could not stop and wait for it to stop bleeding. i will use these train again but will always carry small fan just in case it is once again that hot.
As an American, my experience with the Virgin brand comes from the Virgin Airlines. They have worked hard to develop a brand that centers on excellent service, with a cutting edge approach to passenger service and comfort.
I cannot believe that Virgin Train is owned by the same man. My recent experience was truly horrible. From being overcharged, mislead, lied to; buying first class, when the only time I EVER saw a cabin attendent was 30 minnutes before the end of a 4+ hour trip. The "conductor" or ticket taker was rude...I mean downright rude to us. Their platform personnel was unhelpful, and gave us incorrect information. It was just a miserable ride from Glasgow to London (except for the view out the windows).
If the lack of promised service and food that never showed up was not enough; three hours into the trip, a second ticket taker comes walking through the train, claims that we are missing a document and tells us that we have to purchase another ticket or be thrown off at the next station. May I say Highway Robbery! What do you do? You pay it, and try to take some satification in telling others of your experiences, and hope that you can help others for making the same mistake. TAKE MY ADVICE, DON'T TRAVEL ON VIRGIN TRAINS!
I only wish I knew what government enities regulate train service in the UK so I could file a complaint with them.
Buyer beware, do your homework and never assume that because you recongnize a brand name, it's reputable.
I travel first class on virgin trains regularly and find the service is extremely patchy. Today for example, as soon as the train set off, the waitress (or whatever they're called on a train) came to offer me a choice of 2 sandwiches and she later brought one to my seat. No trolley service at all. For my complimentary drink, only water was available, no hot drinks as advertised online. I didn't see the serving staff for the rest of the journey, except for my trip to the shop car for a cup of tea, the staff were all in there sitting and chatting. This is usual, but it only seems to occur when the staff from Liverpool are serving. I'm making an assumption here, but I'm guessing the poor service happens because these staff know they can get away with rushing through a minimal token service in the first 10 mins of the journey, and then spending the rest of the trip socialising with their colleagues.
There's a couple of really aggressive guys on the first class Liverpool staff too, who I've seen get very nasty with passengers and so I'm too scared to complain to them.
There was one occasion when I took my ticket to the shop & asked if I could get complimentary tea from there, as noone had brought any round in first class. The first class staff were sitting at the counter there chatting. The guy serving in the shop poured me a cup of tea, but then the serving guy from first class stopped him and shouted at me in a pretty aggressive way, and told me I couldn't have my tea. The guy behind the counter poured it away! That was ridiculous!
Anyway, I wouldn't advise paying for first class, chances are you'll get the lazy staff, and you'll have to buy your own drinks & food anyway.
Just yesterday I travelled with Virgin trains from London Euston to Manchester Picadilly and having bought the tickets online (option available to hopefully make your life easier) found myself being refused to receive my ticket at the Virgin ticket office.
For security reasons I use a special online card (MBNET) which allows me to purchase goods online and its attatched to my current account but obviously the number on my card and the one with which I bought the ticket is different (otherwise it wouldn't be a secure method) meaning that the ticket officer wouldn't allow me to receive my ticket. Although I had proof of ID and the confirmation number of my ticket I was still refused to be given my ticket and asked to buy another ticket at the increased price of 65 pounds without no refund for the previous ticket that I had bought online.
The lack of interest that the ticket officer showed for my situation was incredible showing that their need to improve on customer service is big and I had to ring myself Virgin in order for them to authorise their staff to accept my ID - I mean couldn't they ring themselves? (they refused to do this also)
One of the options that is given to customers who buy their tickets online is to choose which seat they would like to reserve for their journey - since I easily feel travel sick I chose a seat foward facing our direction (if that makes any sense) and when I got to my seat it was exactly the opposite making me feel sick the whole 2 hours of the journey and not being able to relax one second from the hassle I had before.
Although the trains are comfortable I was really disappointed with the customer service skills of Virgin staff and their lack of interest. Plus, Why have an option to choose your seat if they are going to decise themselves where your sitting anyway?
