Friday, 1 June 2012

LondonMidland First Class Off-peak return

Chiltern Railways may have been grabbing the headlines by introducing an adapted Silver Set but of course LondonMidland have also been innovating... From May 20th, there has been an off-peak First Class fare available on the company's Birmingham to London Desiro service.

For a £45 walk-on fare, services are available south from the 0753 onwards from New Street, whilst the north-bound availability begins at 0846. There are NO evening peak restrictions in either direction (and, of course, no restrictions at all at weekends).

Yesterday, I joined the 0913 from New Street to remind myself what the First Class offering was like... Regular readers will know that the Class 350 Desiros have been configured to have a 24 seat compartment in the middle of the sets for First Class use. The compartments have two 2x2 tables and 16 Airline-style seats. The seats recline, and there are power points available for all the seats. Curtains are available for the windows. Yesterday's set was fairly quiet at New Street so having a table at which to work was no problem.

What the sets don't have is WiFi, catering, or speed. The xx.13 services are the quickest south at 2 hours 14mins, though the return xx.13 evening services from Euston do manage to do the journey in 2hrs 4 mins.

I rather like the ride quality of the Desiros (certainly better than the Pendolinos), which is a good job when one is spending such an amount of time on them! What I don't like is the lack of train management exhibited by LM staff. Tickets checks and a visible presence from New Street to Northampton yesterday BUT then no further LM staff presence to Euston NOR at all on the 19.13 back (and of course no barrier checks on the way back).

Overall, I fear that I can think of no reason why I would take a First Class OP return trip when the Chiltern services with the same time restrictions cost £5 more and offer quicker timings, more comfortable working conditions, free WiFi, and catering at key points of the day (and the staff are visible). Sorry LM but you remain very much the poor relation.

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