“ UK Railway with 30 different stations. „
If it's possible to travel to your destination using any other service or mode of transport other than Transpennine Express, then I suggest you take it.
I commute Sheffield to Manchester and back every day. Problems include:
There is always a scramble to get a seat, as TP only put on 2 or 3 coaches for the busiest commuter services. So you quite often have to stand for an hour.
Trains are commonly late. Normally 5 to 10 minutes. 35 minutes this morning (prompting me to write this review.)
Trains are cancelled when the weather is inclement. A service was cancelled last week without notice, because of the rain. I had to return home and then drive to Manchester, resulting in me getting to work an hour and a half late.
The service provided by First Transpennine is pathetic. Please don't use them unless you have to...
...and then maybe I'll get a seat.
I bought tickets for my mother who lives in Spain and was travelling from Manchester Airport to Grange over Sands. While buying the ticket I am asked my mother's name (the ticket will be issued for the passenger nominated, the website warns, who will need to present proof of ID). Fine, I say, my mother comes from Spain so she travels with her passport. All along the booking and booking confirmation on their website I read about the passenger travelling both with the ticket and proof of ID. Only to find out, when they actually send you the e-tickets (which happens only almost 2 hours after booking) that for Transpennine proof of ID is the credit card I used!! As far as I am aware credit cards are not proof of IDs. So I called their customer service to explain this was not possible, I paid 5 pounds on a call to 0870 number that lasted 1 hour!! I was on hold around 35 minutes between two operators. Had to send an email for proof of what I was saying (reading PROOF of ID needed, and NOT credit card). Only to find out that my tickets are lost, not refunded, can't change delivery method and, as they have a monopoly on the train service I needed, if I wanted my mum to travel I will need to buy (just 10 hours after the first ticket was bought) a new train ticket. This is not a train service, this is a scam. If you can avoid using this train service and specially their customer service line and e-ticket facility, please do at all costs or you will pay.
Imagine you have just spent £152.00 on three First Class Anytime return tickets one week in advance of traveling. You purchase the expensive option, because you are going to be traveling all day, and the final leg of your journey, a 1-1/2 hour train ride, doesn't even begin until well after 18:00. You also know enough about the state of public transport in Britain to ensure that you have an assigned seat, preferably in the First Class carriage, which at least pretends to be a decent standard of comfort.
Then as soon as you read the confirmation e-mail, you notice that your outbound journey departure time doesn't correspond with the time you thought you booked. Now, it may very well be that YOU made the mistake, so you can't complain - even if you are fairly certain you set the time correctly on the online booking form.
No matter, the whole point of the Anytime ticket is that you can travel at any time on the day of purchase. Also, First Trans. have a customer support team, who you imagine will be able to correct the problem. You call them up, and notice a distinct and heavy Indian accent at the other end of the phone. No problem, much of the time, Indian call centers can be just as good as UK based even if there is the added burden of understanding the accent.
So, there I was, in just that scenario. Let me cut the story short here. Suffice it to say that I am completely dissatisfied with the level of support received.
Basically, there is simply no reason to purchase a First Class Anytime ticket, because the only guarantee for a seat is on the train time that you book. if you actually end up having to travel 'anytime' rather than the booked time - the whole point of stumping up the extra cash for the Anytime ticket, you will be left scrabbling for any available seat on whichever train you manage to catch. Your First Class credentials get you absolutely nowhere.
On average, I travel with Transpennine Express every three weeks (usually there and back) on the Cleethorpes - Manchester route, and more recently their service from Middlesbrough where I am at uni. I have been travelling with them all my life on a regular basis, so I hope I can give you an informed review on my experience with them.
From 2006, Transpennine Express brought in their new range of trains which have given an overall more positive customer experience as opposed to the old trains which were certainly "past it", by the time the company pulled them from their routes. They are now easy to spot purple/pink and blue trains, which operate a number of routes in the north of England and also Scotland.
On board, Transpennine Express trains have purple seats which in all honesty are not comfy if you are doing the entire route from Manchester Airport to Cleethorpes, yet they are adequate for journeys lasting about an hour. I definitely think there is room for improvement though, as East Coast trains seems to have much comfier seating in standard class than Transpennine express do.
There is a mixture of standard two seaters which face both forwards and backwards, and then about 4 tables per carriage. There are also radiators that run alongside all of the seats, although I'm not sure how often these actually get turned on! There are typically 3 carriages in total, with half a carriage dedicated to 1st class, and the rest standard class. There are also toilets located in each carriage.
