Why the Virgin Trains Pendolino is fail…

A repost of a slightly old note from my Facebook profile, updated…

1) Not enough seats, especially ones with tables – yes, even in first class

2) Seats that don’t line up with windowseven in first class, if you’re unlucky enough to sit in coach H, seat 02A, which has the added bonus of the rubbish table to rub a bit more salt into the wound.

3) What was that about “windows”? More like port-holes – the Pendolino has 50% less glazing compared to it’s predecessor, allegedly in the name of “crashworthiness”, but one informed source tells me that it was a cost cutting measure as well.

4) Crap heating and ventilation – a never-ending battle seems to be played out by the floor-level heaters and the ceiling-level air conditioner, your legs being toasted while your head is chilled, waves of sickening heat waft up to your face, while icy blasts blow down the back of your neck. Heating fights cooling fights heating. This is environmentally friendly how?

5) Noisy. Creaks, squeaks and rattles are the order of the day. Interior materials seem to be designed to reflect or even amplify noise, not absorb it.

6) Nasty, mucky, cramped, and smelly loos, with comedy handwashing. Dirty toilet bowls, tiny trickles of water, pathetic hand dryers.

7) “The Shop”. The railway buffet car meets 7-Eleven. Works on the assumption that passengers shall be denied edible food. Don’t even get me started on those “tubes” of UHT milk – nasty. But all tea and coffee is fairtrade, so that makes it okay. Not.

8) Just what did the person sat in the so-called “window” seat do that’s so bad that they are denied an armrest?

9) An apparently perfect Faraday Cage which prevented mobiles/3G dongles working – at least until a mobile phone repeater system was retro-fitted to each train.

10) Comedic (well, it would be if you hadn’t paid for it), unreliable provision of “inclusive” First Class food and drink. Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not, but whatever it is, in my experience it’s frequently not as advertised, and passengers aren’t warned in advance. When I’ve raised this with on-board staff, and with VT HQ, their response is that I “only bought a journey from A to B” and they aren’t under any obligation to provide any of the services illustrated in their marketing material, as it’s a “complimentary” service as opposed to an “inclusive” service. Bunch of weasels!

Pendolino might have taken a step forward in terms of journey time, but at the expense of several steps back in terms of passenger comfort. I guess the silver lining to this cloud is that the quicker journey time means you’re not on the dratted thing for as long.

It’s predecesor, the iconic HST, was proof that designing for both the passengers and for profit can be done.

7 thoughts on “Why the Virgin Trains Pendolino is fail…”

  1. Agree 1,000,000% with every word said here. I too am of the same opinion and am glad that I have finally come across somebody who thinks exactly the same as me – I for one cannot stand the inconsistent air conditioning and the crap windows (plus the fact that there are at least a dozen seats in each cramped claustrophobic carriage which have no window views at all – they must be taking the piss). I have raised these points and criticisms with Alstom and Virgin Trains, and one of them (Virgin) have responded with their usual pre-rehearsed guff about the trains being ‘state of the art’ and ‘ergonomically friendly’ – like hell they are!

  2. Couldn’t agree more! We are on the Glasgow Central to London Euston service and bought first class tickets because they were on a special deal. Now I know why. We had the misfortune of being seated in the first carriage (K) and had to move as it was a)incredibly claustrophobic b)majority of seats were facing in opposite direction to travel c) as if the claustrophobia wasn’t enough, there are ridiculous fixed tables taking up all the space between seats to leave you completely penned in. As for the food, a midget box of junk food is all you get for a nearly five hour long journey. The shop selection is not much better but at least there were sandwiches. We had taken first class East Coast on the way up, which was much better – relatively speaking – in terms of leg room and food, even including hot options. Very disappointed, definitely a case of more style, zero substance! I’ve travelled on Italian pendolinos and had a far superior passenger experience.

    1. Ah, you got the underwhelming Little Box of Snacks. No element of poor service or contempt for the passenger escapes my eye. 🙂

      Hope you were able to move to an alternative seat – i.e. any seat which says “AVAILABLE” on it’s reservation display. There’s nothing forcing you to sit in the awful allocated seat other than a full train, or a jobsworth train manager.

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