Northern Rail and LNER : Keighley to London King’s Cross

After what I thought was a successful LDWA groups’ weekend I meandered down the hill into Keighley to get the train back to London. Here’s the delightful railway station, with the main entrance to the centre of the building (which is entirely logical), but the gateway to the right leads to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, a heritage line which goes from Keighley to Oxenhope via towns such as Haworth. There has been some talk of trying to bring the line back into commuter use, since it is entirely complete and linked into the current network, but no real progress had been made on that.

I went to the ticket office to collect my ticket from the machine, but there was a queue and so I asked the man at the empty ticket desk if I could collect it there. He helpfully answered:

“Well, we can do that, but we prefer not to”.

Really bloody helpful. Anyway, he did print out the ticket and seemed otherwise friendly, but the failing here is the operator Northern not putting in enough ticket machines (I only saw one).

This station was built in 1883 and replaced a previous station constructed in 1847 which was a short distance away over the road.

My ticket was to leave Keighley at 17:33 and get into Leeds at 18:05, before going from Leeds at 18:15 and arriving into King’s Cross at 20:28. I’m quite risk averse when travelling so arrived into Keighley railway station early and saw an earlier train arrive which was going into Leeds. I decided I’d go and ask the train guard if I could get on the earlier one to prevent a misconnect (although the real reason is that I wanted to ensure I got a seat on the London train). He answered:

“Yes and no”.

I love precision. He said that if I had got on and not asked, the answer was no and I’d be charged a penalty fare. However, he thanked me for asking him and said that I could board and I had his permission to use that service. That caused a slight commotion later on when revenue protection got on, but the guard was true to his word and confirmed my ticket was valid.

Anyway, they’re clearly very hot on fare avoidance on Northern, they seem to regularly check tickets and I’d advise definitely checking with a guard before doing anything slightly different…..

This meant that I got into Leeds a good hour before my train to London departed and I was pleased to discover the train actually departed from Leeds, so this would be the first stop.

Around 30 minutes before the departure time, the Intercity train slides into the platform.

I then stood outside the train door for ten minutes waiting to be let in. I spend a lot of my time standing outside the doors of public transport.

Full marks though to LNER for actually having logical carriage letters. Sometimes they’re something similar to A, Z, H, 5, 9, G, P and my ticket says carriage C. This time though I was in carriage E and that was easy to find, not least as I had plenty of time waiting for the doors to be opened.

And here we go, I boarded first at my end of the carriage and got my reserved seat at a table. A nice guy mentioned that he had a seat next to me on the table for four, but he’d sit opposite so that we had more space and we could both use the power points (which are annoyingly two for every table of four). We were both going from Leeds to King’s Cross and no-one else sat at the table during the journey, so it was comfortable. Incidentally, I’d have problems getting a suitable seat if I hadn’t of caught that earlier train, so I was pleased I had boarded an earlier service.

The seating reservations had gone wrong though and was effectively just suspended, which seems to happen on nearly every service that I’m on. Other customers, especially those boarding later on, were getting quite distressed at the whole situation with groups broken up and no on-board train staff were seemingly available to help. If LNER can’t cope with seat reservations they’d just be better off scrapping them, but I think even their managers would agree that this sort of thing is low down their list of priorities.

There were a couple in the four seats opposite us who pretended that the other two seats at their table were taken, which I thought was pretty unimpressive and another case in point of how the current set-up just adds stress to customers rather than making it a smooth experience.

The ‘let’s eat at your seat’ service which I was surprised to see was working. That is until it broke at Peterborough and an announcement was made that the service was now being withdrawn for the rest of the journey.

We arrived into London King’s Cross on time, but there were no ticket checks on the train and the gates were left open.

A slightly blurry photo, but I didn’t want to spend too long outside King’s Cross at night with my phone trying to take photos…. I was entirely happy with the journey for my purposes, with the trains on time and as I boarded early I got my seat reservation at a table and with access to power. Other customers had a less exciting experience split up from their friends and family despite having seat reservations and this whole set-up has to be improved by the rail network if they want to increase usage. Perhaps it needs to be as radical as if the rail company can’t provide the seat booked by the customer then it has to refund the entire ticket in a similar manner to delay repay.