Chiltern Railways – A Revelation

Today my girlfriend and I decided to go to London to visit her friends.

The usual strategy for getting to London is a simple one, taxi to Coventry train station, grab the Virgin Pendolino service down to Euston, 1hr 10 minutes later you are there.

However, today, a quick check at www.nationalrail.co.uk revealed, as is often the case at weekends, that the Coventry to Rugby stretch of the line was closed and a ‘replacement bus service’ was in operation – those of you who know me well will know my opinion of busses! 🙂 Therefore this was not an option.

So we decided to try Chiltern Railways from Warwick Parkway. and I have to say I am very impressed, why? Well:

  1. Warwick Parkway was about 10 minutes of clear drive from Coventry (this is actually an estimated assuming you adhered to the posted speed limits – which of course I did :))
  2. Loads and loads of parking at the station (but then again it is a Saturday), however it looks like there is more parking than Coventry station.
  3. I had no change for the parking, however you could pay for your parking along with the train ticket, and it was cheap – £4 for overnight stay.
  4. The train ticket was significantly cheaper than Virgin from Coventry (and looks to be even cheaper at peak times.
  5. The train was clean and tidy (mind you most trains in this area of the country are these days, its something all the operators have right).
  6. Mobile phone coverage is significantly better, this means its possible to maintain a 3G/GPRS connection for most of the journey, i.e. you can do useful things like blog! I think this must simply be because the trains aren’t leadlined like the Virgin ones seem to be, either that or Orange just have better coverage on this route (Virgin if you are reading this PLEASE sort out wireless Internet access on your trains!).

There are of course downsides:

  1. The ticket selection was bewildering and took some time to suss out, I was faced with a cheaper ticket if I went ‘via Banbury’, what did this mean?! Did I have to change? Could I only get certain trains?! I am guessing that the peak trains only go direct.
  2. I couldn’t figure out how to get underground added onto my ticket.
  3. The journey time is a bit longer (over an hour and a half).
  4. As I have had to leave the car at the station, as opposed to getting a cab, it means staying sober on the way back.
  5. No power sockets on the train, i.e. no way to charge my Thinkpad. 🙁
  6. They didn’t have Walkers Thai Sweet Chilli crisps on the buffet cart 🙂
  7. It was sunny in Coventry/Warwick, now we are nearly at Bicester and its absolutely pissing it down! The storm is in fact so bad the train has had to stop/slow down as it is difficult to see the way. 🙁

So all in all if you are not in a rush and want to save yourself a few quid I would recommend giving Chiltern Railways a try.

Author: Ben King

My name is Ben King, I am a director of an Internet solutions company called bit10 ltd. My ultimate responsibility is to bring in the work that bit10 delivers. However I also do a myriad of other things, for example system design, and administration. Outside work I go out, I drink, I socialise, I cook, I have fun, oh and I play a little bit too much World of Warcraft!

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