The East Coast mainline service from London runs through Peterborough, York, Newcastle and on to Edinburgh and Aberdeen. For a good few years it was publicly owned following the collapse of the previous franchise owner.
Recently Virgin Trains (who also operate the West Coast Line) won the tender for the franchise. It quickly dismantled the East Coast frequent traveller scheme and replaced it with a choice of earning Virgin Atlantic points or nectar shopping points.
I hadn’t travelled on the service since the privatisation and was interested to try it out. As I needed to travel to York for the weekend I had the perfect chance. The timetable is pretty good – I was able to take a 4pm train on a Friday and be in York – non stop – in about two hours.
It was the weekend of the Remembrance Service and Kings Cross had put on its poppy with pride.
First Class Lounge at Kings Cross
The lounge is located on the mezzanine of the station accessible by a very bossy lift:
The lounge at Kings Cross is only available free to passengers travelling on expensive tickets, First Advance tickets – the cheapest available typically, incur a £5 supplement to use the lounge.
There was a small selection of snacks, plus juice, coffee, water, coke etc.
Around 3.45 the lounge got pretty busy.
The screen in the lounge told me when the train was boarding and I took the overhead walk way to the platform shown. There are escalators and lifts to the platforms.
I found my pre-reserved seat pretty quickly. The carriage was full and indeed my seat was reserved from my destination further north by another passenger. The seat came with a table, three pin power socket and was laid out for their afternoon tea service. Snacks and drinks are free in First Class. Each seat had a small menu:
The staff came around with tea and coffee fairly quickly followed by wine, spirits, beer and cold drinks served from a trolley:
Wine was poured from full sized bottles and the crew were pretty generous as you can see above.
I had sandwiches and cake which were delivered during a second run by staff:
The greatest challenge was the effect on my table when trains passed – the air pressure caused the entire able to ‘jump’ causing everything on it to fly in to the air. The staff taught me the trick of putting the wine glass in the mug – as you can see. The towels were needed for the spillage which happened before I learned the secret.
Seating and WiFi
The seating is a mixture of single seats, tables of two and tables of four. They were comfortable and there was free WiFi which worked fine for emails and limited browsing. This is free in First Class.
The seat slides forward if you press the button on the side.
The train arrived on time and I was over the bridge at the station and in the taxi queue after about 5 minutes. Unfortunately the cab line was horrid as the traffic is so bad in the late afternoons.
The station was pretty empty on my return on Sunday morning. The train was pretty empty although when I purchased the ticket, First Class was only a little more than Standard. You can upgrade on the train for £25.
There is limited catering on a Sunday – a croissant, banana and yoghurt were provided. Tea/Coffee and soft drinks were also available from the staff working the section.
There are complaints that Virgin has eliminated cheap tickets on many trains, restricting their best fares to the unpopular trains. So, if you plan to book and it can be a scenic way to Scotland from London, book a long way ahead.