West Coast Main Line - First Class Lounges (Chester, Preston and Milton Keynes)

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All Line Rover

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One of the most significant improvements Virgin Trains has made to travel on the West Coast Main Line is the provision of first class lounges at various stations along the route. Most are of a very high standard. None can be described as 'bad' (except Glasgow Central, possibly). The most recently opened was, as it happens, Glasgow Central. Apart from that, other than the relocated first class lounge in the redeveloped Birmingham New Street station, we have to go back many years to find the last truly new lounge to open before Glasgow Central.

Looking to the future, are there any plans to open first class lounges at Chester, Preston and Milton Keynes? All three are used by a considerable number of business passengers. All three have more passengers overall than certain stations which have long had first class lounges, such as Wolverhampton and Stoke. And all three have an hourly service to most destinations, which does not look favourable when stations such as Manchester Piccadilly, Birmingham International and Coventry (which all have a twenty minute frequency to most destinations and, as an aside, generally cheaper fares) have had first class lounges for many years.
 
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Bletchleyite

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The issue with Chester and MKC would be that they aren't VT stations so space would have to be rented commercially and may not be available at all (there certainly isn't a lot of spare space at MKC for one, unless LM stopped using the old travel centre as office space and released it, or a retail unit was closed and converted).

Preston I'm surprised hasn't got one - I actually thought it had but it seems not. Seems plenty of space in the P3/4 building for one, and it is a VT station.
 

DarloRich

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Firstly - most of us don't get to use first class lounges. Luckily there are several second class lounges at MKC. They are called waiting rooms and are at the north end of the platforms. You have to buy the tea. ;)

(With that out of the way!)

Secondly - is there space at MKC for such a facility? Perhaps the old booking office could be used. However MKC isn't a Virgin station so i assume they would have to rent the space at commercial rates. I doubt any of the retail space would be given up.

Thirdly - Would the business case stack up? I assume most first class passengers for Virgin will head to London in the morning. Will these people use the facility? I happily agree there is a good northbound market but is it good enough to support the facility? I don't know.

Fourthly - Why would Virgin bother? Can they use the lounge to tempt their passengers to the station earlier? I doubt southbound business types will arrive any earlier than they do now and certainly not at peak times. What is the return on the investment for Virgin? With a 30 minute journey to Euston would these people ever use the lounge

I am not against the idea at all I just wonder if it makes commercial sense at MKC. To me it depends on the strength of the northbound first class market. Is it strong enough?
 

Howardh

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Preston should certainly have one. An argument against is it's in the middle of a line (Euston, Picc, Glasgow etc are at the terminus where pax have to board/alight) BUT Preston is an interchange station where pax will alight from local trains to join the Virgin, often with a substantial wait if they are on specific trains.
If I had one of those leisure 1st going north, I would certainly use a lounge going and coming back.
Mind you, the pub on 3/4 is better than certain 1st lounges (Glasgow....)
 

eMeS

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Perhaps MKC could have a new lounge in a portakabin at the south end of platform 6 ;)

Perhaps the more immediate problem is lack of car-parking space at CMK. I was surprised to find no spare spaces either in the multi-storey, or anywhere in the ground-level parks near the NR building. This was mid-morning, and on a recent Wednesday. I guess this explains why the estate roads in Rooksley are now complete with lines of parked cars on both sides.

Fortunately I was able to get a train from Bletchley - but that's not OK for Virgin passengers.
 

Bletchleyite

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Perhaps the more immediate problem is lack of car-parking space at CMK. I was surprised to find no spare spaces either in the multi-storey, or anywhere in the ground-level parks near the NR building. This was mid-morning, and on a recent Wednesday. I guess this explains why the estate roads in Rooksley are now complete with lines of parked cars on both sides.

No, this happens not because of that, but because of those who do not want to pay.

There is plenty of car parking space in CMK generally but you do have to walk a bit at times. This is something people accept elsewhere but not for some reason in the City of the Car.

If you're willing to pay LM's high prices for the station car park, you should find a "red" premium rate bay available at any time of day not too far away - cheaper than the station!
 
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Mark62

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I also believe all of the first class lounges are closed on the ECML stations. newcastle and Doncaster were closed last week and I was told that all lounges are closed for refurbishment.
 

IanD

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My experience is that Virgin despise their Milton Keynes customers so would not consider offering them anything in the way of extras.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
No, this happens not because of that, but because of those who do not want to pay.

