Tuesday, 17 April 2012

LondonMidland - best peak-time value for money?

At the end of March, I took the opportunity of the LondonMidland Rail Sale to do a comparison blog on Advance First Class fares from Birmingham to London. In it, I pointed out that through the sale LondonMidland were offering fares over six times cheaper than Virgin Trains and almost four times cheaper than Chiltern Railways... So what do you get for such bargain basement fares? On Tuesday, I used the 0653 from Birmingham New Street to London Euston (and the 1813 return) to remind myself.

LondonMidland's services are formed of Class 350 Desiro electrical multiple units which have a first class compartment of 24 seats, of which 8 are around tables. All seats recline, have power sockets, and curtains.  Leaving New Street, the four car unit carried around 8 First Class passengers and steadily picked up more until after the final stop of Leighton Buzzard the compartment was full. Ticket checks after Birmingham International and Leighton Buzzard indicated that everyone had indeed bought First Class tickets or passes.

The Desiros ride well and are capable of a good turn of speed but, of course, cannot really show their paces when confined to the stopping patterns of the LondonMidland commuter service into London. Naturally, there are no additional facilities such as refreshments or WiFi, so the 2 hour 17 min journey needs to be prepared for: a Starbucks coffee and croissant and a Laptop dongle saw me through the journey productively.

Coming back, the 1813 leaves London Euston as a twelve coach train but only the front four carriages go through to Birmingham New Street. Leaving Euston, there were around 12 in the compartment of which half left at Leighton Buzzard. No ticket checks before Northampton but the great British travelling public don't take advantage by crowding into First! After Northampton, one passenger was found to be travelling on a standard class ticket.

One of the peculiarities of the LondonMidland timetable is that the peak return trains from Euston are timed to reach New Street in 2 hours 3 mins which is almost as fast as some of Chiltern's early evening off-peak services. Thus, as LondonMidland allow cheap Advance First Fares on these peak 'fast' trains, one can leave London after an afternoon meeting and be back in Birmingham mid-evening. Not bad, especially if you prepare with tea and cake at the Friends Meeting House across the road from Euston beforehand (the cafe of which stays open to 8pm Monday to Friday).

Of course, LondonMidland are reliant on co-operation from Network Rail for such timing. On Tuesday, the service was running to time until it was held inexplicably outside New Street for several minutes - platform availability isn't one of New Street's strong points.

So bargain travel at £28.80 return  offering an adequate working environment. I'll just have to hope that those foolish enough to waste their firm's money on Virgin Trains don't catch on...

No comments:

Post a Comment