Back in the day British Rail ran the railways and the "backbone" if you will of the country's rail network was the West Coast Mainline. Following rail privatisation in 1994, Virgin trains won the franchise to operate on the line - which takes in routes from London Euston to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Virgin also operate the franchise for trains operating between Edinburgh and Glasgow and Birmingham New Street.
I travelled on the West Coast Mainline frequently in the days of British Rail. I even travelled on the old Advanced Passenger Train back in the early 80s prior to the launch of the service. My journey incidentally was fast and trouble free - unlike the famously disastrous service once the tilting train service officially launched.
I hadn't travelled on the route for some years up until late 2007 when faced with missing a flight at Gatwick due to fog in Edinburgh or taking the train south, I found myself on a packed train to Birmingham operated by Virgin. Since I moved from Edinburgh to South Lanarkshire the West Coast Mainline is now the quickest way for me to travel by train to London meaning I have had time to reacquaint myself with the service Virgin offers.
~~Where They Go~~
As already mentioned, Virgin trains serve the major cities of London, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. In between they also serve Milton Keynes, Coventry, Stafford, Stoke, Wigan, Warrington, Lancaster, Carlisle and of course the Lake District. Trains also go to North Wales via Chester, terminating at Holyhead.
If you are travelling to the North West of England from Scotland or London then it's more than likely you will take a Virgin train.
~~The Rolling Stock~~
Most routes now operate using the "son of" the Advanced Passenger Train - the tilting Pendolino. This train can travel much faster than older, non tilting, rolling stock and can achieve a top speed of 125 mph. The introduction of the Pendolino on the London Euston to Glasgow service has seen journey times drop from 5 hours to 4 hours and 30 minutes on average - although one train a day makes the journey in just 4 hours.
Virgin do still use the Voyager rolling stock - this is used on services from Birmingham to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and on journies between Euston and North Wales. Voyager trains do not tilt and therefore take longer to do the same journey as a Pendolino.
~~Tickets & Booking~~
I don't plan on spending much time discussing tickets on Virgin trains - as with all train operators there's a huge variety of ares on offer. You can sometimes find it is much cheaper to travel long distance buying single tickets although in my experience these cheap tickets seem to be thinner on the ground than they are with East Coast trains.
You can book on the Virgin Trains website, via the Trailine website or on any other train operator's website. I usually book on the East Coast Trains website purely because I like the interface and they don't charge you for absolutely everything the way the Trainline does. Tickets can also be purchased at most UK train stations.
For the cheapest fares it's advisable to register your travel dates with Virgin and they will send you an e-mail when tickets are released for sale.
Trains can get very busy so it's highly advisable to book a seat if you are travelling at peak times - especially if you are travelling long distance. Some tickets make a seat reservation mandatory but if you know you are definitely going to travel on a specific train my advice would be to reserve a seat.
You can also upgrade at weekends using the Weekend First service. This is valid with all standard class tickets enabling you to travel in first class accommodation for a small supplement.
~~The Experience Onboard~~
Having travelled on Virgin trains in both Pendolino and Voyager stock and in both standard and first class coaches, I have had mixed experiences with Virgin trains.
I'll start with what I like about Virgin trains. For starters, seat reservations are displayed digitally on a dot matrix display above seats. This stops the "accidentally on purpose" removal of seat reservation tickets from busy trains which can lead to some serious arguments (believe me - I've seen them) when people who have taken the effort to reserve seats find someone else sitting on them. I appreciate most people will get up and accept they didn't reserve a seat but there's a small, and very irritating, minority who seem to think removing a tag somehow frees up a seat for their own personal use.
The trains look very nice too - with a fetching red livery which is sadly spoiled a little by the huge Virgin logo. The interior of the trains is pleasant too - with red and blue seats in standard class and blue seats in first class.
Onboard service is good too with a trolley service in standard class and food available in the onboard "shop" - although it has to be said it still resembles a buffet car to me. I tend to avoid buffet cars and buy food to eat prior to boarding a train simply because I find onboard prices to be a legalised form of theft so I can't really comment on prices onboard Virgin Trains.
