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Dan on the Rails - transport reviews and service comparisons

DanNCL

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County Durham
Welcome to my new thread, Dan on the Rails! Here I will post reviews of different travel options across the UK (and eventually further afield!), as well as comparisons between different offerings on the same route, giving my recommendation on which service to use, and Airport rail link guides which rather than being reviews will simply be a guide as to the Airport-City rail link(s) on offer for that airport. I hope you all enjoy reading my reviews!

I will aim to post a new report every week, though this of course is subject to having the time free.

Upcoming reviews:
Newcastle - Wakefield: CrossCountry HST - Standard class
York - Newcastle: CrossCountry Voyager - First class
Journey TBC: LNER Azuma - Standard class
Journey TBC: Lumo - Standard class
Carlisle - Lancaster: Transpennine Express Nova 2 - Standard class
Manchester - Chesterfield: EMR Regional - Standard class

Upcoming comparison reports:
Newcastle - Middlesbrough: Train vs coach
Newcastle - Sunderland: Train vs Metro vs Bus

Upcoming Airport-City rail link guides:
Newcastle Airport - Newcastle City Centre

Let's start with my first report shall we!

East Coast Short Hop - LNER vs Lumo


This week's post will review LNER and Lumo between Newcastle and Morpeth. Other rail options are also available between Newcastle and Morpeth, as well as express buses, which I'll review in the future! Let's start with the LNER trip:

LNER:

IMG_E9740.JPG
Journey: 16:42 Newcastle - Morpeth
Date of travel: 25/10/2021
Class of travel: Standard
Duration: 13 minutes
Vehicle: Hitachi Class 801 "Azuma" - 801212
Ticket: Off Peak Day Return - £4.15 with railcard discount

Introduction to the service
LNER are the "flagship" operator of long distance services on the East Coast Main Line. This company is owned by the Department for Transport's as an "Operator of Last Resort". Their fleet consists of 65 Class 800 and Class 801 "Azuma" trains, , as well as 7 older Intercity 225 sets (Class 91+Mark 4 coaches) which are now exclusively used on the Yorkshire routes - a detailed review of the offer onboard these trains is coming soon.

First impressions - 2/5
IMG_E9741.JPG

I already knew what to expect given that I've travelled on many of these trains before, but nonetheless I had my usual underwhelming feeling when I boarded the train. The colour scheme is wlecoming, but other than that the first impression wasn't a great one. The seats looked very uncomfortable, and you're greeted by unduly harsh lighting, both giving the interior a very cheap feel.

The seat - 1/5
IMG_E9748[1].JPG

The seating onboard these trains is of the "Fainsa Sophia" type. These seats, which are marketed by Fainsa as regional seats, are poor to say the least. Badly shaped, bolt upright, almost as firm as a concrete slab, and armrests far too low down to be of any use.

Legroom - 4/5
Decent for standard class. Plenty of room to strech your legs

Power outlets - 2/5
IMG_E9745.JPG
Two plug sockets of the standard UK design are provided underneath each pair of seats. The position of these sockets is such that they're incredibly awkward to use. The only redeeming feature of the power outlets were that there were two for each pair of seats.

Ride quality - 2/5
Whilst not unbearable, the ride quality of these trains is poor. There is a significant amount of side to side and up and down motion, more than should be expected on a modern high speed train.

Catering availability - 5/5

Both a buffet counter and an app ordering service to have refreshments delivered to your seat are available, and information about how to order catering to be delivered to your seat is readily available on the back of the seat infront.

Catering quality - did not use
Because of the short duration of the journey I did not use the available catering facilities, therefore it would not be fair for me to judge the quality of the catering on offer.

Tray table - 4/5
IMG_E9744[1].JPG

A decent size sturdy tray table is provided for all airline style seats, which includes an extendable section for laptops.

Wifi - did not use
Free wifi was available, though I did not use it.

Staff friendliness - 4/5
I had little interaction with the staff on this service but those I encountered were polite and professional.

Value for money - 4/5
Given the short journey I can't really complain about the poor comfort levels, especially considering the low price paid for this journey. I would be ranking this lower if the trip had been more expensive and/or over a longer distance.

Overall rating - 28/45 (62%)
Not terrible, but there's a lot of room for improvement. This service has a lot of potential which unfortunately much of it is unfulfilled. I wish I could rank LNER higher for this journey, but given my experience I can't.

Lumo:

IMG_E9768.JPG
Journey: 17:26 Morpeth - Newcastle
Date of travel: 25/10/2021
Class of travel: Standard
Duration: 14 minutes
Vehicle: Hitachi Class 803 - 803001
Ticket: Off Peak Day Return - £4.15 with railcard discount

Introduction to the service
Lumo is the UK's latest open access operator. Owned by First Group, Lumo launched operations on 25th October 2021, Lumo operates a small fleet of Hitachi Class 803 EMUs on a single route between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh, with intermediate stops at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth.

