Saturday, September 13, 2003


I had thought yesterday's trip up to Leeds and back would provide plenty of material for a rant about trains. But no. Not only do I not really have anything to complain about, I even have some positive things to say about it!

I got the 8.05 GNER 'White Rose' service from Kings Cross, a new, white, sleek, comfortable train. The sort of train a long-distance journey should be made on. Because I'd got a full fare standard ticket (the company's paying so what did I care?), I was able to sit in the Standard Plus carriage and was plied with free tea and biscuits all the way. There was a free newspaper and a table service for breakfast (sadly not free) if I wanted it. The ride itself was extremely smooth; we hardly seemed to be moving at all but whenever I looked up between Kings Cross and Stevenage (a journey I did commuting for over a year) we were a lot further on than I thought we would be. The only other time I've ever been on a train like that was between Cologne and Berlin about six years ago. It's just not the sort of standard I've come to expect in this country.

Even when there was some disruption to our journey (making a couple of additional stops to pick up passengers stranded by a broken-down train) the train manager gave us loads of detail and plenty of (obviously genuine) apologies. It's hard to grumble when you're sitting in such comfort and kept well-informed. The worst part of it all was that the carriage filled up a lot more than it had been.

I was going to get another White Rose service back to London again in the evening but, unfortunately, the train had broken-down earlier in the day so we got an ordinary GNER train. But again, the apologies were heartfelt and plentiful and I had a seat so there wasn't much to complain about. And even those few moans were forgotten after I discovered that the buffet car stocked a reasonable bottled ale alongside the cans of bog-standard creamflow bitter. A couple of those and I was more than happy enough. :-)

I think what stands out the most from the two journeys is the attitude of the staff on the trains. They were frank and apologetic when things went wrong, generally helpful and happy to be doing their jobs. It's that sort of thing that ensures passengers reach their destinations feeling satisfied and happy rather than angry. Well done GNER.

For some reason, I'm not expecting the same level of service on South-West Trains this afternoon. Oh well.

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