Ticket staff are helpful and Virgin have a good level of announcements and will tell you reasonably quickly why the train is stuck in a field somewhere in the middle of nowhere with nothing to see but sheep or cattle grazing.
Seating is reasonably comfortable - although there is a marked difference between standard and first class. More of that later.
Less pleasant are the toilet facilities. When they are clean at the start of the journey they are bearable enough but I've experienced a packed train with several blocked toilets and that's really unpleasant. The toilets also have the automated dryer, sensor operated tap and soap dispenser all located together underneath a large mirror. It's a bit of a lottery finding a toilet with all three features working at the same time - invariably the dryer is the missing link.
Timetables are very strange in my experience. When I travelled from Edinburgh to Birmingham the train was timed reasonably well to connect with other services travelling to the south west, Wales and the south east, but the train was sadly late arriving. While I didn't miss the train I was connecting on to, other people did, leading to chaos on an already packed train and more problems for the overworked staff on board.
Similarly the last time I returned from London on a Virgin service, the train sped all the way up to Lanarkshire keeping excellent time. Once we were about 10 miles out of Glasgow it ground to a halt, and stayed there because the train was early. I appreciate that sometimes there aren't platforms available at the terminus if trains arrive before schedule but no-one actually explained this to us - which was both unusual and annoying.
Wifi is available onboard but is only always complimentary in first class accommodation. It is currently free in standard class courtesy of Google but this offer expires at the end of February 2011. Last time I travelled on Virgin in standard class it cost me £10 for 24 hours access - which seemed a bargain on a train journey of 4 and a half hours when an hour cost £5.
I do have to say the wifi is good - it's far more stable than that on offer on East Coast trains - and it's all the more impressive when you consider how rural much of the line is, particularly between Glasgow and Lancaster.
The wifi does show the difference between first and standard class on board Virgin Trains. I have only travelled in First Class using the Weekend First service. This costs an additional £15 per adult and £5 per child but if you are travelling between London and Glasgow it's money well spent in my opinion. If you are planning on using wifi (and there are no offers available in standard class for wifi) it almost pays for itself.
Seats in standard class are rather cramped - I certainly noticed the legroom isn't as generous as that on East Coast Trains. They are also rather uncomfortable and there's a distinct lack of table space in standard class - whether you are in a table seat or one of the so-called "airline" style seats. Similarly there's only limited plug sockets in standard class - which is worth bearing in mind if your laptop has limited battery life.
Seats in first class are far more spacious and are more comfortable than standard class but having travelled in first class on East Coast trains, I find their first class coaches to have superior seating to Virgin's.
During the week catering is free in First Class - at weekends snacks and drinks are free of charge. The trolley service is fairly regular too, which is a pleasant surprise for a complimentary service.
I have yet to encounter much in the way of bad behaviour onboard Virgin trains. Short of the usual nuisance of people thinking everyone on the train wants to hear their music and a little drunkenness (sadly to be expected if you travel to or from Glasgow) staff do seem to largely keep people under control although my sister had a bad experience with a drunk in first class once and was dismayed at the lack of assistance she received from staff onboard - so it can vary.
Luggage space is poor on both Pendolinos and Voyagers. There is a luggage car onboard but I have only seen staff ask passengers to use it when travelling on overcrowded services. There's some space between seats and some very small luggage racks at the end of carriages, along with quite narrow overhead shelving for luggage.
I have had mixed experiences travelling on Virgin trains and have to say that I actively try to travel at weekends now so I can take advantage of Weekend First. The standard accommodation could be better - it's certainly not on a par with that on East Coast trains - with limited legroom making for a fairly uncomfortable trip. Standard coaches also tend to be very busy - having travelled in them at peak times it's unpleasantly busy with people sitting wherever they can.
I do have to weigh this up with general customer service onboard, the wifi which is far superior to East Coast's unstable product, and the fact the Pendolino makes travel between London and Glasgow significantly faster than using the East Coast mainline.
