Pointless first classes?

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Clansman

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Travelled to Brighton today from Dunkeld, and found myself a decent first class fare from Virgin Trains East Coast. Unfortunately, my train from Dunkeld to Edinburgh was a class 158. As I took my seat and grabbed my laptop, it was then I realised what a pointless first class Scotrail have on the 158s. The first class was fully reserved and I was sitting at the window seat, and I couldn't even use my laptop because the reading lamp was blocking it. I couldn't even read the newspaper. At least the VTEC to Kings Cross was perfect though, a world away from the Scotrail one. However, when I boarded the Electrostar at Victoria, I discovered again, that the first class is exactly like standard!

What is the point in having a "first class" when it is exactly the same as standard class?
 
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168lover

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Travelled to Brighton today from Dunkeld, and found myself a decent first class fare from Virgin Trains East Coast. Unfortunately, my train from Dunkeld to Edinburgh was a class 158. As I took my seat and grabbed my laptop, it was then I realised what a pointless first class Scotrail have on the 158s. The first class was fully reserved and I was sitting at the window seat, and I couldn't even use my laptop because the reading lamp was blocking it. I couldn't even read the newspaper. At least the VTEC to Kings Cross was perfect though, a world away from the Scotrail one. However, when I boarded the Electrostar at Victoria, I discovered again, that the first class is exactly like standard!

What is the point in having a "first class" when it is exactly the same as standard class?

The point is that you have more chance of getting a seat on a busier service.
 

ld0595

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I agree regarding the first class on a 158, it is no more than a brown table with a lamp and one power outlet. I've been on it a few times on the Fife Circle where it is declassified and I'd be extremely unhappy if I paid the extra for it. However, another point about travelling first class is you're pretty much guaranteed a seat if you go for a ticket on the day. I traveled Stirling to Dundee once on a busy football day and paid the extra for first class just so I was guaranteed a seat. I got to sit for the hour while everyone in standard had to stand and get crushed.

It's the same on some of the trains I've been on in the Netherlands - "first class" is pretty much a way to guarantee a seat but offers no other benefit than travelling standard.
 

yorksrob

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All of the Southern Region - since they got rid of compartment carriages.
 

ScotTrains

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First class on Scotrail is only going to get worse if traveling on their new 385's. The aesthetics are very poor and the first class seats are too small, hard and uncomfortable. Try for yourself on the mock up at Waverley station. Think I'll sick to XC between Glasgow and Edinburgh once the turbostars leave, just need them to serve refreshments on more services now. The Scotrail turbostars were nice in 1st. The Scotrail 158's have reasonably comfortable reclining seats, though I don't like the 2x2 layout and lack of door to separate you from standard class. The power socket in 1st on a 158 is handy especially if on a long journey eg to Wick or Kyle, though I think standard class will be getting sockets installed on the scenic 158's.
 

Clansman

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First class on Scotrail is only going to get worse if traveling on their new 385's. The aesthetics are very poor and the first class seats are too small, hard and uncomfortable. Try for yourself on the mock up at Waverley station. Think I'll sick to XC between Glasgow and Edinburgh once the turbostars leave, just need them to serve refreshments on more services now. The Scotrail turbostars were nice in 1st. The Scotrail 158's have reasonably comfortable reclining seats, though I don't like the 2x2 layout and lack of door to separate you from standard class. The power socket in 1st on a 158 is handy especially if on a long journey eg to Wick or Kyle, though I think standard class will be getting sockets installed on the scenic 158's.

Agree with you 100%. Even though the refurbished 170s have the exact same seats as standard as opposed to the NX Scotrail sets, atleast you get bigger table room and legroom aswell as reclining seats. The class 158 on the other hand is exactly the same as standard class, but with a different colour table and smaller space. As much as the hatred for Voyagers on this forum is, I have to admit I quite like them on short hops from one place to another, especially if it's a Virgin one which is always more cleaner than XC ones. First class is decent on both too. Might stick to them from now on for my many commutes from the Central Belt to the Capital.

I've not tried the Class 385 seats yet. By the looks of the interior, it's appalling. The first class seats are the same seats used on the IEPs standard class, only with the double arm rest in the middle. Why not use the first class seats in standard class as 2+2 and have better first class seats which atleast matches the comfort levels of the Class 170 one? Is the mock-up still at Waverley? I'll pop round on Thursday if it is?
 