First impressions - 4/5
IMG_E9771.JPG

My first impression when I boarded the train was a good one. The train was well loaded, though not overcrowded - it was great to see so many people trying out this new service. The ambience onboard the train was a relaxed one, the lighting bright but not too cold and with some purple mood lighting above the luggage racks too.

The seat - 4/5
For a standard class seat I was very impressed. The seat was relatively firm but not so firm as to be uncomfortable, and excellently shaped. The winged headrests were a nice touch, very soft, and not low enough to be a hinderance. The armrests were at a good height and were padded.

Legroom - 5/5
The best I've seen in standard class in the UK. Legroom was exceptionally good,

Power outlets - 4/5
IMG_E9777.JPG
A single UK style plug socket is available underneath the pair of seats infront of you, along with two USB sockets, providing three power outlets per pair of seats in total. The positioning of these sockets was brilliant.

Ride quality - 3/5
Though better than the other members of the Hitachi AT300 family, ride quality was still not that great. The slightly improved ride quality vs the other members of the AT300 may be down to the lack of a diesel engine adding extra weight.

Catering availability - 5/5
Both a trolley service and an app ordering service to have refreshments delivered to your seat are available, and information about how to order catering to be delivered to your seat was provided in the form of staff announcements

Catering quality - did not use
Because of the short duration of the journey I did not use the available catering facilities, therefore it would not be fair for me to judge the quality of the catering on offer.

Tray table - 4/5
IMG_E9775.JPG
IMG_E9776.JPG


A large tray table, possibly the largest I've seen in standard class, is provided for all airline style seats and is sturdy. The table extends outwards for laptops, however this was a bit stiff. Above the tray table is an LED light, which has two brightness settings and is easilly controlled by a button, this was a nice touch I thought!

Wifi - did not use
Free wifi was available, though I did not use it.

Staff friendliness - 4/5
I had little interaction with the staff on this service but those I encountered were polite and professional.

Value for money - 5/5
This was an excellent value for money option. The comfort levels were good, as were the staff. The only thing that lets the service down is the frequency but given that they're a startup company this can be excused.

Overall rating - 38/45 (84%)
Lumo in my opinion was very good (or as they would say "beyond expectations"). I hope to review Lumo on a longer journey in the not too distant future!

My recommendation:

If given the choice, I would choose Lumo. That said, LNER isn't a terrible option, and I would be happy to use them again for this journey.

--

Please feel free to leave feedback on this review. I am looking for ways to improve my reviews going forwards, as I know both of these reviews are relatively brief.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post! :D
 
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HST274

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Looks like Lumo really beating LNER! I have to admit I expected another poor quality hard seated train, but looks like they have performed well. Great trip report. I look forward to more.
 
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Looks like Lumo really beating LNER! I have to admit I expected another poor quality hard seated train, but looks like they have performed well. Great trip report. I look forward to more.

Not from 3 individuals travelling back to Leeds on 1E30. To quote one lad, "LNER have nothing to worry about".

Personal preference I guess.
 

Ianno87

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Hang on, in your LNER assessment you've marked down the seat comfort twice - in first impressions (which is actually rated based on previous experience) and on the seat section itself. Double counting like that isn't being totally fair.
 

DanNCL

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County Durham
Looks like Lumo really beating LNER! I have to admit I expected another poor quality hard seated train, but looks like they have performed well. Great trip report. I look forward to more.
Thank you!

Not from 3 individuals travelling back to Leeds on 1E30. To quote one lad, "LNER have nothing to worry about".

Personal preference I guess.
One thing Lumo can never beat LNER on is frequency, which of course is the most important factor for many travellers. Lumo also aren’t much use to anyone wanting the likes of York.

Personal preference indeed.

Hang on, in your LNER assessment you've marked down the seat comfort twice - in first impressions (which is actually rated based on previous experience) and on the seat section itself. Double counting like that isn't being totally fair.
In both the LNER and Lumo assessments I’ve judged the seats twice - once on how comfortable they look (which forms part of the first impression), and once on how comfortable it actually is. I might not have specifically mentioned it in the Lumo “first impression” but it was as much a factor in my first impression score for Lumo as it was for LNER.

I tried as well as I could to take an unbiased view of the LNER offer, but as I knew my opinion may well have been influenced by previous experience I wanted to be honest by declaring that upfront :smile:
 

Techniquest

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I'm amazed you didn't rate the legroom as good/exceptional on LNER. Assuming (always dangerous!) it's the same as on GWR/TPX, then surely you'd have had no issue there?

I don't have an issue personally with the sockets positioning on IETs, I would say the ones on Lumo sets would have cables in the way so actually not helpfully placed! I like the look of the big tables though, they would be handy.

Looking at it from someone who doesn't like LNER (I blame the awful experience on my first journey with them in September, and their inability to actually respond properly to my feedback) and who doesn't really care about Lumo as it's not an operator who I've got a need for, I can't say I read your review without bias myself. However, reading your review it read like you don't like LNER but have fallen victim to the 'new is better' problem with Lumo.

