Virgin Trains is worse than state-run East Coast - again (removal of 1ST quiet coach)

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by All Line Rover, 11 Jun 2015.

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  1. All Line Rover

    All Line Rover Established Member

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    Apparently, Virgin Trains West Coast is planning to remove the first class quiet coach (Coach H) from its Pendolino trains. It has already been removed from its seating plan.

    The Virgin Trains website describes the "Quiet Zone" as providing the opportunity to "escape the madding crowd and work or relax in peace and quiet" (source). While it may not always be completely silent, the difference in noise levels is noticeable, particularly at weekends.

    State-run East Coast, back in 2011, introduced a first class quiet coach because "the majority of [our] first class customers support the idea of a Quiet Coach" (source). Virgin Trains, on the other hand, decides, without asking its customers, that it is acceptable to remove its first class quiet coach which has been around for over 10 years.

    Virgin Trains has a frequent habit of removing facilities that are popular with customers, the most recent example being the "East Coast Rewards" scheme. Insultingly, with East Coast Rewards, they pretended that customers supported the change and that the replacement (Nectar) was better!

    The change to the first class quiet coach was, I am led to believe, prompted by the conversion of Coach G from first class to standard class on the 9 car Pendolinos. I dislike the DfT's apparent preference for a mixture of train lengths on long distance train operators, as no matter how the trains are diagrammed there will always be services that are allocated trains which are too short and it eliminates consistency for passengers, but the reduction in the number of first class carriages from 4 to 3 isn't objectionable in itself.

    The conversion of Coach G leaves the number of first class seats as follows:

    9 car Pendolino: Coach H (44) - Coach J (37) - Coach K (18) [Coach H used to be the Quiet Coach]

    East Coast Mall: Coach M (46) - Coach L (40) - Coach K (41) [Coach K is the Quiet Coach]

    East Coast HST: Coach M (48) - Coach L (47) - Coach J (17) [Coach J is the Quiet Coach]

    Considering that Coach H is now the largest first class carriage on the 9 car Pendolinos, it probably is excessive to have the entire carriage designated as as a quiet coach. But, as East Coast did with its HSTs, why not designate the smallest coast, Coach K, as the quiet coach?

    I personally don't upgrade to first class for a "better ambiance". I like to work when travelling, in peace, and for that purpose the ambiance in the non-quiet-coach first class carriages is usually worse than the standard class quiet coach. The problem with the standard class quiet coach on Pendolinos is that it is cramped and claustrophobic (like all of standard class on Pendolinos!) and there aren't enough tables or power sockets. These are the reasons for upgrading to first class. There is no "class divide" between first and standard class. The "class divide" is between the quiet coaches and the non-quiet-coaches: those who want to travel in peace and quiet, and those who don't. There is nothing wrong with imposing such a divide. It caters to different preferences. With the complete removal of the first class quiet coach, those passengers who want to travel in peace and quiet have a choice of: (i) travel in a noisy environment (especially at weekends) or (ii) travel in a quiet but cramped environment. Neither is particularly attractive, but considering the former is more expensive I think most people who find constant noise stressful will opt for the latter!

    Finally, so that this thread doesn't descend into a spiral of arguments which have already been done to death, this is not the thread to discuss whether we should have quiet coaches at all or whether we should have first class carriages at all. If you want to discuss these topics, create a new thread. I believe there is already a long-running thread on the latter topic. The purpose of this thread is to compare the approach taken by Virgin Trains West Coast with its former closest competitor - state-run East Coast - and to question whether the complete removal of the first class quiet coach is necessary (in the context of demand and capacity). Some discussion of the decision not to extend all Pendolinos to 11 carriages would also be welcome if it relates to the journey experience. Discussion could also be made of the lack of alternative operators. The free market is supposed to provide consumers with choice. In the case of train operators, I ask, what choice?
     
    Last edited: 15 Jun 2015
  2. Bayum

    Bayum Established Member

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    Virgin had a ridiculous notion of first class. When the trains are so busy and nearly 50% of the seats are first class you have to wonder whether removing this quiet coach in first is really the be all and end all! I take it Virgin are not replacing the quiet coach with one of the remaining first class coaches? In terms of demand, I would say it's absolutely necessary for the removal of a first class carriage - particularly when there are three other first class carriages that could be labelled as a quiet zone.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 11 Jun 2015
  3. yorkie

    yorkie Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    I agree.

    East Coast did seem to listen to customers more than Virgin, and so far not much has changed with Virgin Trains East Coast, but I suspect more unwanted changes will be on the way.

    Of course the service is going to be worse, and in general costlier for passengers, because otherwise they would not be able to generate the promised huge premium payments.

    Fortunately not much has changed on the East Coast yet, but I fear we will see a downgrading of various aspects of the service in future.
     
