An epic trip on the legendary HST train ran by Heritage company.
We had a chat at work about cancelling our in-person meeting due to concern with cancelled and/or potentially overcrowded trains between Manchester and London Euston operated by Avanti West Coast.
The people are already allergic to travel on Avanti West Coast as they raise a valid point “what’s the point spend 325 pounds on a trip with a high chance of getting stuck for hours due to cancelled trains.”
I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I checked some news on the internet.
I found this article (https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/aug/19/heritage-railway-takes-on-avanti-with-first-class-west-coast-service-london-manchester) where they wrote about Heritage Company “Intercity” successfully bided for a slot at 17.27 from London Euston to Manchester and calling at Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Crewe and Wilmslow. They offer a ticket for 75 pounds.
While our team was about to decide to go online only for a half-day meeting, I was thinking about “First class on HST for 75 British queens ?” I decided to buy a ticket. My idea was to make a return trip to Manchester, but I had only 3 minutes to change to the last train from Manchester to London and had busy plans for the weekend, so I decided to travel to Crewe with Intercity and back to Watford Junction on the Avanti West Coast. If I am lucky, I may travel on the refurbished train.
Fast forward to Friday. I was pretty excited to travel, but on the way to London Euston, I realised I had forgotten to take a GoPro. “Never mind,” I thought; I am here to enjoy travel, not become a YouTuber.
When I arrived at 17.14, the train was already on platform 16, and many rail enthusiasts were busy taking endless pictures.
I did some pictures from outside.
I decided to go inside and explore this HST carriage. It was the best-looking HST for me. They look very classy. They were better than Virgin Train’s East Coast (my previous favourite).
I was thinking of doing a lot of pictures and videos for this blog, but I just sat down and enjoyed the experience. The train departed on time, and a few minutes later, I ordered my dinner: a ham salad sandwich, coffee and beer for dessert.
The Ham sandwich was fantastic. The coffee was average. The beer selection was good.
The best part? Travelling at 110mph was sublime. It feels .. the best word I can find is “raw”. You can feel it when the train departs, stopping.
The views from the train’s window on the west coast are one of the best in August, and I could enjoy it while drinking a beer in the most comfortable seats on the British train. It helps to wind down and be simply happy. It was one of the best trips I had in the UK. The staff was cheerful and friendly. At the same time, the train reminds me original USS Enterprise from the ’60s. I was sad. I arrived at Crewe.
I have 1 hour to find food to take away. I left the station, and after just 3 minutes of walking, I felt like I was in a Resident Evil game in some rough city, and I will attack shortly by zombies. After a search for takeaway, it turns out that the only place with decent reviews was Pepe’s Piri Piri. When I got there and figured out what I wanted to eat, I was told I needed to wait just 20 minutes. However, I would rather wait for a train at the station than for food in a place that looks like a gang meeting point before the shooting starts.
I went back to the Crewe station. It is one of my least favourite stations.
The station looks great. However, it is chaos when it comes to passenger information about trains.
My favourite one was when we were on platform five; a guy asked staff about where his train was departing from. Staff answered that his train was departing from platform 11, so the guy ran to the platform and at the same time, the departure board changed, and his train was about to depart from platform one, but there was no voice announcement. The person missed his last connection.
Today was another example where my train to London Euston had a platform alteration from 6 to 5, while the train to Manchester should be at platform 6 instead of 5 ( https://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/ website shows that our train should depart from platform 6 (there was no indication of platform alteration).
At 21.22, they announced that the train to Manchester would be departing from platform 5, causing people to run from platform 6 (via stairs). At 21.25 (time of departure of our train), they announced that our train would be departing from platform 6 … so while the train was approaching, people were rushing via stairs.
Thanks to my previous experiences at Crewe, when I see any indication of chaos in Crewe, I am always standing next to stairs, so it saves me a mad run to the train.
I was lucky enough to experience a refurbished Pendolino by Avanti West Coast.
Impressions? The good news is that the inside train is brighter but less cosy. The seats are much better than the Virgin one. Some tables have wireless charging.
The worst part of the refurbishment is the shop. It looks plain and incomplete with crap choices. It seems like deliberate action, so people stop using, so during the next refurbishment, they can get rid off as GWR did with Hitachi trains. At least they have Brewdog Punk IPA, so I bought it.
I sat down, and because it was dark outside, I started thinking about the state of the British Railways.
I feel like British Railways are on the free fall to disaster. It feels like you are on an aeroplane that is deintegrating and about to crash.
The Railway is about providing a public service to people and allowing them to travel from A to B in an affordable way. It is not the case in the UK, where Government treats this as business and an unwanted child, which is the root cause of fundamental problems.
Let’s take the example of the West Coast franchise. When Avanti took from Virgin over a short period, West Coast went from an iconic flagship route to one of the most shameful ones. It worries me because The British Railway is run by amazing staff, but they are let down by management and the Government who is allergic to Railways.
This post is not about a rant. It is about my great experience travelling on the original HST train. I want to praise Intercity (https://inter-city.co.uk/) for its bold move to bid for this slot. I was pleased to experience travel on a heritage train. It was superior in comparison to Avanti West Coast. In fact, InterCity’s train is “the best of British” when it comes to Railway.
The journey itself on the Pendolino was uneventful. I arrived 23.12 at Watford Junction.
Let’s start from the worst to the best.
Travel on the Avanti West Coast was a disappointment. While travelling on the Pendolino the more comfortable seat is fantastic, but the overall experience is “meh”. I miss Virgin Trains.
I also discover that Crewe is a rough place, especially after dark.
However, that doesn’t matter because the trip’s main purpose was to travel on the HST operated by Intercity, which was magnificent. They will run this train for the next few weeks, so if you are on the way to Manchester on Friday. Try the 17.27 Charter train by Intercity (https://inter-city.co.uk/ ).
It will probably be your best experience on the West Coast.