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ld0595

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First class on Scotrail is only going to get worse if traveling on their new 385's. The aesthetics are very poor and the first class seats are too small, hard and uncomfortable. Try for yourself on the mock up at Waverley station. Think I'll sick to XC between Glasgow and Edinburgh once the turbostars leave, just need them to serve refreshments on more services now. The Scotrail turbostars were nice in 1st. The Scotrail 158's have reasonably comfortable reclining seats, though I don't like the 2x2 layout and lack of door to separate you from standard class. The power socket in 1st on a 158 is handy especially if on a long journey eg to Wick or Kyle, though I think standard class will be getting sockets installed on the scenic 158's.

I'm not sure about the E-G route since I haven't tried the mock up but I'd say the first class provision on the intercity routes when the HSTs are introduced will be a welcome improvement over what's currently on offer.
 

antharro

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It seems to me that every refurbishment brings a "downgrading" of the accommodation, to the point where on some train classes, first class is simply little more than standard class with signs on the windows and seats. Seats have progressively become thinner, more upright and straight backed and less padded, to the point where I'm pretty sure some are just a very thin layer of foam and fabric stretched over a plastic base. The days of comfortable BR seats (ok, I'm generalising - I am well aware that not all seats in BR's time were comfortable!) are pretty much gone.

"Proper" first class is a thing that is long in decline. There are some decent examples still around; SWT's 158/9s tend to get rated well in this area, the 442s prior to refurbishment were pretty decent in both first and standard, and first in FGW's HSTs was/is pretty decent. I actually don't mind first in XC's Voyagers, tho I do have a dislike of their standard class seats. SWT's 444s 1st are just standard class seats in a different colour that recline. Examples of "bad" first for me would be Southern's Electrostars (seriously, why even bother?), SWT's 458s and 450s.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this downgrading is intentional with an eventual aim of downgrading first so far that it's not seen as a worthwhile upgrade, so the TOCs can drop it and put in more standard class seating, and sell it as "more seats on our trains".
 

ExRes

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I always thought that MML 1st class on 3 car 170s was comfortable and couldn't ever be classed as a 'downgrade', there was the slight problem of putting it in the centre coach though which meant that the standard class masses were constantly trekking through 1st to reach the bar ..........
 

170401

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I've often wondered what the point of first class is on anything but true long distance Intercity routes.

My experience with Scotrails first class on the Edinburgh - Glasgow route is that their are actually very few passengers who pay the full first class fare. A good proportion of the first class ridership is made up of East coast advance ticket holders, railway managers and most prolifically chancers travelling with standard class tickets hoping no one will challenge them (and usually loaded with vile abuse when they do).

I find it very disappointing that Scotrail is pursuing first on the 385 stock. Still, maybe they will see some sense and introduce an off peak product to try and encourage use of it at times of the day where it normally only carry fresh air.
 

Bletchleyite

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I've not tried the Class 385 seats yet. By the looks of the interior, it's appalling. The first class seats are the same seats used on the IEPs standard class, only with the double arm rest in the middle. Why not use the first class seats in standard class as 2+2 and have better first class seats which atleast matches the comfort levels of the Class 170 one? Is the mock-up still at Waverley? I'll pop round on Thursday if it is?

Yes it indeed is still there, it's hidden behind the building on the east side. The Standard seats are quite comfortable, they are using a different seat squab (only on one pair of airline seats in the mockup) from Southern which is far more comfortable. The First Class is a joke and I wouldn't pay for it, the seats are no wider than Virgin Pendolino Standard seats, and the headrest digs into the back of my shoulders. I was apparently by no means the only person who had said the First Class was not good.

FWIW, though, it could be worse, it could be 2+2 First 3+2 Standard, given that these are basically suburban EMUs. I similarly won't pay for 2+2 First on those.

As for the Inverness 158s I have no idea why they were fitted with so-called First Class as it's near enough always declassified on the services they run.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
SWT's 444s 1st are just standard class seats in a different colour that recline.

They are not. They are wider and better padded. Certainly worth paying for, particularly the single seat.

The same seats are fitted to the TPE 185s and 350s and are similarly nice.

If only LM hadn't fitted 2+2 in theirs. If they'd fitted 2+1, I'd consider it worth the money.

Examples of "bad" first for me would be Southern's Electrostars (seriously, why even bother?), SWT's 458s and 450s.

South East commuter First Class has one purpose and one purpose alone - an increased chance of getting a seat. Any seat.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this downgrading is intentional with an eventual aim of downgrading first so far that it's not seen as a worthwhile upgrade, so the TOCs can drop it and put in more standard class seating, and sell it as "more seats on our trains".