I will be trying Lumo myself at some point, purely because I'll not be able to resist red-penning their 803s, but I'm not convinced I'm going to be loving their trains. I hope to be proven wrong, as I was recently with GWR's First Class. I assume it's the same on 800s and 802s, I haven't checked, but it was a pleasant surprise to find such a good quality First Class. So much so I'll be booking a First Class Advance with them when I next get the opportunity!

Fingers crossed your next review will be less biased!
 

DanNCL

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I'm amazed you didn't rate the legroom as good/exceptional on LNER. Assuming (always dangerous!) it's the same as on GWR/TPX, then surely you'd have had no issue there?

I don't have an issue personally with the sockets positioning on IETs, I would say the ones on Lumo sets would have cables in the way so actually not helpfully placed! I like the look of the big tables though, they would be handy.

Looking at it from someone who doesn't like LNER (I blame the awful experience on my first journey with them in September, and their inability to actually respond properly to my feedback) and who doesn't really care about Lumo as it's not an operator who I've got a need for, I can't say I read your review without bias myself. However, reading your review it read like you don't like LNER but have fallen victim to the 'new is better' problem with Lumo.

I will be trying Lumo myself at some point, purely because I'll not be able to resist red-penning their 803s, but I'm not convinced I'm going to be loving their trains. I hope to be proven wrong, as I was recently with GWR's First Class. I assume it's the same on 800s and 802s, I haven't checked, but it was a pleasant surprise to find such a good quality First Class. So much so I'll be booking a First Class Advance with them when I next get the opportunity!

Fingers crossed your next review will be less biased!
Thank you for the feedback! The only reason I rated the legroom on LNER as 4 rather than 5 was because the legroom on Lumo was even better and I wanted the scoring to reflect that, otherwise I would have marked LNER as 5 on that one. The legroom is brilliant on both trains.

First class on LNERs Azuma fleet is the same seats as GWR’s IETs. No first class on Lumo.
 

DanNCL

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Going forward

Thanks to everyone who has left me feedback on my first review. Following the feedback I’ve received I’ll be making a few changes going forward, with the aim of making my reviews fairer.

From now on I’ll be using two different formats. Where I’m comparing two different offerings on the same route, instead of ranking facilities out of 5 I’ll be giving 1 point for each category to the service which excels the most in that category.

For reviews of just one product I’ll retain the scoring out of 5. It should be easier to do this fairly when only reviewing one product, as the scores won’t be influenced by how it compares to any other product and instead should be solely a reflection of the product in question.

Finally, given the justified criticism of some aspects of my LNER Azuma review, in the next few weeks I’ll be revisiting the Azuma with a new review, this time solely on the Azuma to ensure it’s a fairer review and won’t have the aspect of being compared to any other product. This will also be on a longer journey so that I’ll have time to review the catering on offer.

Thanks again for all the feedback, I look forward to posting my next review soon!
 

Techniquest

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Sounds like it could be interesting to compare one review with another :) I'm certainly curious about the at seat ordering thing on LNER, not that I'm rushing to try it myself but it sounds like an interesting concept. When there's a buffet counter available I would probably use that in preference though.
 

75A

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I think an opinion formed on a 13 minute journey one way and a 14 minute one the other, need to be treated with a large amount of scepticism. A 3 hour one would be a lot more realistic in my opinion.
 

DanNCL

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I’ve updated the opening post with details of upcoming reviews that I’ve got planned. I haven’t wrote any of these yet (though I’ll be writing the first one tomorrow), and I’ll be writing them one at a time to start with so that I can use feedback from each previous review to make the next review better.

Another new feature I have planned for this thread is Airport rail link guides. Rather than reviewing the product directly, these will be guides on the rail options available for the airport in question. My first Airport rail link guide will be for Newcastle Airport and will hopefully be ready next week!

Thank you to everyone who has read my first review, and I hope the rocky start I’ve had hasn’t put anyone off from coming back to see my future reviews!

Sounds like it could be interesting to compare one review with another :) I'm certainly curious about the at seat ordering thing on LNER, not that I'm rushing to try it myself but it sounds like an interesting concept. When there's a buffet counter available I would probably use that in preference though.
Yes, I’m curious about that too, going to try it out in my next LNER review!

I think an opinion formed on a 13 minute journey one way and a 14 minute one the other, need to be treated with a large amount of scepticism. A 3 hour one would be a lot more realistic in my opinion.
To be fair the main purpose of that review I did was to specifically compare the two companies’ offers on that one route from Newcastle to Morpeth. It is a short route so naturally the journey times are going to be short.

In the case of Lumo, given how unpopular many new train seats have been I wanted to try them out for a short hop before committing myself to a longer journey on one to make sure I’d actually be happy to travel on one for a longer journey (to which the answer is yes, I am).

Full reviews going forward of long distance trains will be on longer journeys - maybe not in the region of 3 hours (I‘m on a tight budget!) but for long distance trains my aim will normally be for a journey of at least an hour. Examples like the Morpeth one may appear where long distance trains are part of the local offer, but this now on will only be in the context of that specific journey and will not amount to a full review of the long distance product, that’ll be saved for a longer trip.
 