It is rather galling however that ticket prices seem to be permanently and significantly more expensive on Virgin trains - no doubt in an attempt to claw back the expenditure on the Pendolino trains as quickly as possible - and I must be honest in saying when travelling in standard class I have to question whether it's worth it to be in London just over an hour quicker than the East Coast service which is always noticeably cheaper.
First class is good on Virgin but if you use it you really do notice how uncomfortable standard class is and how overcrowded the trains can be.
So in conclusion I will continue to travel on Virgin trains but will try to make use of Weekend First when at all possible because if it weren't for the speed, I'd be taking the East Coast service every time when travelling from Glasgow.
Why is the Ticket office at London Euston selling Virgin Train tickets at £38 when Virgin have cancelled all trains for the day? I am standing in the concourse at Euston watching the ticket office knocking out tickets for Virgin trains at £38-120 a time when virgin have cancelled services early this morning and are not likely to be running any trains for the rest of the day (21 Dec 2010 @ 13:33)DO NOT buy tickets as its a rip off, stop using Virgin trains as they are stealing your money on a premise that they might be running trains today. Put the company into bankrupcy where it belongs
5pm on Friday and I'm booking an online train ticket for my mum who fancies trying a long-distant train journey to return home - advertised as a comfortable, convenient and cost effective travel option - "Get where you want to be... for less". Everything went swimmingly (ticket only £35.00 which seemed reasonable for this particular part of the journey), printed the booking confirmation emails and still time for a last glass of wine whilst finishing the packing, repacking and more repacking.
Before leaving at a respectable 9am on Saturday to get to the train station on time, a last check was made to ensure mum had at least all the essentials including the printed travel information - and away we go in the car on another foggy day into the hustle and bustle of Birmingham. The heavy Saturday morning traffic into Birmingham with fog warnings and the usual morning-motor-monsters was, with hindsight, the calm before the storm.
On arrival at Birmingham New Street train station we parked up, purchased the required parking ticket and gathered all of the 'essentials' required for mum's journey. First challenge was to get to the ticket booth to collect our ticket, printed confirmation in hand, so manoeuvring around the crowds and strategically picking the queue that looked to be moving more quickly than the others, we eagerly awaited our turn to be served.
The expected, welcoming "Good morning madam how may I help you?" (with a smile) was conveyed in the way of an early morning smirk, grunt and nod, followed by a more expressive and enthusiastic shake of the head, growl and pushing back of the paper we had offered and slid expectantly under the protection glass. In an apologetic, slightly panicked response (impending train departure and three further connections at the forefront of our minds) we then asked, indeed pleaded that he read our printed piece of paper in the hope of further guidance. Reluctantly and with further mutterings, said 'train ticket booth guy' told us to 'use the machines they're much quicker than me', once again pushing back our printed piece of paper. At risk of further inconveniencing the increasingly vocal and hostile travellers in the queue behind, once again re-presenting the now rather crumpled booking confirmation email with payment details, train details, passenger details and seat number, and stating that we would like his help to provide us with instructions as to what we need to do next, a reasonable request we thought not least because of our lack of confidence in our own abilities at using the recommended machine (although now agreeing with him that it would probably have been considerably quicker). I have to admit that this is now the point at which my usual very calm and considered approach to life's little challenges started to wobble. Having now glanced at the printed offering, progress we thought, said 'train ticket booth guy' stated with some finality that it was the 'wrong' piece of paper and that there was nothing he could do apart from sell us a new ticket. Speechless for a couple of seconds and panic rising considerably, we were now clearly unsatisfied with the service being provided to us. The previous statement was reiterated - Do you want a new ticket or not? Our request now changed to demand - that he advise us how we go about finding a solution to our problem. Now fed up with our demands on his time, and in the process of clearing his desk, we were told that he now refused to serve us in any way and in fact, would not now sell us a new ticket. He then walked away. Had we had more time, it is clear that this is the moment that any fee paying passenger would have called for the manager however, time was not on our side. Mum now upset and no other option, we conceded to try out the pre-paid ticket machine only to find that the booking reference provided in the printed confirmation was one too many digits for the machine to accept. We now had only one option - to purchase a new ticket (now £45.00 for same journey). I'd like to say that this was the end of this particular journey's problems... Having settled mum onto the train and left her in her original ticket booking's seat (assuming this had already been paid for first time around), we said our goodbyes and waved as the train departed. Mum telephoned a short while later to say that the Virgin Train's ticket man now demanded that she pay an additional £10 for the seat that she had taken (and paid for) because the ticket that she was travelling with didn't allow her to sit in that seat. She tried to show him the original booking details, with the seat number listed only to be presented with the now familiar refusal to look at this now completely valueless piece of paper and respond with "You must pay or move". At this stage extremely stressed and upset, to avoid having to change seat on a moving train, with all of the baggage, mum decided to pay the additional £10.00 and looked forward to putting an end to this particular part of the journey, also vowing never to use trains again in the future.
