Tuesday, 21 September 2010

First Class Week

I spent last week commuting to Leeds and back each day – commuting at the same time as the masses is not something I like especially. I was on a project management course administered by the Association for Project Management at Leeds Metropolitan University within their Centre for Project Management. It was a rather intensive course, far more so any part of my degree! With this in mind, plus the city centre location I didn’t really fancy driving in and out everyday. The days would be long enough as it was without having the stress three or four hours in the car everyday! Another thought was a hotel for four night – travelling is much easier and there would be somewhere to work in the evening, but it could prove expensive. So a further alternative was to go by train each day.

However, anyone who’s experience Selby to Leeds in a morning or the return journey in an evening will know that the numbers on the train make it a less than pleasant experience! All it shows is how suited the railway is to easily shifting large numbers of people from one place to another. But this wouldn’t make doing work on the train very easy. I remember this from my time in Manchester where having anything out on the table made you distinctly unpopular with your fellow passengers! But thanks to the privatised railway’s advance ticket systems there was another, not very obvious answer – First Class.

It’s normally seen as the expensive way to travel, and if you pay on the day it is – as is standard class too on some circumstances. However booking as far in advance as possible netted a selection of tickets to get me to and from Leeds which was significantly less than the price of a hotel or, possibly, petrol when crawling through heavy traffic! The key advantages? Well, up to fifty minutes each way to work and read through course material in a nice quiet and comfortable environment with a short drive to Brough and back each day. Seemed like the best choice by a long way.

Thankfully we had First TransPennine Express' class 170’s each way – I think they’re much nicer than the class 185 units which they also run – and first class is very comfortable. Not up to mark 3 coach standards, but pretty good. Every service got me to my destinations on time – the only issue was when a late running Scarborough service delayed my train’s arrival into Leeds by five minutes but we were on time by Selby. There seems a fair bit of slack in the working timetable so any small delays can easily be recovered. The only real problem for me was when we had a single two car unit instead of the usual two, two car units. First class was declassified and then full – I couldn’t do any work really this night on the train. I can claim back the difference on my ticket but that wasn’t the point at the time. But, these things happen, and life still goes on! The most annoying part of this journey was one middle aged woman who appeared to be wearing a man’s suit; she seemed an expert on everything and the whole compartment knew all about her mother’s ailments by the time we arrived in Selby.

The two stations I used are both excellent examples of their respective genres; Brough was once a village station which has now metamorphosised into a parkway station with a decent sized car park and staffed buildings. Leeds has too undergone huge change over the last few years. It used to be a horribly dingy station but is now light and airy with a real hint of many mainline stations on the continent. The only thing which annoys me is the ticket barriers. I understand the need for need to protect against fare dodgers but they do produce a real bottleneck. And the number of people with purses and wallets out as they go through, having extracted their tickets, must be a real temptation for the less desirable members of the community.

Aside from that one evening, I had a trouble free week of travelling which made the whole week so much easier. Combined with the course being good with decent lecturers and some lovely ‘course mates’, it was a really good week! The real downside was only being able to see Thomas for about half an hour a day before he went to bed in an evening. A nice extra on the Friday was the Northern Belle heading through Leeds with a Class 67 on either end!

A first class end to a first class week.

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