HST274

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I think an interesting comparison would be Azuma vs Pendolino or East vs west on a scotland-london trip or vice versa. I understand though that in terms of budget that is a little expensive. :!: I think the new scoring 'format' would certainly negate any bias, if there is any.
 

DanNCL

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I think an interesting comparison would be Azuma vs Pendolino or East vs west on a scotland-london trip or vice versa. I understand though that in terms of budget that is a little expensive. :!: I think the new scoring 'format' would certainly negate any bias, if there is any.
It would definitely be interesting - whether I could cope with 4 hours on a Fainsa Sophia is an entirely different matter though :lol:

I’m certainly hoping to do a sleeper vs day train comparison at some point, I think that would be a nice one to do!
 

Techniquest

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It would definitely be interesting - whether I could cope with 4 hours on a Fainsa Sophia is an entirely different matter though :lol:

I’m certainly hoping to do a sleeper vs day train comparison at some point, I think that would be a nice one to do!

Wuss! :lol:

4 hours on one of those seats, granted with breaks for necessary things, would not be terribly difficult! <:D

Sleeper versus day train would be interesting, personally I prefer day train plus hotel after my experience on the sleeper in October 2020. First time on the MK5 sleeper stock, good chance it will be the last!
 

DanNCL

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Wuss! :lol:

4 hours on one of those seats, granted with breaks for necessary things, would not be terribly difficult! <:D

Sleeper versus day train would be interesting, personally I prefer day train plus hotel after my experience on the sleeper in October 2020. First time on the MK5 sleeper stock, good chance it will be the last!
Yes, I’m a wuss :lol:

I did the Mark 5 sleepers pre-covid and was quite happy with them (not least because I got a free upgrade from a seat to an en-suite berth :lol:) though I’ll have to see what they’re like now!
 

DanNCL

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CrossCountry Voyager First Class (evening service)


Welcome back! This review is of the First Class product offered by CrossCountry on their North East-South West route, onboard one of their Voyager trains.

IMG_E0032.JPG
Journey: 20:32 York - Newcastle
Date of travel: 26/10/2021
Class of travel: First
Duration: 56 minutes
Vehicle: Bombardier Class 220 Voyager - 220012+220003
Ticket: Advance Single - £14.90 with railcard discount

Introduction to the service
CrossCountry is the largest long distance operator in the UK that doesn't serve London, with their network instead radiating out of Birmingham New Street. Their network reaches most corners of the UK, including Aberdeen, Penzance, Manchester, Bournemouth, Stansted Airport and Cardiff. The CrossCountry route network is split into two sets of routes - the Intercity routes which use Class 220 and Class 221 Voyagers as well as a small number of HSTs, and the Regional routes which use Class 170 Turbostars. The North East-South West route, the route travelled on for this review, is the UK's longest, stretching as far North as Aberdeen and as far south as Penzance - pre covid there was a direct service between the two locations taking 13 hours to complete the journey. Diesel trains are used on all CrossCountry services as large parts of their network are unelectrified, although my journey between York and Newcastle was entirely under the wires.

First impressions - 4/5
IMG_E0040.JPG
My first impression of the first class product was good. Large seats which looked comfortable, warm lighting perfect for a long distance train at night, and just generally a very welcoming feel. The only negative was that the interior looked dated and in need of a refresh.

The seat - 4/5
Seating is laid out in a 2+1 configuration, as is expected in first class on a long distance train, with a mix of facing bays and airline style seating. The seats were wide, well padded and reclined, although the recline was limited and could have been better. The armrests are in a very good position, although the shape of these wasn't great, lets just say they appear to have been designed with asthetics prioritised over functionality!

Legroom - 5/5
Legroom was absolutely fantastic. Plenty of room to stretch out, even with the seat reclined. For reference I'm 6ft (182cm), so whilst not the tallest person around I do have fairly long legs!

Power outlets - 3/5
IMG_E0039.JPG

One plug socket is provided on the wall next to each row of seats. On the side of the aisle with two seats this is one plug socket shared between the two seats, with the aisle seat passenger having to reach over the legs of the window seat passenger to access the plug socket. For first class in 2021 this is poor, and something I hope is corrected in a future refurbishment of these trains.

Ride quality - 4/5
Ride quality was good. The only let down here was the jolting over points, which is common on trains with inside frame bogies. Other than that, the ride was very smooth.

Catering availability - 5/5
First class catering is provided complimentary at seat by a dedicated first class host. There is a host for every first class carriage on Voyager services, which led to the service being very attentive. - the first offer of refreshments was before the train had even left York!

Catering quality - 3/5
IMG_E0038.JPG

Given the length of this service I think it's poor that no meal service is available - regardless of journey length the evening catering offer consists of drinks and snacks. There was a decent choice of snacks and drinks, and I opted to have a can of Coke (the soft drinks available come in the small 150ml cans) and white chocolate biscuits - two are provided in each packet and the quality of these was very good.
I have unfortunately had to mark the catering quality as 3/5, as though the snack offer was good, the lack of any meal offering for those doing longer journeys is a huge omission and is something that should be available in first class on such a long distance route.

