Accessible Train Travel: LNER Intercity 225 First Class
When you think of travelling along the East Coast from London to the north, LNER tends to be the first choice for most people. The Euston-Edinburgh service is a lot longer, and when travelling to places like York or Hull, the other train operating companies just seem to provide a worse service to LNER. With that in mind, it's time to review LNER's Intercity 225 (Mark 4 carriages with class 90/91) First Class!
LNER tends to be the train company of choice when it comes to travelling to Scotland or the northeast from London or the south and their first class speaks for it. The experience starts before you even get onto the train with lounges available at London Kings Cross as well as other key stations like Edinburgh Waverley. You can use the lounges both on departure and arrival. There's free hot and soft drinks plus snacks in the lounges, and the selection is the same on weekdays as it is at weekends. You can also purchase alcoholic drinks from the hosts in the lounge.
The first class section itself on the Intercity 225 services is in a 2-1 configuration with plenty of tables for 4 people travelling together, as well as seats with a table for 2 and solo seats if travelling alone. There are also plug sockets for the window seats and free wifi. The wheelchair space on this service has a companion seat directly opposite so that you're not seated apart from whoever you're travelling with if staying in your chair during the journey... and that's a big IF. Most of the train journeys on LNER are long distance, and for me, staying in my chair isn't an option. The only seat that a wheelchair can get to from the space is the companion seat or the solo seat on the other side of the carriage. The aisle on the Intercity 225 service is just too small for even my wheelchair to get down.
Then there's the biggest bane of my life with the seats. If you're paying for first class, you'd expect all passengers to receive the same product, right? Well, no. Unlike every other seat in the first class section, including the solo seat on the other side of the carriage from the wheelchair space, the companion seat doesn't recline and is a completely different seat from the others in first class. When I asked about this, everyone assumed wheelchair space design, but even on GWR and Virgin West Coast, the companion seats opposite the wheelchair space have recline. For me, this was just completely unacceptable, especially if like me you pay to go in first class and haven't got the free upgrade to first class! It also meant that because I had no recline on the companion seat (the train had a swap which meant none of the reservations got loaded and I originally wanted the solo seat), I had a very uncomfortable ride down to London. The solo seat is amazing if you're travelling on your own if transferring out, so I'd always recommend getting this one where you can.
However, LNER's food and drink selection and presentation is something to big up! During the week, there's a hot food menu, and the food and drink presentation is very similar to that of Virgin West Coast in that it's presented to you on china plates, with proper glasses and china mugs to match! The cutlery is also metal which means less wastage in terms of disposable items. The snack menu also switches onboard so that one week there's a popcorn snack, and crisps the next. I like this idea, it gives variety to the frequent traveller and something different for those used to the usual crisp and cake selection.
Overall, I think LNER's Intercity 225 service is good, especially when it comes to the lounge and food/drink offering onboard, however, has its flaws! The layout annoys me but the fact that the companion seat doesn't recline and is a different seat to the rest of the first class section just makes me feel as is whoever sits there is being ripped off, after all, you paid for a first class ticket so why are you not getting the full product? Thankfully, these trains are being replaced by newer ones over the next year or so, and I can only hope that those trains have a better designed first class than the Intercity 225 ones!