In terms of cleanliness, it can be a bit of hit and miss. It is certainly unpleasant if you happen to be sat in close proximity of the toilet, and sometimes if you get on TPE trains towards the end of the route, it can be littered and generally a little grubby. I definitely think the inside of the trains could do with a deep clean every once in a while, particularly down the sides of seats as it's just nasty. Again for short journeys though, it's never too much of an issue and certainly not the worst I have seen.
The catering service on Transpennine Express services leaves alot to be desired, that's if it happens to be running on your service. Expect to be offered tea and a range of chocolate and crisps at not too outrageous prices. This is fine for shorter journeys, but again 3 hours to Manchester can seem a very long time with just a cup of tea and a Mars Bar! I think it would be great if they followed suit and offered a variety of hot pinini's and toasties, like East Coast and Cross Country do.
In terms of the staff, on the whole I find them quite polite and helpful. I have more recently encountered a conductor who made me re-buy my ticket, despite me telling him I didn't have any money on that card to do so. He was quite rude about it, considering it was a genuine mistake. This was also a little humiliating, however as this has only happened to me once it's not something I would normally expect from their staff who are usually quite the opposite in attitude.
A definite room for improvement would be in regards luggage and seating space. At peak times during the holiday season, when many families are heading to the airport, there is simply not enough room for larger cases as the luggage racks are tiny. There are overhead racks for smaller bags, but in terms of bikes and suitcases and other larger items, you can often expect to be hard pushed to find a storage space for them.
Between Sheffield and Manchester, there is also a very high customer demand meaning there aren't always enough seats. I was once at Sheffield on a Transpennine Express train whereby they did add an extra 3 carriages, but I have only seen this happen once. It is not nice to see people standing especially when they give you evil looks!
When it comes to fares, as always advance and online is the best way to go. If I book a return to Meadowhall which is a 90 minute journey, at least a week in advance then I can usually get this for about £8 return. However, buy at the station or on board and you can be left with a nasty shock!
If you are not a fan of rail replacement bus services, you probably will not be a fan of TPE. Last summer, all TPE services between Cleethorpes-Doncaster were closed for about 4 months for some unexplained reason. This meant the only option was to find alternative means of transport or use the rail replacement bus. I have since had to go via a rail replacement bus on their services, so it's not as uncommon as you would think. This is fine in terms of it still gets you there, it's just I paid to go on a train, not a clapped out 1970's coach! Enough said.
In our local train station, there is a sign claiming that TPE get 98% customer satisfaction for being a reputable train company/on time services. I can certainly back them up on the most part, however I have also waited 2 hours for a delayed train in the freezing midwinter at Doncaster station. On that note, I think they should adjust their timetable as people getting off at Doncaster waiting for their connecting train to Cleethorpes are often faced with a 45 minute wait, as the service only runs every hour.
Overall, Transpennine Express makes for a pleasant travelling experience but it's certainly nothing special and there is room for improvement. As they provide the main train route out of my hometown, I will probably continue to use TPE for many years to come. In the future, I hope that they will consider increasing their hourly service, particularly at peak times and consider adding more luggage and seating space. I think TPE and customers alike would also benefit from a more desirable trolley service.
I am currently living in Leeds and often travel home to Lancashire. First Transpennine express is the main train operator for my route between Leeds and Manchester and overall I have been pleased with the service.
There is nothing bad or exceptionally good to comment on from my experience of TPE other than their website, so this is what I will review.
www.tpexpress.co.uk is the brightly coloured and fun looking website of the train company. The home page is very easy to navigate away from ,with a journey planner to the right and a big bill board style box in the middle with their promotions flashing up on. I tend to go straight to the student section of the website, which can be found by clicking the 'students' tab underneath the 'bill board'.
The homepage of the student area is often advertising their latest prices and promotions, as well as competitions that run frequently. Currently there is the chance to win your student overdraft payed off!
The student promotion is 50% off when you book online in the student area, providing you also have a rail card.
Example fares are:
Sheffield - Manchester from £2.50
Manchester - Leeds from £2.95
Manchester - Edinburgh from £5.95
Other routes include York & Liverpool.
When you search your route it shows the prices of each journey option so you can easily see which one is the best price and time for you. The process between deciding a time and the checkout is very simple, and there are options for seat preferences too. You can chose to pick up your tickets from a participating station, have them posted next day (I think this is limited to where you live) and also have them posted out to your 1st class, this is often the best option because you will be booking your ticket in advance anyway so there will be plenty of time for your ticket to reach you.
