First Great Western
THE TRAIN: The 13.21 First Great Western service from London Paddington to Charlbury, in the Cotswolds, travelling in First Class.
THE CHECK-IN: Our tickets were checked in the First Class Lounge, then again onboard.
THE LOUNGE: A fabulous facility for First Class travellers, alongside Platform 1 at Paddington. Contemporary décor offering a welcoming reception desk, groups of comfy black chairs around tables, a private eight-seater boardroom, wifi, a collection of reading material and snacks and refreshments.
THE SEAT: The First Class carriage was in the front of this short, turbo train and seats were configured 2-2 and grouped in fours around a table. Comfortable chairs in dark blue with white linen headrests, matching dark blue walls and matching coloured tables set the scene for this premium carriage. There was an overhead luggage area plus a larger area at the end of the carriage for storage.
THE JOURNEY: The old rolling stock for the outbound 1hr20min journey was in stark contrast to the return leg the next day in a modern, hi-speed train, which gave a vastly improved experience in terms of creature comforts (seat incline for one). On the outbound, we left a few minutes later than the 13.21 departure time and it was easy to work at the table as it was a good size, though there was no wifi access. Disappointingly, it wasn’t until close to arrival time, at 14.15, that an apologetic chap arrived with complimentary tea, coffee, water and biscuits. We were rather formally waved goodbye to as we got off the train, which was at odds with the lack of service on board.
THE DETAILS: First Great Western operates up to 14 services every weekday between Paddington and Charlbury. First Class prices start from £73 (standard from £24.50).
A stress-free and carbon-friendly way of travelling, despite the widely different experiences between the outbound and inbound journeys, some of them outside the remit of the operating company. This summer new double track – replacing the single – is being laid on this North Cotswold line, which will cut delays and improve performance. More frequent services and quicker journey times are promised. First Great Western is also “looking at introducing wifi on our services,” says a spokesperson.
Editor, The Business Travel Magazine