There is plenty of car parking space in CMK generally but you do have to walk a bit at times. This is something people accept elsewhere but not for some reason in the City of the Car.

If you're willing to pay LM's high prices for the station car park, you should find a "red" premium rate bay available at any time of day not too far away - cheaper than the station!

Fortunately, this week we're moving in to offices with their own parking only 5 minutes from MKC station so I will no longer be paying to park when taking the train on my days off. Result!
 

DarloRich

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My experience is that Virgin despise their Milton Keynes customers so would not consider offering them anything in the way of extras.

How would you come to that conclusion? :roll:

Do they not fawn over you enough? Should they hold your hand and escort you to the train over a bed of rose petals whilst serving you chilled champagne, making sure never to turn their backs toward you and beating a gong so the great unwashed know to step aside and avert their eyes?


Despite being a mere scum class passenger i have never felt myself despised by anyone at Milton Keynes Central
 

IanD

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Whatever would make you think that? I regularly use VT from MKC and do not find myself feeling "despised".

I suppose I should have said they despise their former customers - those who used to be able to catch the trains that stopped here in the peaks or those who used to get to anywhere north of Crewe/Manchester without having to change trains or take the time penalty of travelling via Birmingham thanks to their first stop being Warrington or those driven to using London Midland by VT bunching all their trains in a 15 minute window. Nothing they do for passengers from MKC is ever positive.
 

LowLevel

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I doubt any long distance TOC particularly likes those passengers nearer London who use it's long distance trains as commuter services but I imagine they like their money :)

All of them have them - Stevenage for VTEC, Luton/Bedford for EMT, MK for VTWC and Reading for GWR.
 

Mag_seven

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I doubt any long distance TOC particularly likes those passengers nearer London who use it's long distance trains as commuter services but I imagine they like their money :)

All of them have them - Stevenage for VTEC, Luton/Bedford for EMT, MK for VTWC and Reading for GWR.

GWR love their Reading commuters - GWR first class passengers to other destinations now often struggle to find a seat as first class capacity has been stripped to a minimum because according to Reading commuters and their vocal MP's, "first class was always empty". <(
 

Bletchleyite

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I suppose I should have said they despise their former customers - those who used to be able to catch the trains that stopped here in the peaks or those who used to get to anywhere north of Crewe/Manchester without having to change trains or take the time penalty of travelling via Birmingham thanks to their first stop being Warrington or those driven to using London Midland by VT bunching all their trains in a 15 minute window. Nothing they do for passengers from MKC is ever positive.

The peak changes made absolute sense and are something of which I think more is needed, e.g. at Bedford and Reading.

I also like the "through via Birmingham to Scotland" option. You can still save 20 minutes by changing at Crewe if you want, but people generally like direct trains. By taking some doubled-up layovers out they also managed to free up a couple of Voyagers and increase capacity where it was very much needed - the Brum-Scotland trains were starting to look like TPE and were really to be avoided.

VT are a long-distance operator. Their priority is not commuters, and is not MKC-EUS leisure passengers, nor should it be. They provide MKC a perfectly decent clockface long-distance service - I vastly prefer it over random through services that are not necessarily at times I want to use them.

Therefore, I cannot agree with your statement.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Virgin north from MK is fine, it's southbound that it's a pain

LM are the primary operator southbound. VT do not and should not plan their timetables with those journeys in mind; the services are an added convenience provided using spare capacity and operationally convenient calls.
 

gordonthemoron

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I think I'd possibly prefer Liverpool trains stopping at MKC over the existing Chester/North Wales ones, providing they also stopped at Crewe as they are Pendolinos and possibly may spread out the southbound services a bit
 

Bletchleyite

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I think I'd possibly prefer Liverpool trains stopping at MKC over the existing Chester/North Wales ones, providing they also stopped at Crewe as they are Pendolinos and possibly may spread out the southbound services a bit

Can't see why I would object to that swap, but the Crewe call is essential for connectional purposes. I wouldn't want the Liverpools without the Crewe stop.
 

IanD

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The peak changes made absolute sense and are something of which I think more is needed, e.g. at Bedford and Reading.

I also like the "through via Birmingham to Scotland" option. You can still save 20 minutes by changing at Crewe if you want, but people generally like direct trains. By taking some doubled-up layovers out they also managed to free up a couple of Voyagers and increase capacity where it was very much needed - the Brum-Scotland trains were starting to look like TPE and were really to be avoided.

