As I sit in my comfy First Class seat on the Virgin Trains East Coast service from Edinburgh to London Kings Cross, I’m wondering why I’ve never done this before. Cup of tea in hand, the staff laughing and joking, my wide First Class seat easily accommodating my sizeable arse, it’s like a dream compared to the stresses of flying.
I’ve spent nearly 10 years flying to other cities in the UK for work, or for short weekends away…. Seriously, why has it only taken until now to find out that is is THE BEST way to travel short distances?
Want to know why it’s so good? I’ve had plenty of time to ponder it today, so here are my top reasons why next time you should try the train instead of a plane.
I’m travelling from London to Edinburgh return (via York one way), which with most airlines would set you back between £80 – £200 for a return journey depending on how far in advance you book, and of course you wouldn’t be able to stop off en route.
For the same money (or even less if you book well ahead) you can travel the same route in First Class! If you’re happy to travel in economy class which is still lovely, I found tickets from London King’s Cross to York for just £18 one way if you book at least 3 weeks in advance. Check out their website for special offers.
Plus I don’t know about you but I spend loads on cabs and trains to and from city centres from airports. It’s actually appalling how much it costs to get to Gatwick or Heathrow from my place!
Now, I’m a little on the overweight side, but even for the average sized traveller, airline economy seats aren’t exactly a walk in the park. Designed to fit as many people as possible into a tiny space, there’s little room for making yourself comfy.
On the train, there’s plenty more leg room in economy, and First Class is positively roomy! I have a table in front of me for all my bits and pieces, a chair that reclines to cradle me, and my own little charger on the wall so I can get my work done.
Usually on a plane you’re squished in, fighting your neighbour for the armrest, with no chance of putting a laptop in front of you without beady-eyed strangers reading your every word. Not here!
Chicken or beef? Plane food is at best uninspiring and at worst inedible. Actually, sometimes it’s not even possible to determine what it is! On short-haul flights you might get a sandwich or a cup of coffee if you’re lucky, but on Virgin Trains East Coast they have a full menu created by telly chef and wonderful Yorkshireman James Martin! Not too shabby!
On my 3 trains (London – York / York – Edinburgh / Edinburgh – London) I’ve had a full Scottish breakfast, a chicken curry with rice and nan bread, egg sandwiches, gourmet snack packs, muffins, plenty of crisps (ooops) and as much tea, coffee and booze I could put away!
I don’t think half an hour has passed without some kind of offer of food. In fact, they may be trying to kill me… Send help!
Even if you’re lucky enough to get a window seat on a flight, the views are pretty much limited to the airport, a few clouds and the odd town from above. On the train you’re treated to rolling hills, Highland cows, coastal views and SO MUCH GREEN.
I even excitedly showed the whole carriage a full rainbow I spotted as we rumbled through the countryside. I don’t know if they enjoyed it as much as I did, but hell, I sometimes think that no one else enjoys stuff as much as I do!!
By the time you’ve got yourself to the airport, checked in, waited for your flight (which let’s face it will probably have a delay), flown, got your bags and found your way to the city, not only are you basically exhausted but it probably would have taken the same amount of time on the train and you would’ve been much more comfortable.
London to Edinburgh takes around 4 hours 20 minutes on the fastest route, and you arrive right in the thick of it at Waverley station. Plus there are loads of departures to choose from too.
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate paying extra to check bags on a flight. Most of the time I travel with hand luggage only to avoid the fees, but this means I’m restricted on what I can pack. I have to be super strict about how many clothes I can take but also have to be really careful about packing liquids.
As you’re not allowed to take more than 100ml per container onboard any flight, I end up spending at least a fiver on small toiletries. Plus the liquid restriction means I can’t bring back any boozy souvenirs. That bottle of whisky in my bag would have had to stay on the shelf a little longer. Heartbreaking.
Normally you don’t get any entertainment on short haul flights in the UK, unless you’re really lucky and you happen to have a plane which is normally used for long haul flights.
Virgin Trains have their own entertainment app called BEAM which has loads of TV shows, movies and games. As it’s an app you can watch what you like on your own phone whilst you’re on board. Download the app on the Apple store or Play store.
There’s also free WiFi in economy when you book your ticket directly, or it’s always free in First Class. So you can catch up on a bit of work or just chill, whatever you like.
So next time you’re flying short haul in the UK, seriously, why aren’t you on the train?