  4. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    There is a way you can ensure that, and it is called seat reservations, and they are available free of charge in both classes. First Class does not exist to waste space by leaving a load of seats empty to satisfy whims of that kind when Standard is so overcrowded. We should not be looking to end up with standing passengers in First Class, but one seat per passenger is the right amount.

    As for the quiet coach, there must be a practical reason for removing it, as it's not as if it costs anything to have it other than a couple of quid's worth of stickers.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    An additional thought - I suspect this problem is arising when the train gets around 50% full because of people taking double seats to themselves rather than sitting next to people, be those facing ones or a row of 2 at a table. Might VT do well to consider turning some of the 1+1 tables into airline seats for those travelling alone? Given the option such a seat would be my first selection for the privacy it offers.
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2015
  5. Geezertronic

    Geezertronic Established Member

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    I would suggest that comparing Virgin Trains (WC) with Virgin Trains East Coast is wrong given the two are run differently. The only thing they share is the Virgin brand name as far as I can tell, with Virgin Group running VTWC and Stagecoach running VTEC.

    They should be considered, for the avoidance of doubt, as two separate companies run differently. Comparing VTEC to East Coast, or VTWC with a possible First incumbent would be better
     
  6. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Or maybe comparing VTEC with EMT, as they are both Stagecoach run.
     
  7. All Line Rover

    All Line Rover Established Member

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    Roughly 1/3 of total seating is first class on the 11 car Pendolinos, which is almost identical to the East Coast Mallards. First Class is a big money-spinner for Virgin so it's no surprise they want to have as much first class capacity as possible.

    Three first class carriages (like the East Coast Mallards) would always be sufficient on the Pendolinos if Coach K weren't such a daft design. Giving over half of the available capacity to the kitchen might be arguable if the food was of a high standard, but the microwaved evening "meals" served by Virgin are awful. There's a running joke on this forum about Coach K being the "staff coach". With Coach K having only 18 seats, and there being upwards of six staff members sitting there on weekdays (three catering, one chef, the train manager and the cleaner), it's no joke! Unfortunately I don't think the design of Coach K is ever going to change.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    It's a good idea that will never happen*... because it costs money.

    *unless the taxpayer pays for it.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    I think VTWC and VTEC have the most similar demographics: long distance journeys to/from London. The Mallards and Pendolinos fit this demographic. EMT and FGW tend to have more frequent stops and have a large base of commuters.
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2015
  8. Geezertronic

    Geezertronic Established Member

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    I agree with that, just comparing what both do because they are both branded as Virgin doesn't feel right to me. Just because VTWC do something, VTEC are not going to follow suit and vice versa
     
  9. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    This is all true, however VT WC and VT EC have almost nothing in common between them besides the colour of their trains. Different fleet, different management, different ownership structure, different franchise terms...
     
  10. All Line Rover

    All Line Rover Established Member

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    I agree with that also. But when considering whether quiet coaches should be provided, the relevant questions seem to be: (i) what is the customer demographic, and (ii) how long are the trains?
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2015
  11. jopsuk

    jopsuk Veteran Member

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    It would be interesting to know if there has been any market research done.
    regarding seat numbers/ratios, I've had this spreadsheet for a while- comments/corrections/updates would be welcome- which shows that the ratio of standard:first seats on the reconfigured 9 car units is the best (for Standard passengers) that Virgin have ever had on the Pendolinos. The original 8-car set up had all of 1.5 standard seats for every 1st class seat- quite amazing really
     
  12. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Like the reduction in First Class on fGW, this makes sense, as since they were built there has been a heavy progression in commerce and Government to banning first class business travel.
     
  13. Flamingo

    Flamingo Established Member

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    I have to say, on FGW I have not had a single moan about the removal of the quiet coach in First Class, and passengers do spread themselves more evenly. The overall reduction of First Class seat numbers is, overall, a success I think.

    The single table seats are a good idea - the only thing we have to do now is make the single passengers sit at them, most of them still make a bee-line straight to the table for four, even when reserved into a single seat...
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2015
  14. thenorthern

    thenorthern Established Member

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    I think I read somewhere that Virgin Trains were wanting to convert the Coach G to standard class on the 9 car Pendolinos which would then make sense to remove Coach H as a quiet zone as in my opinion the first class area would be too small to justify a designated quiet zone.

    I wish they didn't convert Coach G to standard though because quite often I have been on a 9 car train running on an 11 car diagram with a declassified Coach G and struggled to get a seat in First Class with a First Class ticket.
     
  15. gordonthemoron

    gordonthemoron Established Member

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    Presumably 2nd class was rammed then?
     
  16. All Line Rover

    All Line Rover Established Member

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    An interesting spreadsheet. Your seat no. figures are slightly off for VT's 221s.

    I notice that East Coast's HSTs have a lower ratio of first class seats to standard class compared to VT's converted 9 car Pendolinos, but state-run East Coat still designated the smallest first class carriage as a quiet coach. If Virgin Trains actually cared about its customers, it could do the same with Coach K. Maybe it is worried that its employees can't behave themselves and so wants to keep Coach K as the "staff coach"?
     