VT are a long-distance operator. Their priority is not commuters, and is not MKC-EUS leisure passengers, nor should it be. They provide MKC a perfectly decent clockface long-distance service - I vastly prefer it over random through services that are not necessarily at times I want to use them.

Therefore, I cannot agree with your statement.

Didn't expect you to agree.

Long distance passengers travel to/from other places than London. The point about heading North is that we used to have a lot more options throughout the day other than Manchester and Chester.

Obviously you don't recall the WCML rebuild that led to all this. I used to commute to London by VT in half an hour back in 2000. Then we had 2 years of disruption whilst they rebuilt the line - fair enough. We were promised a much better, faster service would result from this so we were prepared to put up with it. Posters everywhere at MKC proclaimed this. Yet we didn't get a much better, faster service. Fastest journey times are still not less than 30 minutes, commuter trains take a lot longer (and there are fewer, the Tring stoppers used to come all the way to MK) and Scottish trains didn't stop at CMK for years. Yes, there was a better, faster service but they negelected to say in their promises that it would not be for passengers travelling from Milton Keynes.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Long distance passengers travel to/from other places than London. The point about heading North is that we used to have a lot more options throughout the day other than Manchester and Chester.

Obviously you don't recall the WCML rebuild that led to all this. I used to commute to London by VT in half an hour back in 2000. Then we had 2 years of disruption whilst they rebuilt the line - fair enough. We were promised a much better, faster service would result from this so we were prepared to put up with it. Posters everywhere at MKC proclaimed this. Yet we didn't get a much better, faster service. Fastest journey times are still not less than 30 minutes, commuter trains take a lot longer (and there are fewer, the Tring stoppers used to come all the way to MK) and Scottish trains didn't stop at CMK for years. Yes, there was a better, faster service but they negelected to say in their promises that it would not be for passengers travelling from Milton Keynes.

3xVT fast + 2xLM almost as fast (ignoring the stoppers) doesn't seem bad to me.
The VTs go to Birmingham/Scotland, Manchester and Crewe/Chester (change for Glasgow/Liverpool).

I'm not sure you made it in 30 minutes in 2000.
That would be almost 100mph average speed from Euston, and the 87/Mk3s were not capable of that on the 110mph line as it was then.
Today's 390 time start to pass is 28.5 minutes for 390s (30 minutes start/stop) with most of the line north of Wembley passed for 125mph.
In 2000 I always thought getting through Rugby in an hour was good going.
Today it's 46.5 minutes, and the hour mark will often see you north of Tamworth.
 
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aylesbury

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Not required at MKC as you don't have to wait long before your train to arrive and there is an excellent coffe bar on the platform.
 

IanD

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3xVT fast + 2xLM almost as fast (ignoring the stoppers) doesn't seem bad to me.
The VTs go to Birmingham/Scotland, Manchester and Crewe/Chester (change for Glasgow/Liverpool).

I'm not sure you made it in 30 minutes in 2000.
That would be almost 100mph average speed from Euston, and the 87/Mk3s were not capable of that on the 110mph line as it was then.
Today's 390 time start to pass is 28.5 minutes for 390s (30 minutes start/stop) with most of the line north of Wembley passed for 125mph.
In 2000 I always thought getting through Rugby in an hour was good going.
Today it's 46.5 minutes, and the hour mark will often see you north of Tamworth.

Missing the point that the 390s don't stop at MKC in peak times when people do their commuting. And the 'almost as fast' LM services do not exist in the morning peak.

As I said before the 3xVT fasts heading south off peak are bunched in 15 minute window and two of them 3 minutes apart so may as well be 1 service. A first class lounge would actually be quite useful if you missed the 3rd VT train and had to wait 45 minutes for the next - but it's never going to happen.

I'm not saying we have a bad service overall from MKC (although it is one of the few places where off-peak provision is superior to peak-time), I'm saying that until the introduction of the via Birmingham Scotland services (which do not reduce journey times on what was available via the same route before) the changes to Virgin services have been nothing but negative from my experience.
 

DarloRich

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There are plenty of early Virgin trains to Euston. The last is something like an 07:15 which gets you into London just before 8. Ideal for getting to work between 0800 and 0830.

The fastest LM trains do it between 41 & 45 minutes depending on stopping points. The 0731 is the quickest
 
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