Doubt it, it's extra income.
 
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47802

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It seems to me that every refurbishment brings a "downgrading" of the accommodation, to the point where on some train classes, first class is simply little more than standard class with signs on the windows and seats. Seats have progressively become thinner, more upright and straight backed and less padded, to the point where I'm pretty sure some are just a very thin layer of foam and fabric stretched over a plastic base. The days of comfortable BR seats (ok, I'm generalising - I am well aware that not all seats in BR's time were comfortable!) are pretty much gone.

"Proper" first class is a thing that is long in decline. There are some decent examples still around; SWT's 158/9s tend to get rated well in this area, the 442s prior to refurbishment were pretty decent in both first and standard, and first in FGW's HSTs was/is pretty decent. I actually don't mind first in XC's Voyagers, tho I do have a dislike of their standard class seats. SWT's 444s 1st are just standard class seats in a different colour that recline. Examples of "bad" first for me would be Southern's Electrostars (seriously, why even bother?), SWT's 458s and 450s.

The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this downgrading is intentional with an eventual aim of downgrading first so far that it's not seen as a worthwhile upgrade, so the TOCs can drop it and put in more standard class seating, and sell it as "more seats on our trains".


If you ask me I think its about time a lot of 1st class was axed anyway as happened on a lot of regional railways routes.

If it was up to me I would only retain the following 1st class

Scotrail HST's only
VTEC and West Coast
GWR, IEP/AT300 only
Anglia London - Norwich only
SWT 444 and 159 routes only
TPE Anglo Scottish , and North TPE EXpress only (ie AT300 Services)
XC Voyagers and HST's only
LM No
GTR No
EMT as is.
South Eastern No
Airport Stanstead and Gatex Yes with proper 1st class in the case of the later.
 
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DarloRich

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Travelled to Brighton today from Dunkeld, and found myself a decent first class fare from Virgin Trains East Coast. Unfortunately, my train from Dunkeld to Edinburgh was a class 158. As I took my seat and grabbed my laptop, it was then I realised what a pointless first class Scotrail have on the 158s. The first class was fully reserved and I was sitting at the window seat, and I couldn't even use my laptop because the reading lamp was blocking it. I couldn't even read the newspaper. At least the VTEC to Kings Cross was perfect though, a world away from the Scotrail one. However, when I boarded the Electrostar at Victoria, I discovered again, that the first class is exactly like standard!

What is the point in having a "first class" when it is exactly the same as standard class?

if the first class was fully reserved there must be a market for it. standard and first class are different on Southern. You get an antimacassar in first...............
 

yorksrob

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I know that people like to repeat the opinion that 1'st class is only to get a seat on commuter routes, but there really isn't a reason why this has to be so, except for the lack of imagination by some TOC's. 1st has historically involved more comfort on such routes, and if TOC's want people to buy 1st class fares outside of peak hours, they need to rediscover this.
 

DarloRich

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I know that people like to repeat the opinion that 1'st class is only to get a seat on commuter routes, but there really isn't a reason why this has to be so, except for the lack of imagination by some TOC's. 1st has historically involved more comfort on such routes, and if TOC's want people to buy 1st class fares outside of peak hours, they need to rediscover this.

nah - go for the reverse communist approach. Downgrade all to second class standards for first class prices ;)
 
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I agree regarding the first class on a 158, it is no more than a brown table with a lamp and one power outlet. I've been on it a few times on the Fife Circle where it is declassified and I'd be extremely unhappy if I paid the extra for it. However, another point about travelling first class is you're pretty much guaranteed a seat if you go for a ticket on the day. I traveled Stirling to Dundee once on a busy football day and paid the extra for first class just so I was guaranteed a seat. I got to sit for the hour while everyone in standard had to stand and get crushed.

It's the same on some of the trains I've been on in the Netherlands - "first class" is pretty much a way to guarantee a seat but offers no other benefit than travelling standard.

Down in SWT land it does not even guarantee one a seat on peak services.
 

scotsman

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My experience with Scotrails first class on the Edinburgh - Glasgow route is that their are actually very few passengers who pay the full first class fare. A good proportion of the first class ridership is made up of East coast advance ticket holders, railway managers and most prolifically chancers travelling with standard class tickets hoping no one will challenge them (and usually loaded with vile abuse when they do).

I find it very disappointing that Scotrail is pursuing first on the 385 stock. Still, maybe they will see some sense and introduce an off peak product to try and encourage use of it at times of the day where it normally only carry fresh air.

