Virgin Trains West Coast
THE BACKGROUND: I travelled on the 10.40 London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly service with a journey time of two hours and six minutes. It was operated by one of Virgin's famed tilting Pendolino trains. The service is one of the operator's key routes on a network that also serves Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Crewe, among others.
PRE-DEPARTURE: I had an advance first class return ticket on stipulated services but, as I was short on time, I had no need to head upstairs at Euston station to Virgin's first class lounge. From previous experience, it is often busy but with a decent selection of complimentary snacks, drinks, reading material and comfortable seating
THE SEAT: The vast majority of seats in first class carriages have tables at which to dine or work – four seats around a table on one side of the aisle and a pair of seats and suitably smaller table on the other. Although my seat reservation was for the former and the carriage was fairly busy, I chose to move to an unreserved seat of the latter kind so as not to be banging elbows with a fellow passenger as I attempted to get some work done. All seats in first class have power sockets. Elsewhere in the carriage were a luggage rack, complimentary bottles of water and toilets. The free wifi service in first class was fairly seamless and enabled me to be reasonably productive. Virgin's BEAM entertainment system (free for all passengers) was also available, featuring a selection of films, TV shows, games and magazines. Smartphone and tablet users are advised to download the app before boarding the train, but laptop users can access it through a website. Two cheerful train crew passed through the carriage offering tea and coffee soon after leaving London, followed by a choice of brunch items (I opted for the bacon roll), snacks, fresh fruit and both soft and alcoholic drinks. The crew passed through the carriage a couple more times later in the journey.
THE VERDICT: The train departed and arrived on time, while the excellent first class service and city centre termini made the journey comfortable, convenient and even enjoyable.
THE DETAILS: Virgin Trains operates 47 services a day from Manchester to London with journeys from 2hrs. The cheapest fare is £22 for a standard single and £43 in first class. virgintrains.co.uk
Reviewed by Andy Hoskins (2018)