Iain tours the UK

Staff member: Iain // Trip date: Oct 2008


NEWCASTLE TO DUMFRIES

This was my first trip, on the day of travel I went to get my pass validated at one off the ticketing windows, everything was clearly signposted and easy to find. Afterwards I found out the time off my train and found the platform I needed. The train itself was only 2 carriages and standard class only, the seats were comfortable and plenty of room. At either of the carriage there were baggage shelves for bigger bags and there were overhead shelves running across the top of the carriage on both sides meant more for smaller bags and shopping. The seats where 2 rows, either for 2 people or a 4 person seat with 2 seats facing the other 2 with a big table in the middle. The conductor would walk up and down asking people for there tickets, if people did not have tickets they could purchase from the conductor using cash or cards. The conductor glanced at my pass and said everything was in order and gave it back.

DUMFRIES TO EDINBURGH VIA GLASGOW

This was my next planned trip, but due to there being a train strike I paid £7.50 and caught the bus instead. There were rail replacements, in that there were buses taking people to Glasgow and you would change there to get to Edinburgh, again by bus, but I just paid the £7.50 and went straight to Edinburgh and saved a day on my pass.

GATWICK EXPRESS TO LONDON

Arriving at Gatwick airport we just followed the signs to the trains, everything was clearly signposted and again easy to find. You had the choice to buy your tickets from the machine or again on the train, as I was travelling with 2 other people, instead of taking advantage off the 1st class, I went in the standard class with my friends. The train ride takes around 30 minutes, again plenty of space and plenty of room for bags of all sizes. My friends bought their tickets on board and paid around £16 one way. A food and beverage trolley went back and forth, selling food, drinks, papers and alcohol.

LONDON TO BIRMINGHAM RETURN

Due to the fact we decided to go to Birmingham on a Sunday, most of the main train stations leading in and out of London are currently undergoing maintenance work. For us to travel to Birmingham we had to go from London Euston and my friends paid £40 return each for the trip. There was one train running every half an hour from London Euston for all travellers to take to Watford junction, where everybody got off and here is where people would pick up their train to their onward destination.
Here is where I decided to try out the first class when the train going to Birmingham arrived. My friends walked down the platform along with 95% of the people going in our direction to the standard class carriages, I stayed with the other 5% that had first class tickets and we boarded the train. The first class carriage was nice, plenty of room and plenty of seats, lots of room for storage. I went into the quiet first class carridege, quiet meaning no phones or personnel stereos or things that are going to make a lot of noise. The seats where again with 2 rows, 4 seats 2 facing the other 2 and on the other side there were 2 seats facing each other with a table in the middle, each group of seats had 2 PowerPoint's for your laptops and gismos.

Around halfway into the journey, a steward came around with a trolley with tea, coffee, shortbread, cookies, newspapers, chips and soft drink. This was all part of the service to first class passengers only.

The return journey was the same, first class was very quiet and standard class was very busy, to the point they had to open up one of the first class carriages and allow people to sit there without having to pay the supplement. Instead of having to get off at Watford on the return journey, we got to go all the way through to London Euston.

LONDON TO BATH RETURN

To travel to Bath, I had to make my way to London Paddington, once there I checked the boards for the next train to Bath. Got to the barriers and showed the train station staff/person my pass and he let me through. The first 3 carriages were first class so I jumped on the train, each seat had a number, with a little screen next to it, the little screen showed the availability of the seat, if it said, no reservation, it was free to use, for some of the seats that were reserved, it showed the points that were reserved. E.g. London to Swindon and after that it was free. Again the train journey was very comfortable with lots of space and legroom. The journey took a little under 2 hours.

The return journey was a little bit different. There was maintenance work at Bath train station, so we had to take buses to Swindon and pick up our journey from there. The pass covers you for the bus sector, which was good.

BATH TO KEYNSHAM

This is a 20-minute ride. Keynsham is a town between Bath and Bristol. The train itself was only a small 2-carriage train. Again just standard class. Keynsham is an unmanned station with just 2 platforms and it has the schedule up on the wall of when the trains are passing through.

HEATHROW EXPRESS TO HEATHROW AIRPORT

You pick up the train from Paddington train station, there were no barriers and you can jump straight on the train and purchase your tickets on the train, use the machines or join the queues to buy your ticket.

The train itself has first and second-class, first class was very spacious, lots and lots of bag racks, there were newspapers you could help yourselves too and there where TV's playing BBC and showing you about Heathrow airport and also the journey to and from Heathrow.

I now have a much better understanding of how the passes work and what people can expect on the trains and I would defiantly recommend a pass.

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