My anger this time is at National Express who have recently taken over the East Coast Mainline that was previously being run by GNER We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, me and GNER but I think I’m going to miss them, based on my first experience of the new regime.
For my return journey, I had booked a seat in First Class. Not that I’m usually this flash but the ticket was only £10 more than standard and past experiences with a large suitcase and the Christmas crowds made me think it was the way to minimise the stress of the journey. The train was 15 minutes late and when it arrived it was already full, every seat and spare inch of floor space was taken up with luggage and people standing. My seat that I naively thought was reserved had someone else in it who’d travelled from Scotland and also had a reservation for it.
So I spoke to a train guard, who said ‘All of the seats have been double-booked as its Christmas’
‘But I’ve paid for First Class’ I countered
To which he said parrot fashion ‘You haven’t paid for the seat reservation. We give you that free so it doesn’t guarantee you a seat’.
“But why would I pay extra for First Class if it didn’t get me a seat. Its not better standing in First Class than standing in Standard’, said I.
To which he had no reasonable answer, but instead said that the next train would be starting from this station so there might be more room on there and he signed my ticket to allow me to travel on the later train.
As I was getting off, another National Express employee told me there was no point getting off as the next train would be the same. I explained to her that there wasn’t even room to stand on the one I’d got off, so I didn’t have much choice. She said the next one would be as bad. Then we had the same conversation about seats not being guaranteed.
Our conversation was overheard by a couple of Americans who told me they thought it was a disgrace what these companies were allowed to get away with. Thankfully I got on the next train (which wasn’t anywhere near as busy but was delayed) but I will be writing a strongly worded letter of complaint to National Express.