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Virgin East...bad review? Edinburgh to London train..Which route?

Traveling by train from Edinburgh to London in October. Heard some bad reviews of Virgin East Coast Line. Like to travel along the coast, but any feedback on this line is appreciated.

Posted by
774 posts

We went from London to Durham (split into 2 separate trips) on Virgin East Coast. The trains were on time, clean, comfortable and inexpensive (with advance purchase).

Posted by
8889 posts

I must point out this line does not go along the coast, apart from a short stretch between Berwick and Edinburgh. From London to Durham you will be 20 to 50 miles inland.
It is called the "East Coast Main Line" because it goes from London to Scotland (Edinburgh) up the east side of the country. The alternative is the "West Coast Main Line" which goes up the west side to Glasgow, equally nowhere near the coast.
See the map here:

Posted by
30307 posts

what sort of things have you "heard"?

How old are these "sayings"?

The line has just started again with a new operator, now the, let's see the 6th in the last few years (BR InterCity, Sea Containers, direct government operation, National Express, direct government operation, and now Virgin and Stagecoach are having a go), and whatever you "heard" must be set against which of those operators was around at the time.

And - are these comments about the rolling stock, the stations, the operator or the scenery?

Posted by
2 posts

Nigel, I read comments on another travel forum site regarding the staff, and the condition of the trains. It was a recent comment made since Virgin took over the East Coast Line. According to this person, the coaches were old and dirty, and the staff rude. Another person made a similar comment. Not being from the area or understanding the rail system ownership, I am asking for opinions based on recent experience. This future trip represents a huge investment for me, and I like to make the best choices possible. I understand people have differing opinions. Thanks for above comments.

Posted by
30307 posts

Your trip in October will be before the new trains will arrive.

The existing stock is relatively old but it has been well refurbished several times and I think it is pretty good. At least the windows line up with the seats which is more than you can say for a lot of new trains including the new Hitachi ones which are about to arrive on that line. The windows are much bigger too, much bigger than on, say, the West Coast Pendolinos.

I must say that I am surprised that it was reported as dirty. Do you mean unwashed on the outside, or dirty windows, or grimy inside? There's usually decent on train cleaning, and the trains regularly go through the washer when on the depot. If the review was from the winter, the train won't go through the washer if the temperature is below freezing.

As far as rudeness - who knows? If this is all from one review and the reviewer was having a bad day or just writes nasty stuff, who knows? It is my experience that staff in any customer facing industry tend to give back the attitude they get.

Are all the reviews like that or just one?

Twice a year, Spring and Autumn, Transport Focus (used to be called Passenger Focus) which is the government organisation responsible for train operating company standards conducts a major survey of passengers on many aspects of the train experience and publishes the results.

Remembering that Virgin and Stagecoach had just received the keys from the government, an 95% overall satisfaction in the Spring survey isn't too shabby (bottom graph). Results are at

Posted by
2338 posts

"This future trip represents a huge investment for me, and I like to make the best choices possible."

You don't really have a choice if you want to travel by train from London to Edinburgh as virgineastcoast has in effect a monopoly on that route.

buy your tickets ASAP and treat yourself to first class if you can afford it

Posted by
3656 posts

Our son and his family took this journey recently and had a good experience--trains on time and comfortable. They saved a lot of money by purchasing the tickets ahead of time (40.80 pounds total, one way) for the 4 of them. They purchased a Family and Friends card (30 pounds total) to use with their various rail trips. Buy tickets early and see if one of the rail scheme cards makes "cents" for your travels.

Posted by
5675 posts

I assume that by "huge investment" your talking about the entire trip. :) I really do understand your desire to make the trip as wonderful as possible. But, I really wouldn't be that worried about the train trip to Edinburgh. It represents maybe four hours of the trip. When I took it a few years ago there was WIFI that I used as we headed out of London and then by the time we got to York I was absorbed in looking out the window. At least you won't be doing the trip as Jeremy Clarkson did when he raced James May and Hammond in a steam engine from London to Edinburgh.

Posted by
1776 posts

We took that train route on July 1. I bought our tickets as soon as they were available, they were about 75 pounds each for first class. We reserved the "quiet car" which meant we didn't have to listen to other people's cell-phone conversations. Food was plentiful and drinks were free. (We were on the 2:00 train). The scenery was pleasant, although certainly not spectacular. Cabs at Kings Cross were plentiful.

Posted by
914 posts

I traveled that route May last year but can't tell you what ownership it was at the time or even if it's exactly the line you're taking. So, this could be apples and oranges, but whatever trains I used had perfectly fine journeys both directions. Are you referring to the TA forum review? Those people sound like they need hobbies or would notice things that differ from the grand old era of train travel even they're too young to remember. That said, I'm not a picky person, don't travel first-class, buy coffee and food at the station, read my magazine, and look at the scenery. If the arm rest is looking worn, that's not going ruin my vacation. Unsanitary conditions or listening to garbage language for 4 hours--a different story.

Posted by
78 posts

We took East Coast Trains before Virgin took over and it was great. Sorry to hear that there are bad reviews now. The route did travel along the coast between Edinburgh and Newcastle. Loved the trip...very relaxing. While the airfares between Edinburgh and London are very low, I wouldn't miss the opportunity to travel by train.

Posted by
5040 posts

You have to read between the lines to determine if these 'reviews' were genuine, or political by people who don't like Virgin and thought DOR was a wonderful idea. The people on the ground though will be the same.

Posted by
1518 posts

Marco in this I think is spot on. East Coast had a very good reputation and the transfer to Virgin was not popular, so a lot of the reviews need to be read as such. Also the other main route, the West Coast Main Line, is operated by Virgin Trains as well and there may be overspil between the two companies as far as the reviews are concerned.