Tray table - 4/5
IMG_E0035.JPG
Rather than a tray table, a fixed table is provided for each row of airline seats. The table is large enough to comfortably take a laptop as well as food and drink. The only drawback of the table was that only the aisle seat section of the table folded up, making access to the window seat a bit awkward for those of a larger build or who have reduced mobility.

Wifi - 2/5
Free wifi was available but the speed was incredibly slow, not sufficient enough to browse social media though it could just about load the BBC homepage. As a leftover from the era of Virgin Trains (14 years ago now!), the windows have film which impedes 4G reception, meaning overall digital connectivity on the train was poor.

Staff friendliness - 5/5
The first class host on this service was fantastic! Service with a smile, very friendly, and wanting to go out of his way to make the journey as good as possible.

Toilets - 3/5
IMG_E0091.JPG
All toilets on these trains are of the large accessible type. All facilities in the toilets were clean and in full working order, though they look very drab, and there's no audible indication that the toilet door had been locked, something which accessible toilets really should have. There was also an odour from the toilet, though not as bad as I've encountered on other trains in the past.

Value for money - 5/5
For £14.90 on an 80 mile journey, this works out at just under 18p per mile. For first class, I think this is excellent value for money, despite the few negative points I mentioned earlier in the review. This trip was booked about a week in advance, when it's not unheard of for tickets in standard class to cost more than what I paid for first class on this journey.

Overall rating - 47/60 (78%)
There's definitely room for improvement but overall I was impressed by the first class product on the CrossCountry Voyager and would definitely use it again. Thumbs up from me!
 
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HST274

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CrossCountry Voyager First Class


Welcome back! This review is of the First Class product offered by CrossCountry on their North East-South West route, onboard one of their Voyager trains.

View attachment 104857
Journey: 20:32 York - Newcastle
Date of travel: 26/10/2021
Class of travel: First
Duration: 56 minutes
Vehicle: Bombardier Class 220 Voyager - 220012+220003
Ticket: Advance Single - £14.90 with railcard discount

Introduction to the service
CrossCountry is the largest long distance operator in the UK that doesn't serve London, with their network instead radiating out of Birmingham New Street. Their network reaches most corners of the UK, including Aberdeen, Penzance, Manchester, Bournemouth, Stansted Airport and Cardiff. The CrossCountry route network is split into two sets of routes - the Intercity routes which use Class 220 and Class 221 Voyagers as well as a small number of HSTs, and the Regional routes which use Class 170 Turbostars. The North East-South West route, the route travelled on for this review, is the UK's longest, stretching as far North as Aberdeen and as far south as Penzance - pre covid there was a direct service between the two locations taking 13 hours to complete the journey. Diesel trains are used on all CrossCountry services as large parts of their network are unelectrified, although my journey between York and Newcastle was entirely under the wires.

First impressions - 4/5
View attachment 104861
My first impression of the first class product was good. Large seats which looked comfortable, warm lighting perfect for a long distance train at night, and just generally a very welcoming feel. The only negative was that the interior looked dated and in need of a refresh.

The seat - 4/5
Seating is laid out in a 2+1 configuration, as is expected in first class on a long distance train, with a mix of facing bays and airline style seating. The seats were wide, well padded and reclined, although the recline was limited and could have been better. The armrests are in a very good position, although the shape of these wasn't great, lets just say they appear to have been designed with asthetics prioritised over functionality!

Legroom - 5/5
Legroom was absolutely fantastic. Plenty of room to stretch out, even with the seat reclined. For reference I'm 6ft (182cm), so whilst not the tallest person around I do have fairly long legs!

Power outlets - 3/5
View attachment 104860

One plug socket is provided on the wall next to each row of seats. On the side of the aisle with two seats this is one plug socket shared between the two seats, with the aisle seat passenger having to reach over the legs of the window seat passenger to access the plug socket. For first class in 2021 this is poor, and something I hope is corrected in a future refurbishment of these trains.

Ride quality - 4/5
Ride quality was good. The only let down here was the jolting over points, which is common on trains with inside frame bogies. Other than that, the ride was very smooth.

Catering availability - 5/5
First class catering is provided complimentary at seat by a dedicated first class host. There is a host for every first class carriage on Voyager services, which led to the service being very attentive. - the first offer of refreshments was before the train had even left York!

Catering quality - 3/5
View attachment 104859

Given the length of this service I think it's poor that no meal service is available - regardless of journey length catering consists of drinks and snacks. There was a decent choice of snacks and drinks, and I opted to have a can of Coke (the soft drinks available come in the small 150ml cans) and white chocolate biscuits - two are provided in each packet and the quality of these was very good.
I have unfortunately had to mark the catering quality as 3/5, as though the snack offer was good, the lack of any meal offering for those doing longer journeys is a huge omission and is something that should be available in first class on such a long distance route.

