So it turns out that if book your tickets far enough in advance, it can actually be cheaper to travel “Up North” first class than rocking up to the station on the day with your rail card! The availability of wifi is quite heavily touted on the GNER website, and so it seemed worth the little bit extra over a normal advance ticket to travel in luxurious comfort and be Internet enabled.
Sadly, while I am writing this on the train, wifi is still only available on “selected” services, announced only on the day of travel, and on relatively few services at the weekend. So, was the first class worth it?
- I am pretty sure we have eaten and drunk our money’s worth in free tea, coffee, water, orange juice and shortbread biscuits.
- While I find the standard class in the new electric trains fairly comfortable, the second leg of our one journey was in an old “slam door” where the space difference was more noticeable. The fact that this second train of the day was extremely busy, and they had insufficient staff to put out the seat reservations, made me quite glad we were able to avoid the scrum for standard-class seats.
- Controversially, a first-class ticket does not necessarily entitle one to access to any of GNER’s “First Class Lounges” which are reserved for the exclusive use of those passengers paying full price peak fares.
So was it worth the extra cost? Maybe. For such a long journey, the selection of food was extremely poor — hot bacon sandwiches and similar were available on Saturday morning, but it was only cold sandwiches coming back on Sunday; apparently the full restaurant service is only available during the week. If you can obtain one of the ultra-cheap Advance tickets, then it’s certainly a lot more fun than standard class but having seen how the other half live, I am glad we didn’t pay full price.