I booked a First Advance fare for the following journey:
- Friday 26th June 2015 depart Kings Cross 19:00 arrive Darlington 21:19
- Sunday 5th July 2015 depart Darlington 16:49 arrive Kings Cross 19:23
And the fare, including local train connections at either end was £175.50. The return was £73.00.
I arrived at Kings Cross with enough time to visit the Virgin Lounge. On arrival at the lounge, a lady checked my ticket and advised that ‘Advance First’ ticket required an additional payment of £5. I asked if my Virgin Atlantic Gold Card made any difference – it didn’t. The glasses of sparkling wine at the lounge entrance convinced me that £5 was probably worth paying. I didn’t have change and gave her £10. Luckily it seemed that she didn’t have any change and within a few minutes my £10 was returned and I was advised that my visit would be complimentary. If you decide to visit (and I wouldn’t bother if I were you) then take a £50 note and hope it can’t be changed!
There were quite a few spare chairs and found one by the television. I wandered around and found that only soft drinks and a few apples were available. There was also a sign that said ‘Fizz Friday’ – so it seems that sparkling wine is a Friday thing. I had another glass of that. So a pretty disappointing lounge and certainly not worth paying £5 for entry – especially if it isn’t a Friday.
The train was on time and I found my comfortable seat which was in the quiet coach – mobile conversations are discouraged.
Soon after departure we were offered hot drinks, soft drinks, beer, wine, spirts, biscuits, crisps and a dinner menu. I was pleasantly surprised as the Virgin website seems to indicate that post 19:00 departures don’t include a hot dinner menu.
Food, drinks and service were good throughout the journey.
Wi-fi was poor and I wouldn’t want to rely on that to maintain a connection for business purposes.
The train was on time and I boarded the quiet coach – it was hot. Soon after departure I was offered hot drinks, soft drinks, biscuits, crisps, a sandwich and cake. No alcoholic drinks or hot food on Sundays – but then I knew about that. I’m surprised they don’t have alcohol available for sale though.
After my tea was poured and I had a sandwich, the attendant advised that I was free to move to a non-reserved seat in another carriage as the air conditioning had broken in my carriage. This was a bit late as I already had my tea in front of me – I decided to see how things would be with the curtains closed.
After eating, it was clear that the carriage was too hot to sit in for a few hours and so I moved myself and my luggage to the next carriage – which was, of course, almost full. I found a rear-facing seat – I don’t really like travelling backwards. But at least it was cooler.
There was another round of drink and snack service. Wi-Fi was again poor.
The train arrived on time – which I suppose was the most important. However, I’m planning to write to Virgin and complain about the loss of my forward-facing seat – mainly because I’m hoping they’ll send me some money! I’ll update this post with their reply.
And here is the disappointing reply:
Thank you for your correspondence received on 27 July 2015 regarding your recent journey.
I am sorry to hear that you had to move seats due to their being an air conditioning fault in your original carriage. I do understand that inconvenience of having to do this; however I hope you understand that in the event of their being a fault it is in the interests of the passengers to move seats.
I also understand why you are unhappy that you did have a rear-facing seat when previously you had a forward facing seat. I appreciate that you selected a specific seat preference whilst booking your seat, and I am sorry that you were unable to find a seat that fitted your preference. Our on-board staff would have been happy to try and locate an alternative seat if you had made them aware of the issue.
I would like to thank you for getting in contact with us regarding this issue.
Customer Relations Advisor
Virgin Trains East Coast
So thanks for nothing Myles.