East Coast rail route proves first class success

A MAJOR surge in First Class journeys – the biggest for five years – has been recorded on East Coast trains, following the successful launch of its new timetable and First Class complimentary food and drinks service.

The news comes as fresh evidence emerges showing that more long-distance travellers are switching from ‘planes to East Coast trains.

The train operator’s own data shows that in the four weeks to July 23, 173,000 passenger journeys were made in First Class – a rise of 29 per cent, or 39,000 journeys, compared with the corresponding four weeks in 2010.

Meanwhile, the number of First Class journeys made with East Coast has also leapt by 24 per cent since the new timetable and First Class complimentary service launched on May 22 this year.

This represents an additional 74,000 First Class journeys, compared with the same period last year.

In contrast, East Coast First Class journeys grew by just three per cent in the entire year from April 2010 to March 2011.

East Coast launched its new timetable in May, adding 117 extra services every week and more than three million additional seats to the timetable.

From the same date, East Coast also introduced substantial improvements to its First Class customer service, including a new complimentary food and drinks service, featuring hot meals on weekday morning and evening trains, and a new Quiet Coach.

East Coast managing director Karen Boswell said: “Launching the new timetable and First Class customer service presented a major logistical challenge.

“The timetable represents the biggest change to East Coast in 20 years, and has settled in well, successfully delivering more seats, more services, improved frequency and faster services – including a prestigious new ‘Flying Scotsman’ non-stop express service from Edinburgh to London in just four hours.

“The data we now have confirms that many people are voting with their feet and trying out the new First Class customer service – while our market research tells us that the reaction to what we are now offering is generally very good.

“At a time when our trains are gaining ground in competition with the airlines, we will seek to build on the positive start made since May 22.

Customers also welcomed the inclusion of healthier food options within the complimentary menu, and East Coast’s partnership with the National Trust on its locally-sourced cake range also won praise.