ScotRail are required by Transport Scotland to provide first class. From what I've heard there are quite a few chancers on certain routes - often claiming the free refreshments and trying to move back to standard if caught out.
 

route:oxford

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ScotRail are required by Transport Scotland to provide first class. From what I've heard there are quite a few chancers on certain routes - often claiming the free refreshments and trying to move back to standard if caught out.

The requirement to offer a First Class service between Glasgow and Edinburgh should have been withdrawn in anticipation of the new stock being introduced.

I can understand the benefit of First Class targetting the tourist market for longer-distance services in Scotland - but for hopping between Edinburgh and Glasgow, it does rather go against the Nationalists vows to narrow the gap between "rich" and "poor".

A domestic flight between Edinburgh and London takes longer and it's been all one class for around a decade now.
 

Carntyne

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First Class on ScotRail 158s will be away shortly as they're all given the Scenic refurb so no need to worry about those.

Clear to see that as that the spec on 385 is different as they won't need to run 'intercity' like Glasgow - Aberdeen etc as the HSTs will take over. Much shorter journey times.
 

Philip C

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The requirement to offer a First Class service between Glasgow and Edinburgh should have been withdrawn in anticipation of the new stock being introduced.

I can understand the benefit of First Class targetting the tourist market for longer-distance services in Scotland - but for hopping between Edinburgh and Glasgow, it does rather go against the Nationalists vows to narrow the gap between "rich" and "poor".

A domestic flight between Edinburgh and London takes longer and it's been all one class for around a decade now.

How does charging the "rich" more than the "poor", for the same journey, not narrow the gap between "rich" and "poor"?
 

Clansman

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First class doesn't bridge the gap between the rich and poor like it used to in the BR days. It basically means more comfort for a extra money, and sometimes you get great fares. For example last month I got this first class fare from Dunkeld to Brighton for £100 return, for 3 weeks in advance and on a weekday that's brilliant. I'm not rich but it just shows you that times are changing in the sense that there's not really a gap there (rich and poor) in the railways now. I've always thought that first class should be abolished, trains be made longer, and the whole train be formed of 2+1 seating so it's fair for everyone, and actually get your moneys worth.
 
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Bletchleyite

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It's just two levels of service, pay for the one you want. No need for it to be based on social class - and indeed I'd say it isn't these days, with many First Class passengers being families, with both commercial and Government employers increasingly banning it.
 

Greenback

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It's just two levels of service, pay for the one you want. No need for it to be based on social class - and indeed I'd say it isn't these days, with many First Class passengers being families, with both commercial and Government employers increasingly banning it.

The concept was originally based on social class and standing, but I'd say it hasn't been remotely linked to these things for decades. BR's decision in 1984 to target first class at business passengers, and rename second class standard seems to have been the final nail in the coffin for thinking of the difference as being anything related to the traditional British class structure.

(I believe the reason that there were originally three classes was to reflect upper, middle and working class on the railway)

Speaking in a general sense, I can't see how first class is pointless if people are paying for it and using it, but I agree that if the facilities aren't fit for purpose then they could be described as useless!
 

Tetchytyke

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I believe the reason that there were originally three classes was to reflect upper, middle and working class on the railway

Cynics believe the real reason for second class was to persuade low paid professionals (e.g. bank clerks) to pay more for their travel; it'd be terrible if they got soot from the manual labourers all over their lovely work suits.

I don't think first class or standard class has any bearing on social class. Railways, like airlines, are pretty egalitarian: if you have the cash, they'll happily take it from you. T'was ever thus.

I don't understand why anyone would buy first class commuter tickets, but people do, so clearly someone sees value in it. Ironically the commuter TOC with the richest clientele- Chiltern- got rid of first class as pretty much their first move after getting the franchise.
 

ScotTrains

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One of the many reasons I pay extra to travel First class is that it significantly reduces your chance of being near to 'undesirables', eg dunk party goers, singing football hooligans, uneducated delinquents often shouting out appallingly vile language, etc etc. The late night weekend services from Edinburgh to Glasgow are particularity bad, especially on the Bathgate line. Don't get me wrong it is only a minority of people who cause problems and most standard class passengers are absolutely fine, but by paying extra for First you certainly reduce your chance of being next to these 'undesirables'. This is one reason why if I'm treating my partner to a romantic weekend or even just a pleasant day out I will always try to go First class. If First class didn't exist I would simply take my car instead.