  17. Flamingo

    Flamingo Established Member

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    Maybe they have just decided that not enough people want it to justify keeping it? After all the target audience for long-distance First Class is business travellers (not cut-price Advance leisure users). In my experience, business travellers use their mobile phones a lot, so having an entire coach for the minority who don't need to use their phones is a bit of a luxury, especially when capacity is needed for Standard Class ticket holders.
     
  18. Mojo

    Mojo Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    In my experience the clientele on the WCML is a bit more "rowdy" than that on the Great Western or East Coast Main Lines. Probably to do with the places they serve and the fact that on the WCML there are a lot of people doing short-distance journeys on the long-distance trains.
     
  19. jopsuk

    jopsuk Veteran Member

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    PM me here or leave a not on the spread sheet (you can use comments, just can't edit cells) if you've got better data. I make no claim to be all-knowing! The numbers I've got are the best I've been able to find.
     
  20. All Line Rover

    All Line Rover Established Member

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    Exact numbers are provided on the seating plan: http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/assets/pdf/global/seating-plan.pdf.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Interestingly enough, on the odd occasion I have been unable to secure a seat in Coach H (the former quiet coach) on a peak time Manchester to London service, the ambiance in Coach J has been just as good. Practically silent with only the odd phone call or two during the entire journey. A good proportion of the passengers were "elderly" couples (aged 50+) and (what I assume to be very rich) parents with teenage children. There seems to be strong demand for the quiet coach on weekdays. On weekends it is the opposite, with Coach H by far the least populated, but weekend demand shouldn't dictate weekday provision. The ambiance in Coach J at weekends is a world apart (children running around, loud middle aged women somehow managing to talk for 2 hours about Amazon's minimum transaction price increasing from £10 to £20, men swearing, etc.).
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2015
  21. MCR247

    MCR247 Established Member

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    If First Class is now busier on 9 coach pendolinos to the point that people who don't want a seat in the quiet coach 'have to' take one because it is busy and so maybe aren't as quiet as you'd want, surely having no quiet coach removes the disappointment and also avoids confrontation?

    Not too sure about the comparisons with East Coast though IMO
     
  22. All Line Rover

    All Line Rover Established Member

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    As I've said already, having 44 of the 99 first class seats designated as a quiet coach is probably too much, even on weekdays. But having 18 of the 99 seats designated as a quiet coach (Coach K) is not. [The former numbers were 44 out of 145 seats, which Virgin considered appropriate for over a decade.] I don't know how other users of the quiet coach feel, but I would rather travel in a full but quiet coach, than a quarter full but noisy coach. In a way, the smaller the quiet coach the better, as the greater incentive there is to move if you don't want to sit in the quiet coach.
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2015
  23. D1009

    D1009 Established Member

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    It wouldn't be a good idea to have the quiet coach next to the kitchen as there would be constant disturbance from passing catering staff.
     
  24. GodAtum

    GodAtum Established Member

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    I really enjoyed a 3 hour journey on FGW new 1st class. The single seats are perfect.
     
  25. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    Nail upon the head.
     
  26. Flamingo

    Flamingo Established Member

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    I think they are really good.
     
  27. Chrism20

    Chrism20 Member

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    As someone who uses VTEC a lot I totally agree with this. More often than not I will select the quiet coach (force of habit) and if it's an HST I select another seat as the noise coming from the kitchen at times is awful, you then have to factor in customers at the buffet counter which is along the passageway and the quiet coach is usually the noisiest.

    I also quite like the single seats as I then don't have to share the space with anyone which is good, IMO there isn't enough of them.
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2015
  28. backontrack

    backontrack Established Member

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    I didn't see the end of the thread title; thought it was 'Virgin Trains is worse than childbirth'. I'm not saying I agree with that (I definitely wouldn't know, gladly so!), but I certainly dislike their services.

    The idea that they're reducing First Class is good, as long as they add to Standard Class. But I think it would be better to remove an ordinary coach and not the quiet one.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    This is basic logic, something that TOCs can't get their heads around.
     
  29. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    I think the OP is making a mountain out of a molehill here.

    Whenever I have travelled in 1st it has always been quieter than being in standard, and only once (on TPE) has it been anything other than like being in a library in terms of ambient noise.

    So, in my experience, 1st class is essentially a quiet zone anyway. It's very rare to get drunk people, noisy children, annoying electronic devices etc in 1st. The only noise I've ever experienced has been from pretentious people droning into their mobile phones, but even then you can usually just move to the other end of the carriage as it is rarely full on proper intercity services.
     
  30. MCR247

    MCR247 Established Member

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    I do get what you're saying, however when I last sat in Coach K it was the least quietest coach due to the kitchen.
     
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