Tray table - 4/5
View attachment 104866
Rather than a tray table, a fixed table is provided for each row of airline seats. The table is large enough to comfortably take a laptop as well as food and drink. The only drawback of the table was that only the aisle seat section of the table folded up, making access to the window seat a bit awkward for those of a larger build or who have reduced mobility.

Wifi - 2/5
Free wifi was available but the speed was incredibly slow, not sufficient enough to browse social media though it could just about load the BBC homepage. As a leftover from the era of Virgin Trains (14 years ago now!), the windows have film which impedes 4G reception, meaning overall digital connectivity on the train was poor.

Staff friendliness - 5/5
The first class host on this service was fantastic! Service with a smile, very friendly, and wanting to go out of his way to make the journey as good as possible.

Toilets - 3/5
View attachment 104865
All toilets on these trains are of the large accessible type. All facilities in the toilets were clean and in full working order, though they look very drab, and there's no audible indication that the toilet door had been locked, something which accessible toilets really should have. There was also an odour from the toilet, though not as bad as I've encountered on other trains in the past.

Value for money - 5/5
For £14.90 on an 80 mile journey, this works out at just under 18p per mile. For first class, I think this is excellent value for money, despite the few negative points I mentioned earlier in the review. This trip was booked about a week in advance, when it's not unheard of for tickets in standard class to cost more than what I paid for first class on this journey.

Overall rating - 47/60 (78%)
There's definitely room for improvement but overall I was impressed by the first class product on the CrossCountry Voyager and would definitely use it again. Thumbs up from me!
Very good trip report with great explanations of each point. A small piece of trivia/pedantry is that XC still offer an Aberdeen to penzance service on Saturdays. Overall a detailed and interesting report which has certainly put this service in my mind!
 

HBP

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Harrogate

CrossCountry Voyager First Class


Catering quality - 3/5
View attachment 104859

Given the length of this service I think it's poor that no meal service is available - regardless of journey length catering consists of drinks and snacks. There was a decent choice of snacks and drinks, and I opted to have a can of Coke (the soft drinks available come in the small 150ml cans) and white chocolate biscuits - two are provided in each packet and the quality of these was very good.
I have unfortunately had to mark the catering quality as 3/5, as though the snack offer was good, the lack of any meal offering for those doing longer journeys is a huge omission and is something that should be available in first class on such a long distance route.


Is this the new policy for XC Catering? I’ve certainly had a more substantial complimentary offering on YRK-NCL. Hot breakfast roll or a sandwich was normal.
 

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DanNCL

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Very good trip report with great explanations of each point. A small piece of trivia/pedantry is that XC still offer an Aberdeen to penzance service on Saturdays. Overall a detailed and interesting report which has certainly put this service in my mind!
Thank you!

Is this the new policy for XC Catering? I’ve certainly had a more substantial complimentary offering on YRK-NCL. Hot breakfast roll or a sandwich was normal.
@HBP interesting, definitely no such offering on the service I was on! Must be limited to select services then, the one I travelled on not being one of them.
 

Techniquest

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If I read your review right, and I admit I was rushing it in places, your journey was late evening. By then I would imagine demand for proper food on trains would be very slim, so while it might have existed previously it almost certainly won't now.
 

DanNCL

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I’ve just updated the title of the XC Voyager first review to reflect that it’s a review of the evening service, with it being brought to light that the offer on my service wasn’t the same as can be expected during the day. I’ve also corrected the section of the review where I’d said XC don't offer meals on any of their services to reflect that it’s only the evening service where it’s not offered.

Thanks again for all the feedback, it’s a huge help to me, I hope to get my reviews up to scratch, though it looks like I‘m not quite there yet!

If I read your review right, and I admit I was rushing it in places, your journey was late evening. By then I would imagine demand for proper food on trains would be very slim, so while it might have existed previously it almost certainly won't now.
It was late evening (20:32 from York). Given that some people on the train would still have had 2 and a half hours to go (as the train was continuing to Edinburgh) I thought it was a poor show for there not to be any meal offer, but then maybe I’m expecting too much!
 
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Techniquest

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Thing is, that time of evening most people will have eaten before their journey, I certainly would have and no doubt stocked up on snacks for the journey before travelling. I would imagine most people would do the same.

It could be XC tried providing such a service but found it to be too loss-making to continue providing at that time of day. I'd expect hot food to be available (subject to availability of course) much earlier in the day, but after half 8 in the evening my primary concern would be the train turning up and getting me to my destination on time/early.

Note this isn't intended as a dig at your review or anything, just offering a balancing view of how the average passenger may view it. My top priority out of a First Class journey, and I've not done many of those in a long time (Lymington Pier to Salisbury and Hereford to Worcester is all I've managed in recent memory), is to get a seat, have extra space to rest and enjoy a more civilised environment. Anything I get on top of that, such as a complimentary hot drink or a snack box (shoutout to GWR, by the way, for providing a vegan friendly snack box in First Class :D ), is a huge bonus.
 

