THE JOURNEY: I travelled in a First Class carriage aboard an Azuma train operated by the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) from Newcastle (NCL) to London King’s Cross (KGX).
BEFORE TRAVELLING: Reserving a ticket online via the LNER website was straightforward. Easy to navigate, the website made clear which services were available on the day that I wanted to travel. The booking process was complete within a couple of minutes.
Selecting the e-ticket option meant that I had a PDF version of the ticket emailed to me so I could access it from my phone. Scanning the QR code at the ticket barrier gave me access to the platforms at Newcastle Central Station, a grand building designed by John Dobson and opened by Queen Victoria in 1850.
Arriving at LNER’s First Class Lounge around an hour before my scheduled departure gave me time to grab a complimentary cup of coffee and packet of Reids’ Baked Treats biscuits. Tea, chilled Harrogate spring water and Piper’s crisps counted among the alternatives available.
I then sat down at one of the tables in the lounge and signed into wi-fi, enabling me to participate in a Zoom meeting before boarding my train. While participating in my meeting I received a notification reminding me of my carriage and seat number, meaning that I didn’t have to search that out ahead of boarding the train.
BOARDING: The reminder also informed me which section of the platform I should stand in to board my carriage. That helped ensure I boarded the train feeling relaxed. The service departed Newcastle on time.
THE SEAT: The seating in the LNER First Class carriage was provided around tables of four or individual seats on the other side of the aisle.
My seat (K14) was a large, single seat with an individual table in front of it. It provided ample legroom and the opportunity to recline. A USB charging point and three-pronged plug were available below the seat arm to provide power for my personal electronic devices.
Luggage racks near the carriage’s sliding doors provided storage space for large items such as suitcases. I used the overhead rack, above my seat, to store my briefcase and coat.
THE SERVICE: The LNER employees that I interacted with in the First Class lounge and aboard the train to London were all well-presented, professional and polite.
LNER’s seasonal Dine menu was on the table when I boarded the train. The complimentary food and drink listed on the menu is sourced from producers along LNER’s routes. They are selected for the quality of their produce and ethos. That means they are from family-run or small-batch businesses, many of which utilise hand production methods while making their products.
My 10:58 departure time meant that I was aboard for a breakfast/brunch service. The food choices included porridge, waffles and fruit. The Full LNER included Lincolnshire sausage, bacon, a hash brown, baked beans, roasted tomato and a fried egg and there was a vegetarian or vegan alternative to that. I opted for a bacon roll. Accompanied by a cup of black coffee, that proved a satisfying start to the journey.
Shortly after departing Darlington the service incurred a delay. Ultimately that meant the service arrived 17 minutes later than scheduled into London King’s Cross on what should have been a two-hour 54-minute journey.
For me that wasn’t a problem, it simply meant 17 more minutes to crack on with work. The reliable wi-fi in the First Class carriage enabled me to access emails and reference websites while travelling to an afternoon meeting.
The service was reasonably busy but the carriage was reasonably quiet, providing a good environment to answer emails and undertake planning tasks.
Midway through the journey, I was offered another drink from the menu so ordered sparkling water. I finished it as we travelled past Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and an announcement was made that we would soon be arriving at London King’s Cross station.
THE VERDICT: Travelling First Class with LNER proved a pleasant and comfortable way of travelling from North East England to the nation’s capital city. The ease of reserving my ticket, access to the First Class lounge at Newcastle Central Station, comfortable seating with adequate space to work while travelling plus access to reliable wi-fi and complimentary food and drink aboard the service were all factors contributing to create a positive overall impression.