I telephoned Virgin Trains customer relations department (tel. 0845 000 80005) to ask them about issues surrounding the 'incorrect train booking ticket'. I was advised that another email should have been sent, the booking confirmation with all of the relevant information was not good enough to present for the journey. Even though Virgin Trains did not send the 'correct' email (I checked and double checked both my inbox and junk items folder) and I was led to believe that the booking confirmation that had in fact arrived via email was the document that was required to be printed, they were completely unwilling to concede that this was their problem.
The moral of this sorry tale is to all Virgin Train users (unless you are a seasoned traveller and you know exactly what to present or indeed, query if you are not sent the relevant documentation). Expect to pay again and again - your proof of payment, proof of booking, confirmation of journey details counts of nothing. If like us, you are infrequent train users - don't if you can help it.
Virgin Trains are clearly not interested in delivering on their "Get where you want to be... for less" promise. A £35.00 Birmingham to London journey cost my mum £90.00 in the end - she could have got a Ryan Air flight to France for that. Virgin have refused to refund any of the journey, stating that it was our error to present the incorrect travel documentation.
As for the absolute plonker in booth 6 at Birmingham New Street Station (apx 10am on Saturday 20th November) maybe this level of service was because our request for help was out of his list of job responsibilities as 'the train ticket booth guy' - perhaps we should have asked the little old guy pushing the mop??
Incidentally, the continuing train journeys into France went without problem although I hasten to say that by this stage neither Birmingham New Street or Virgin Trains staff were involved.
I have recently elected to purchase advance e-tickets for my wife and I to travel to an important family occasion during the winter. The advanced tickets about 7 weeks ahead are good value for money.
The website is reasonably easy to use, but be warned if you elect to request that both have a "window" seat as a preference (assuming it would choose facing seats) then there is a good chance you will be seated a few rows apart!! There is no "Is this acceptable?" question to allow you to repeat the step without the "window" seat preference checked - (Room for improvement number 1).
Even better would be to provide a plan of the train allowing the user to select the carriage and then a plan of the carriage to select empty seats.
Once you have searched for the "Remove" button from the "checkout" screen and deleted this attempt. and started from scratch, entering the second passenger name correctly when prompted. you are told to wait two hours for your ticket. Once you open this up you notice that the "Passenger Name" on the first ticket (1/2) is your name and then you notice that the "Passenger Name" on the second ticket is ... also your name.
Not a problem except BOTH tickets have the statement "This ticket is for the named passenger only and is not transferable or for resale."
After several attempts to get the customer support staff to correct the name on the second ticket to be the second passenger name entered on the web site you may as well give up and hope that the ticket collecter does allow someone other than the named passenger to travel with the ticket - I have not got to that point but ...
I pre-booked my first class seats from London to Manchester and back because I wanted to guarantee space to work on the way. I have had problems collecting tickets from Virgin machines before, so this time I elected an e-ticket option. The message on the transaction confirmation page said I would receive my e-ticket within 2 hours, so when an email arrived, headed 'your ticket confirmation' and with a sub-head 'ticket delivery: e-ticket' giving all my journey details, I duly printed it off. Luckily, I turned up to Euston early and presented my 'e-ticket' at the first class lounge, to be told that it wasn't the e-ticket and I needed to find an Internet cafe and print my proper e-ticket off. I could go downstairs and talk to them but they would 'tell me the same thing' as i had elected to print out my tickets and it wasn't their problem. He was right, they were just as unhelpful downstairs; I had to leg it with my luggage and laptop several hundred yards down the road to persuade a very nice cafe owner, who was trying to close up, to restart his computer and printer and help me because the company I had paid nearly £300 to wouldn't.