Mike99

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Welcome to my new thread, Dan on the Rails! Here I will post reviews of different travel options across the UK (and eventually further afield!), as well as comparisons between different offerings on the same route, giving my recommendation on which service to use, and Airport rail link guides which rather than being reviews will simply be a guide as to the Airport-City rail link(s) on offer for that airport. I hope you all enjoy reading my reviews!

I will aim to post a new report every week, though this of course is subject to having the time free.

Upcoming reviews:
Newcastle - Wakefield: CrossCountry HST - Standard class
York - Newcastle: CrossCountry Voyager - First class
Journey TBC: LNER Azuma - Standard class
Journey TBC: Lumo - Standard class
Carlisle - Lancaster: Transpennine Express Nova 2 - Standard class
Manchester - Chesterfield: EMR Regional - Standard class

Upcoming comparison reports:
Newcastle - Middlesbrough: Train vs coach
Newcastle - Sunderland: Train vs Metro vs Bus

Upcoming Airport-City rail link guides:
Newcastle Airport - Newcastle City Centre

Let's start with my first report shall we!

East Coast Short Hop - LNER vs Lumo


This week's post will review LNER and Lumo between Newcastle and Morpeth. Other rail options are also available between Newcastle and Morpeth, as well as express buses, which I'll review in the future! Let's start with the LNER trip:

LNER:

View attachment 104625
Journey: 16:42 Newcastle - Morpeth
Date of travel: 25/10/2021
Class of travel: Standard
Duration: 13 minutes
Vehicle: Hitachi Class 801 "Azuma" - 801212
Ticket: Off Peak Day Return - £4.15 with railcard discount

Introduction to the service
LNER are the "flagship" operator of long distance services on the East Coast Main Line. This company is owned by the Department for Transport's as an "Operator of Last Resort". Their fleet consists of 65 Class 800 and Class 801 "Azuma" trains, , as well as 7 older Intercity 225 sets (Class 91+Mark 4 coaches) which are now exclusively used on the Yorkshire routes - a detailed review of the offer onboard these trains is coming soon.

First impressions - 2/5
View attachment 104626

I already knew what to expect given that I've travelled on many of these trains before, but nonetheless I had my usual underwhelming feeling when I boarded the train. The colour scheme is wlecoming, but other than that the first impression wasn't a great one. The seats looked very uncomfortable, and you're greeted by unduly harsh lighting, both giving the interior a very cheap feel.

The seat - 1/5
View attachment 104623

The seating onboard these trains is of the "Fainsa Sophia" type. These seats, which are marketed by Fainsa as regional seats, are poor to say the least. Badly shaped, bolt upright, almost as firm as a concrete slab, and armrests far too low down to be of any use.

Legroom - 4/5
Decent for standard class. Plenty of room to strech your legs

Power outlets - 2/5
View attachment 104634
Two plug sockets of the standard UK design are provided underneath each pair of seats. The position of these sockets is such that they're incredibly awkward to use. The only redeeming feature of the power outlets were that there were two for each pair of seats.

Ride quality - 2/5
Whilst not unbearable, the ride quality of these trains is poor. There is a significant amount of side to side and up and down motion, more than should be expected on a modern high speed train.

Catering availability - 5/5

Both a buffet counter and an app ordering service to have refreshments delivered to your seat are available, and information about how to order catering to be delivered to your seat is readily available on the back of the seat infront.

Catering quality - did not use
Because of the short duration of the journey I did not use the available catering facilities, therefore it would not be fair for me to judge the quality of the catering on offer.

Tray table - 4/5
View attachment 104624

A decent size sturdy tray table is provided for all airline style seats, which includes an extendable section for laptops.

Wifi - did not use
Free wifi was available, though I did not use it.

Staff friendliness - 4/5
I had little interaction with the staff on this service but those I encountered were polite and professional.

Value for money - 4/5
Given the short journey I can't really complain about the poor comfort levels, especially considering the low price paid for this journey. I would be ranking this lower if the trip had been more expensive and/or over a longer distance.

Overall rating - 28/45 (62%)
Not terrible, but there's a lot of room for improvement. This service has a lot of potential which unfortunately much of it is unfulfilled. I wish I could rank LNER higher for this journey, but given my experience I can't.

Lumo:

View attachment 104629
Journey: 17:26 Morpeth - Newcastle
Date of travel: 25/10/2021
Class of travel: Standard
Duration: 14 minutes
Vehicle: Hitachi Class 803 - 803001
Ticket: Off Peak Day Return - £4.15 with railcard discount

Introduction to the service
Lumo is the UK's latest open access operator. Owned by First Group, Lumo launched operations on 25th October 2021, Lumo operates a small fleet of Hitachi Class 803 EMUs on a single route between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh, with intermediate stops at Stevenage, Newcastle and Morpeth.