I have often bought tickets weeks in advance and only ordered in the late afternoon yet had the tickets arrive the following morning!
Obviously the earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets available. You can only book specific journeys with this service, and be warned, sneaking on a different train and pretending you didn't realise DOES NOT WORK! I have been caught out twice and will not be risking it again :(
Last year, between September and December I was a regular user of the Cleethorpes - Manchester Airport train, getting off at Sheffield Station.
I didn't have many problems whilst using this service although on rare occasions I thought that the customer service was lacking.
Recently, the catering service has been suspended from Doncaster - Cleethorpes as there was not enough interest in the service apparently.
Perhaps the reason for this is that the staff serving food and drinks don't tend to have a smile on their face and some of them whizz past you without you getting a chance to show an interest in buying a drink, which means you have to wait and buy from the station you're stopping at (unless of course they don't have one).
The conductors don't always come checking tickets, which is annoying as others shout down the PA system at each stop demanding you get your ticket out immediately, even as the people getting on haven't had chance to step foot onto the train.
Overall I have found the train to be as pleasant as a commute from Grimsby - Sheffield can be, but it is slightly annoying when the staff cannot produce a smile to make you feel slightly better about your journey.
On one occasion the train was stopped at Doncaster to couple up with another and some passengers were told to move, and others to sit down, then the passengers told to sit down were made to move, so there were two trains worth of people on the one train and there was no real explanation or apology from the staff and noone was told where they could express their opinion on the issue to. This annoyed me slightly!
P.S. I cannot write about the toilets on the trains as I have never visited these.
First Transpennine Express (FTPE) are part of the First Group, a large transport corporation that does other train companies, buses & metro/light rail services across the UK and abroad. FTPE is a joint venture between First Group & Keolis who are the larest bus operator in France & the largest foreign operator in the UK, running many trains & buses across Europe.
FTPE run trains across three routes in Northern England over the pennines linking Liverpool & Manchester (inc. Manchester Airport) with Leeds & York then onto Hull/Scarborough or onto Middlesbrough or onto Newcastle, several times an hour (most routes operate hourly) all day everyday, and also services run from York & Leeds to Manchester Airport through the night (subject to engineering works of course). A new route started in December 2007 which links Manchester Airport with Glasgow & Edinburgh.
The trains are all brand new trains by Siemens, as part of a multi-million pound investment to improve the fleet of trains and is part of a wider spend to improve the overall performance & service provided to customers, it's also included station upgrades at some stations along the network that FTPE operate onbehlf of Network Rail including Hull & Thornaby which have seen big improvements. The trains have a fantastic bright purple coloured livery which is very eye catching & striking, it's stylish & modern so it's easy to spot your train at the station. Inside the interior is more light & airy, more open spaces with more room to move, tables at all chairs (some big tables and some fold up/seatback tables). The train has toilets throughout the train, as usual these are tiny & you can hardly move, apart from the disabled toilet located at one end of the train, which is large obviously to fit in wheelchairs. Their is ample space for wheelchair travellers, great for anyone in a wheelchair who wants to get out & about by train.
The onboard service is great, very friendly staff I don't remember EVER encountering an unpleasant or rude member of staff and I have used this train countless times, I've lost count how often I go FPTE on the Middlesbrough - Manchester route, so the team based on that route are fantastic. Always friendly no matter what time of the day or night. The onboard trolley service is a little expensive but this is actually ran by Rail Gourmet, NOT FPTE but staff wear FTPE uniform, they are also very friendly, smiling most of the time and they do offer good prices but still cheaper to buy before you travel if you get chance.
Fares, as with all rail fares are too expensive and getting out of hand but FTPE offer some very good fares for advance purchases and sometimes have special offers when booking direct, recently they had a kids go free offer and at the time of writing this, holders of the Young Persons Railcard get 50% off FTPE fares where as usually they only get 33% so they do offer better deals than other operators from time to time.
As with all trains they sadly suffer delays but most of the time its Network Rails problem not FTPE and when they do delay trains they apoligise and seem to care unlike some other operators I could mention.
I enjoy travelling with FTPE and would deffinately travel with them again and will be travelling several times in the future. Highly recommended company to travel with, great friendly staff. clean, refurbished trains which are airy and spacious, plenty of space for luggage too which is great since most trains go to the airport. And a fantastic timetable which operates pretty much 24/7.