I found the 'proper e-ticket' which had arrived about 11am this morning, a very long time after the promised 2 hour window and long after I left the office. The cafe owner tells me he 'gets quite a lot of these'. So did the very unhelpful station staff, and the very helpful onboard staff. 'They're our worst nightmare, these.', said one of the more sympathetic red jacket I bored with my story.
Surely, it is not beyond the wit of Virgin to make this communication clearer, and to make some provision for the large numbers of their benighted customers who get it wrong. Me, I'm flying to Manchester in future.
Complaint about the amount of time it has taken for my money to be returned to me from 04/09/2010 - ref: T3JHHKLL
Transaction Date: 04/09/2010
Journey 1: Adult Fare £ 108.80 (1@£ 108.80)
Total amount paid: £ 108.80
Background: I received a call from my family telling me my father did not have long to live - there was a request for family members to attend the hospital. I contacted my elderly aunt who lives in Ross-on-Wye, to tell her the sad news of her brother.
She told me she had no funds to get to and from Newcastle, Tyne & Wear. I bought the tickets online for my aunt who is over the age of 70.
I live in Newcastle upon Tyne and purchased the tickets on line for her to pick up at the Hereford station. I contacted the ticket line number to ensure everything was okay. I was told she could not pick the tickets up unless she had my debit card, I explained the situation and become even more upset. The man explained that she could have the tickets if my aunt has photo ID a driving licence and or a passport. I explained to him that she has never driven and never been out of the country, he then explained about utility bills. He then told me to contact him after 2 hours this way he would cancel the tickets and sort out another way of getting my aunt to Newcastle.
After the 2 hours I phoned back, after a couple of calls and more distress to me and my aunt the tickets were not available and I was told that the manager would investigate what had been said so he could see if I was entitled to a refund.
On the same evening and very distressed I set off at 19:30 to drive to Ross-on-Wye to collect my aunt and drove back!
Virgin this is not a satisfactory service, we are requesting the money paid back as soon as this has been investigated, given the circumstances I have been exceptionally patient -rated a very poor service
I also would like to know why I was charged the £108.80 for a return ticket, but at Newcastle Central station it cost me £105 to have my aunt travel on your train 1 way home. This made no sense at all
My relocation from Glasgow to London coincided with the boom in the cheap flights industry with Ryanair, Easyjet and others offering great rates to draw in customers on short-haul flights.
There were always a few nagging problems though. I'm not one to carp on about the fact that they don't seem to care for their passengers - the products are what they are, a cheap and quick way to get from A to B and I'm with Mick O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, it is the passenger's responsibility to ensure that they are on board the flight.
However, with the world quickly becoming more eco-friendly and the drag to Stansted becoming more tedious (spending more time and money getting to the airport than on the flight itself always seemed odd) I tried out Virgin's Pendolino service just over a year ago. It was the first time that I had used a long distance train in more than 15 years and I was very impressed.
Firstly, you start your journey from the city centre and end up (this may seem odd to those Ryanair passengers) in the centre of the city that you are trying to get to. In the case of London to Glasgow this means I cut my travel time by almost two hours and, with no need to arrive a couple of hours early, I end up taking less time by using the train service.
Not only that but, having used this service regularly, I have never once been late to my destination. The days of long delays on Virgin trains are a thing of the past and, thanks to some creative timetables, I usually arrive 15 minutes earlier than the stated arrival time.
On board there is plenty of room with no need to pay for luggage (a blessing for any golf holiday) and options on where to sit with designated quiet zones, power sockets and tables. When booking in advance on weekdays the first class option is affordable and a delight. As well as tea, coffee, water, juice and snacks they serve up a phenomenal English breakfast that would do any cafe proud.