First impressions - 4/5
View attachment 104630

My first impression when I boarded the train was a good one. The train was well loaded, though not overcrowded - it was great to see so many people trying out this new service. The ambience onboard the train was a relaxed one, the lighting bright but not too cold and with some purple mood lighting above the luggage racks too.

The seat - 4/5
For a standard class seat I was very impressed. The seat was relatively firm but not so firm as to be uncomfortable, and excellently shaped. The winged headrests were a nice touch, very soft, and not low enough to be a hinderance. The armrests were at a good height and were padded.

Legroom - 5/5
The best I've seen in standard class in the UK. Legroom was exceptionally good,

Power outlets - 4/5
View attachment 104633
A single UK style plug socket is available underneath the pair of seats infront of you, along with two USB sockets, providing three power outlets per pair of seats in total. The positioning of these sockets was brilliant.

Ride quality - 3/5
Though better than the other members of the Hitachi AT300 family, ride quality was still not that great. The slightly improved ride quality vs the other members of the AT300 may be down to the lack of a diesel engine adding extra weight.

Catering availability - 5/5
Both a trolley service and an app ordering service to have refreshments delivered to your seat are available, and information about how to order catering to be delivered to your seat was provided in the form of staff announcements

Catering quality - did not use
Because of the short duration of the journey I did not use the available catering facilities, therefore it would not be fair for me to judge the quality of the catering on offer.

Tray table - 4/5
View attachment 104631
View attachment 104632


A large tray table, possibly the largest I've seen in standard class, is provided for all airline style seats and is sturdy. The table extends outwards for laptops, however this was a bit stiff. Above the tray table is an LED light, which has two brightness settings and is easilly controlled by a button, this was a nice touch I thought!

Wifi - did not use
Free wifi was available, though I did not use it.

Staff friendliness - 4/5
I had little interaction with the staff on this service but those I encountered were polite and professional.

Value for money - 5/5
This was an excellent value for money option. The comfort levels were good, as were the staff. The only thing that lets the service down is the frequency but given that they're a startup company this can be excused.

Overall rating - 38/45 (84%)
Lumo in my opinion was very good (or as they would say "beyond expectations"). I hope to review Lumo on a longer journey in the not too distant future!

My recommendation:

If given the choice, I would choose Lumo. That said, LNER isn't a terrible option, and I would be happy to use them again for this journey.

--

Please feel free to leave feedback on this review. I am looking for ways to improve my reviews going forwards, as I know both of these reviews are relatively brief.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post! :D
I'm interested to know, what did the LNER and LUMO staff do, or not do, that made you deduct a point?
(Staff friendliness - 4/5
I had little interaction with the staff on this service but those I encountered were polite and professional)
 

DanNCL

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17 Jul 2017
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2,097
Location
County Durham
Thing is, that time of evening most people will have eaten before their journey, I certainly would have and no doubt stocked up on snacks for the journey before travelling. I would imagine most people would do the same.

It could be XC tried providing such a service but found it to be too loss-making to continue providing at that time of day. I'd expect hot food to be available (subject to availability of course) much earlier in the day, but after half 8 in the evening my primary concern would be the train turning up and getting me to my destination on time/early.

Note this isn't intended as a dig at your review or anything, just offering a balancing view of how the average passenger may view it. My top priority out of a First Class journey, and I've not done many of those in a long time (Lymington Pier to Salisbury and Hereford to Worcester is all I've managed in recent memory), is to get a seat, have extra space to rest and enjoy a more civilised environment. Anything I get on top of that, such as a complimentary hot drink or a snack box (shoutout to GWR, by the way, for providing a vegan friendly snack box in First Class :D ), is a huge bonus.
It may well be the case. For future reviews I think I need to do a bit more research on what exactly the offering should be before writing my reviews!

Not taken as a dig at all, it’s valuable feedback that helps me improve my reviews, so it’s well appreciated by myself! :smile:

I'm interested to know, what did the LNER and LUMO staff do, or not do, that made you deduct a point?
(Staff friendliness - 4/5
I had little interaction with the staff on this service but those I encountered were polite and professional)
In this cases I wanted to save the top score for exceptional service, going above and beyond. In the cases where I’ve given 4/5 as the score for staff friendliness it’s not because they’ve done anything wrong, simply that there wasn’t anything exceptional. Maybe I’m too picky with my scoring!
 

Andy Pacer

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Location
Leicestershire
Sounds like it could be interesting to compare one review with another :) I'm certainly curious about the at seat ordering thing on LNER, not that I'm rushing to try it myself but it sounds like an interesting concept. When there's a buffet counter available I would probably use that in preference though.
At seat worked quite well for me on the one occasion i've tried it on LNER. Interestingly the items arrived before my confirmation e-mail, so was quite quick although we were sat in the next carriage along from the buffet.
I've used the similar at seat ordering thingy on Avanti as well a handful of times, and have had excellent results. The only negative one was when it said at seat delivery wasn't available so I had to collect from the onboard shop instead, but it was all ready and waiting for me when I went up there.
I think the at seat things are great for solo travellers.
 

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