There is not enough space on this review - nor is it entirely relevant - to express the multitiude of failings that privatisation has brought to British railways, but they are so keenly felt when travelling by First Trans Pennine Express trains.
First of all the carridges are almost always clean. The access to the trains are wide and spacious. The train service itself, on its restricted route, is usually fairly punctual. Thus far they seem to have succeeded when British Rail most infamously did not.
However, there is always a perplexing and frustrating lack of space within the trains, as they only ever have three carridges running each journey. There is permenantly a demand for more seats during busier times, and also off-peak there is never a guarantee of a seat.
The seats themselves are not overly spacious, nor much comfier than racing seats in a car. The fold down table can not hold a pad of A4 paper (what I would consider to be the right sort of requirement for these), and the net pocket underneath can barely hold a newspaper.
The bike storage is ridiculously inadequate. There is a "designated" space for bikes in the middle of the train which also doubles up as seating. The problem is that if you are not the first person onto the train with your bike these seats will very likely be in use and there can be difficult situations which cyclists are confronted with which shows a complete lack of forsight or disregard by the train companies. How are we supposed to develop an integrated transport system if taking a bike onto a train is such a laborious task?
For a train which visits Manchester airport regularly there is a distinct lack of storage space for more than two families with suitcases.
The brightness of the lights on the train also make the journey feel very exposed and more communal than comfortable.
For those who would like to travel first class there are few benefits to the extra money it costs except for bigger seats. The first class area is tiny, very exposed -as it is set behind large paines of glass, and often looked upon as several customers are often forced to stand, squashed up against the doors.
Overall the company shows little regards for the public, too much for its profits, and gets away with low standards comparatively as they hold a monopoly on the route.
Well as you will know if you read my last review, I travelled from Newcastle to Manchester earlier today. I wrote my National Express East Coast review from the comfort of my train seat, and I know you can do the same for free on Virgin trains. So perhaps this is why I presumed I would be able to do the same on the second leg of my journey, which was with First Transpennine from York to Manchester.
Sadly, I was wrong. Unlike so many places nowadays (even McDonalds for heavens' sake!), the First trains do not offer WiFi which was really irritating as I had planned to catch up on emails on the way. What frustrates me most of that the Newcastle to Manchester route is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination - you can often get cheaper tickets to London actually - yet the service provided is completely substandard in comparison with that of Virgin or National Express. My ticket cost just under £60 and the leg of my journey that I travelled with First was from York to Manhchester which took 1.5 hours.
Unlike the National Express service, this one was not running on time. It arrived in York 5 minutes late and got to Manchester 7 minutes late. Not massively late but if you had an onwards connection this could cause a problem, especially when the ticket sites don't leave more than a few minutes between connecting trains.
The Transpennine Express service runs from Newcastle (or sometimes further up into Scotland) to Manchester Airport, so it is useful for anyone flying out of there. However with a journey time of over 3 hours from Newcastle to Manchester Airport I certainly would not do this given any choice - if I needed to fly from a big airport I would always do an internal flight into Gatwick or Heathrow as it is just so much more pleasant.
I have a lot more experience with First Transpennine than National Express trains as when I was younger my best friend moved to Manchester so I used to visit by train at least once a month. As I was a teenager and the First Transpennine service is the only journey which has no changes between Newcastle and Manchester I was pretty stuck with them as my parents would not let me take a service which involved changing trains, they wanted me put on one end and met at the other (I was 17 by the way so not exactly very young!). Back then, the service was uetterly atrocious. The trains were so old and they were literally like sweatboxes in the summer and freezing cold in winter. I never once managed to make a journey in summer without being sick from the heat; it was just indescribably unpleasant. There was little (if any) ventilation which just added to the awful, chlostraphobic feeling you got and I literally counted down the minutes of my journey, willing it to be over.
I did not use the service again for a couple of years as my friend relocated to Scotland, and in this time the trains were all scrapped and replaced with new ones, so I was confident that when I travelled to Manchester in October 2008 I would have a completely different experience, as being brand new the trains would be state-of-the-art and rival the Virgin trains surely. Unfortunately this was being rather too optimistic. While the carriage temperature is much improved, the service has not. It is like travelling in an old fashioned train with a modern exterior.
The seats are narrower than on National Express and the tables are also much narrower which causes big problems if TWO people are both using laptops as there just is not enough room. Surely they could have thought the sizes out a bit more carefully!