I also find First class passengers tend to dress smarter, indeed if I am traveling in First I will make more of an effort to look smart than if I were traveling standard, not that it bothers me if First class passengers wear scruffy jeans etc. I think there will always be a whiff of the British class system when traveling First class. I guess one could compare this to an expensive health club vs a council gym, both do the same thing but attract different sorts of people. Personally I think it is something we should embrace rather than be embarrassed by, just look at the popularity of our aristocracy, monarchy and programmes like Downton on the world stage. Many people almost expect First class travelers to be from certain sectors of society. Perhaps Virgin trains could rename First class to be more in line with Virgin Atlantic, Upper Class! On a serious note, First class has existed since the start of passenger railways and is unlikely to go anytime soon, judging by its popularity.
 

scotsman

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One of the many reasons I pay extra to travel First class is that it significantly reduces your chance of being near to 'undesirables', eg dunk party goers, singing football hooligans, uneducated delinquents often shouting out appallingly vile language, etc etc. The late night weekend services from Edinburgh to Glasgow are particularity bad, especially on the Bathgate line. Don't get me wrong it is only a minority of people who cause problems and most standard class passengers are absolutely fine, but by paying extra for First you certainly reduce your chance of being next to these 'undesirables'. This is one reason why if I'm treating my partner to a romantic weekend or even just a pleasant day out I will always try to go First class. If First class didn't exist I would simply take my car instead.

I also find First class passengers tend to dress smarter, indeed if I am traveling in First I will make more of an effort to look smart than if I were traveling standard, not that it bothers me if First class passengers wear scruffy jeans etc. I think there will always be a whiff of the British class system when traveling First class. I guess one could compare this to an expensive health club vs a council gym, both do the same thing but attract different sorts of people. Personally I think it is something we should embrace rather than be embarrassed by, just look at the popularity of our aristocracy, monarchy and programmes like Downton on the world stage. Many people almost expect First class travelers to be from certain sectors of society. Perhaps Virgin trains could rename First class to be more in line with Virgin Atlantic, Upper Class! On a serious note, First class has existed since the start of passenger railways and is unlikely to go anytime soon, judging by its popularity.


Given that the Bathgate line is standard class only, how on earth do you survive, travelling in such close proximity to many working class people?
 

Clansman

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One of the many reasons I pay extra to travel First class is that it significantly reduces your chance of being near to 'undesirables', eg dunk party goers, singing football hooligans, uneducated delinquents often shouting out appallingly vile language, etc etc. The late night weekend services from Edinburgh to Glasgow are particularity bad, especially on the Bathgate line. Don't get me wrong it is only a minority of people who cause problems and most standard class passengers are absolutely fine, but by paying extra for First you certainly reduce your chance of being next to these 'undesirables'. This is one reason why if I'm treating my partner to a romantic weekend or even just a pleasant day out I will always try to go First class. If First class didn't exist I would simply take my car instead.

I also find First class passengers tend to dress smarter, indeed if I am traveling in First I will make more of an effort to look smart than if I were traveling standard, not that it bothers me if First class passengers wear scruffy jeans etc. I think there will always be a whiff of the British class system when traveling First class. I guess one could compare this to an expensive health club vs a council gym, both do the same thing but attract different sorts of people. Personally I think it is something we should embrace rather than be embarrassed by, just look at the popularity of our aristocracy, monarchy and programmes like Downton on the world stage. Many people almost expect First class travelers to be from certain sectors of society. Perhaps Virgin trains could rename First class to be more in line with Virgin Atlantic, Upper Class! On a serious note, First class has existed since the start of passenger railways and is unlikely to go anytime soon, judging by its popularity.

I'm very much with you on that. I travel first class a lot, since I travel up and down the country every month or so I can often find great fares. I tend to dress a bit neater in first as well. Not like suites or anything posh ;) but as I tend to travel long journeys from Scotland to London of over 6 hours I'd rather be comfortable, and not care about any judgements. I do like my conversations with tourists and I do like to make an effort to make a good impression for them. I just generally like the extra comfort and the ambiance you wouldn't normally get in standard. I don't consider myself posh or an upper echelon but I do like my comfort. I remember the good days when GNER was about when the MK3s had classy looking interiors in both classes,(big lights and that lovely brown!) and I found that because of the effort taken with the interior design, people tend to treat them a bit better. Now the interiors just look cheap and less homely. I think that if TOCs took more of a care and interest in the ambiance and design of the interiors like GNER did, then you'd find an improvement in passenger satisfaction and more respect from the passengers overall in the sense of looking after it, if you get me?

Looking at the interiors GNER vs Virgin, I think GNER goes the extra mile...
 

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