As anybody who has been paying any attention to transport news in the UK (or more specifically the west coast of the UK) will know, on 6 December 2019, Avanti West Coast took over the running of services previously supplied by Virgin Trains.
Having been a frequent user of the Virgin Trains service between England and Scotland, I was a bit worried about how the service would change after the takeover. It seems I needn’t have worried too much.
My first journey took place on Thursday 12 December 2019; soon enough after the takeover that I would still have expected a few teething troubles but not so soon that I would expect any of them to be major.
As I booked my ticket prior to the takeover, I was concerned that I would have issues using it. I noticed upon checking that Avanti West Coast had already addressed this concern on their Twitter feed by stating that tickets which had already been purchased for Virgin services would be honoured on their services and they were indeed.
I was travelling to Glasgow Central Station and I boarded the train at Preston. Upon reaching my seat I noticed that the overhead display was not showing seat reservations. This is something which I always find frustrating. When people have specifically requested a particular type of seat the lack of reservation information can lead to arguments between passengers. Thankfully on this occasion there were plenty of empty seats throughout the entire journey.
I am happy to report that the train departed from preston on time and arrived at Glasgow Central when it was due to.
The staff onboard the train were polite and friendly. The person making the announcements kept us informed of the journey’s progress. One thing I noticed however was that this member of staff had clearly transferred over from Virgin. He accidentally begun using Virgin’s name in his first announcement but very quickly corrected himself. I must confess I had a bit of a chuckle to myself when this happened.
I was very surprised that the announcer made no mention of the onboard shop. We were never informed as to whether the shop was open or closed or even if it actually existed at all. At no point during my journey did anyone bring the trolley round to see if any of the customers were looking to buy anything.
As for the condition of the train – “work required” is how I would sum it up. The train was not as clean as I would have liked and I overheard one of the train staff remark on this to a colleague. There was an unpleasant smell in the carriage I travelled in, I cannot speak for any of the other carriages though. As my journey was quite a late one, I would maybe expect a bit of unpleasantness; I am aware that not all passengers are considerate in the disposal of their rubbish and that throughout the day people have to use toilets but more of an effort could have been made prior to departure.
A member of staff patrolled the train through the journey collecting rubbish. This was good to see but a quick clean prior to boarding would have been appreciated.
I found the train to be a bit too hot but that is more personal preference than anything; everybody feels temperature differently and you can’t please all the people all the time. The temperature coupled with the malodour did make me long for the days when trains had opening windows.
As the trains have been taken over from Virgin, the seats are still the same. I found that after roughly 3 hours in a Standard Class seat, my back was in absolute agony. First class for me next time I think! (Can anybody spare a few quid to help with the upgrade costs?)
All that said, I was fairly satisfied with my journey. I can to an extent overlook the other issues as long as I get to where I’m going on time but I would suggest that Avanti West Coast look into the cleanliness issues. Late in the day I don’t expect perfection but reasonably clean would have been nice.