The window table seats do have a power socket though, which is very useful for charging laptops or phones. Hard luck if you aren't seated next to one but this is the same on all standard class trains so it is not a problem that is specific to First Transpennine in fairness.
In the entire journey the refreshments trolley did not come round once which again just really lowers the standard...they were quick enough to check tickets though!
Overall, I would not recommend First Transpennine to anyone but unfortunately if you are travelling from Newcastle to Manchester by train you will have no choice but to endure half of your journey with them.
What sensory overload the privatised railway has brought the long suffering travellers of Britain. Back in the day, you could have any train you wanted, as long as it was painted in some generally dull variant of the British Rail colours. Now we have discordant symphonies of hideous colours across the country: multi-coloured tin cans filled with commuting sardines trundling from A to B (provided there aren't any leaves or collapsed electricity wires on the line).
Right across the north of England and the central belt of Scotland, the colours of the railway are livened up with a particularly hideous combo: the purple and pink Barbie style of First TransPennine Express.
Let's look beyond the nauseous brand. Or let's try anyway, because if you happen to live on one of their busier routes you might find yourself watching that acrid purple and pink train leave without you - overcrowding continues to be a problem on these popular routes.
The multinational transport group First and their co-partners Keolis have won the franchise to run the TransPennine Express franchise until 2012, with an option dependant on performance until 2017. The concept of express services across the north of England, connecting some of the biggest cities in the country, emerged after privatisation when the first privatised train operating companies started to distinguish their "express" services from the locals. This lead to a new franchise, and it is this that we see today. There are three main corridors of train services, allowing for multiple hourly departures on the busiest routes.
TransPennine South connects Manchester Airport and Cleethorpes via Manchester Piccadilly, Stockport, Sheffield, Doncaster and Scunthorpe.
TransPennine North connects (amongst other smaller stations) Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, Scarborough, York, Hull, Leeds and Huddersfield on the east of the Pennines with Manchester and Liverpool to the west.
TransPennine NorthWest connects Manchester Airport & Piccadilly with Blackpool; Manchester Airport & Piccadilly and Preston, Barrow-in-Furness and Windermere; Manchester Airport & Piccadilly with Preston, Carlisle, and Glasgow/Edinburgh.
Services are fast and frequent; TransPennine Express is one of the few train companies to offer 24hr service on some routes, primarily because the natural extension of Manchester terminating services to Manchester Airport has seen phenomenal growth in the number of passengers taking the train direct to the airport terminal throughout the day and early hours.
Fares are in line with the rest of the country (i.e. getting more and more unreasonable with every year) although some cheaper advance purchase single tickets can be found if you book online and in advance. Check http://www.tpexpress.co.uk/ for details of current offers and be flexible if you are travelling on a budget.
With the exception of the Manchester - Hull route, the vast majority of services are operated by modern German-built class 185 trains. These have three carriages, 2+2 seating in second class (with a good ratio of tables to airline style seats) and 2+1 seating in the moderately more comfortable first class. The additional carriage and wider doors located 1/3 and 2/3 down the carriages provide faster entry and egress and more room for standing passengers than the smaller trains they replaced in 2006/7. Unfortunately there are some drawbacks with these trains. The family of trains from which the 185 come are interurban / commuter vehicles, so on the longer Manchester - Scotland routes passengers are liable to find the hard non-sprung seats quite uncomfortable. Overcrowding continues to be a problem and consequently a greater proportion of rush hour passengers now have to stand. And while the Department for Transport has, in late 2008, approved the commissioning 200 extra carriages to join the TransPennine Express fleet, the four train manufacturers who made it through the long-winded bidding process to the tender shortlist do not include Siemens, who built the current fleet. Extra coaches for these trains will not be built, entirely new and likely incompatible trains will join them.
So, on the upside: a modern fleet of larger trains is now in full and reliable service, connecting Britain's biggest regional cities and the popular airport at Manchester. Trains run at regular clockface intervals throughout the day and skeleton services at night make most early morning flights from Manchester reachable by train, and most nights out in other cities accessible.
On the downside: the new trains may be brighter, cleaner and more suitable for busy commuter routes, but they are most definitely not comfortable, and certainly not up to the long distance intercity routes to Scotland (of around four hours). And despite years of sensible investment in a standardised modern fleet with specially constructed maintenance centres, the government's incompetent Department for Transport has decided that instead of simply ordering more coaches for these trains to be lengthened, a whole new fleet of untested trains will be ordered to work alongside them.
And they're still ugly. Just shockingly hideous. Shoot the branding gurus. Before they do it again.