Tuesday, 21 February 2012

A perfect combination? Chiltern Railways to London / Virgin Trains back to Birmingham

Regular readers of my blog will know that I favour afternoon / early evening events in London as timings tend to  allow the use of off-peak fares, and, if I am lucky, the use of my favourite train: the 1055 Chiltern Mainline Silver service from Birmingham Moor Street to London Marylebone.

Yesterday's event timing allowed me this pleasure and so I turned up at Moor Street at 10.30 knowing that the Silver set would be in the platform, having arrived at 1017 (being the 0837 from Marylebone). Pleasantly surprised to find the train in Platform 3 rather than 4 - a small touch but a sensible one. Boarded the Business Zone - declassified for this journey of course - and settled down to work in the comfortable surroundings.

The locomotive had been shut down for the layover so I wasn't too bothered by the lack of power from the socket. However, it was clear as departure time neared that all was not well - though the loco started up ok, the Business Zone power did not respond. Cue frantic activity from Chiltern staff as they tried to get power and WiFi back on but defeat seemed to be admitted as we departed.

In fact, the standard class carriages were unaffected so, given that Chiltern Mainline Silver Standard is as good as most TOCs First Class offerings, I moved along a carriage and settled in the slightly noisy Standard Class environment (thank goodness half-term has ended!) where the sockets worked. In fact WiFi returned after a time, as did the power to the Expresso Bar so in the end, a very pleasant and productive journey was enjoyed. One suspects that Chiltern are desperate to start using the refurbished stock for their Silver Services and to get the two existing sets off to be upgraded...

Going up to London with Chiltern in effectively First Class comfort on this train costs £24.90 single. However, coming back mid-evening Chiltern can't compete with the Virgin Trains First Class Advance fare of £23.50. So it was that I joined the 2043 Pendolino back to Birmingham at Euston's Platform 18 (at least a Pendolino isn't as lost there as the LondonMidland four car EMUs).

The advantage of the 2043 is that it gets into New Street at 2206 (Chiltern's 2037 doesn't get into Moor Street until 2242); the disadvantage is that unless you can be sure of your timings, the cheapest First Class walk-on fare is £92.70. Clearly, most passengers don't plan in advance as First Class Quiet Coach H was virtually empty and, judging by the speed of service, so was the rest of First Class...

Pity as a Pendolino First Class journey is so much more pleasant than the Standard Class experience: tables, free WiFi, food and drink, window seats, and generally a quiet environment. Just a shame that Virgin price it so extortionately for walk-on off-peak...

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