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Virgin trains are the way forward in public transport.
Member Name: mgrehan123
Advantages: Great value, generally an overall good experience.
Disadvantages: Can be delayed!!!
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.
Summary: Overall a great company and service.