Tickets can be delivered to your house or collected on the day through self-service machines and its the range of choices that make this travel experience the only option for me in future.
My only gripe would be the quality of staff on board many of their trains. More than once I've witnessed them grumble to each other about other staff members in full view of passengers and I've also come across that great doyen of the customer service world - the person that thinks they are doing you a favour rather than providing a service on behalf of their company. Still, when I've polished off a hearty breakfast, plugged in my laptop (free wifi in first class or paid in regular) and spread out I can relax and sit back without caring what anyone else is up to.
I have recommended their service to many who had been flying for the past few years and no one has had a poor experience. I find their service to be generally cheaper and far more comfortable and enjoyable than any flight and will gladly recommend to anyone who has become fed up with the treatment of budget airlines.
Times are changing quickly yet Virgin have found a way of dragging one of the oldest forms of transport more modern and efficient than any other.
Having just recently passed my driving test, I had previously used Virgin trains on a very regular basis (a 3 hour return journey at least once monthly) for a prolonged period of about three years. Because of this, I feel that I am extremely qualified to give a balanced, fair review of their service and on the whole, it is very positive!!
To start off, the first port of call for booking a train, in this day and age, is the Virgin trains website. I believe that the website has recently undergone a facelift, but I have always found it extremely user-friendly. You just need to register with an e-mail address and then follow the easy steps to booking a particular service. My frequent journey was Liverpool to Glasgow and you could regularly pick up an advance return in standard class for £30-£35 and sometimes even get a first class return in advance for around £60 (I will get to value for money later in the review!) The one thing that you must watch, and Virgin trains never get tired of reminding you, is that an advance ticket MUST be used for the time and date that you have booked it for and not for any other service. This means that to receive the best prices, you must compromise on flexibility. Getting back to the website, you follow around eight to ten easy steps until payment and then they give you a reference number that you use to pick up your tickets at a kiosk at a station of your choosing (usually your departure station) I have always found that this is a great, organised and user-friendly system. Another great feature is that you can reserve a seat to your liking....window seat? Electrical charger point? Quiet coach? You decide. However, it might be very awkward for somebody to order tickets if they are not familiar with the internet.
Virgin trains, in my opinion, have always been excellent value for money. The standard class prices were excellent value but I found the advance first class tickets an unbelievable steal! You could get bigger seats, a free broadsheet newspaper, complimentary food and drink and a much quieter journey for around £50-£60 return. Unbelievable value, IMO, if you can afford it. It is such a nice perk to travel first class and not much hassle. Standard class is good value too but can sometimes be a bit overbearing with the number of passengers and somebody sitting in a seat that you paid money to reserve. You generally avoid this by using first class.
The actual journey experience is not that much different to any other train but the trains are usually very clean and comfortable and you can generally relax with a DVD, iPod or a good book/magazine and the journey will fly in. The staff (ticket inspectors, cleaners etc.) are all very pleasant and make the journey enjoyable too. You very rarely get any trouble and the few times I have seen any, the British Transport Police were on very quickly to sort it out. Great stuff and it makes you feel very safe.
There are, obviously, some negatives about their service. As I mentioned above, if you have an advance ticket you CAN'T get on any train service that you feel like. Something LIKE this nearly happened to me. I had booked a train service with my young persons railcard and I thought I had forgotten my card!! I was in first class and the conductor informed me that if I couldn't find my card that my ticket would be invalid and I would have to pay the full return fare (£120 odd!!) so I was a bit frustrated. I managed to find it in time so I managed to avoid this but just be careful and make sure you are 100% organised!!
Sometimes the trains are very busy and can be uncomfortable. Also, due to the nature of public transport, delays can occur and you just have to take the rough with the smooth and accept that signalling problems and problems with the tracks are going to delay your journey from time to time, much like traffic jams or accidents. It is just a fact but it can, however, be difficult to accept at times!
I have to say, since I have bought my car, my use of Virgin trains has decreased significantly but if I had to make a journey by train it would be Virgin trains in a heartbeat! Definite recommend.