I make no secret of the fact that I love train travel. The opportunity to sit and daydream whilst looking out of the windows, combined with the motion of the train is something I’ve always loved. I’ve not had the opportunity to do a long train journey for quite a while (although the other half and I are plotting how we can use our Two Together Railcard to enable a cheap weekend somewhere along the Great Western route at some point) and still talk fondly of the mammoth trip I once had to do for work up to Edinburgh and Glasgow by train so when the opportunity came for a bit of solo train travel with London Midland I jumped at it.
Despite St Albans being on the Thameslink route many people fail to realise that it is also served by London Midland from the city’s second train station, St Albans Abbey. From there the Abbey Flyer runs to Watford Junction where you can connect with other London Midland services on the line out of Euston.
In total London Midland serve 176 stations, from London euston in the South, to Liverpool Lime Street in the North and as far west as Hereford. I aimed to take in as much of their network as I could in a 24 hour period, but my Other Half having an overnight work trip to Crewe meant that it was there that I headed to from St Albans so that we could at least have dinner together rather than both of us dining alone.
If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I regularly work away from home, making the most of every coffee shop I can find that offers free wifi. I was therefore intrigued to take this way of working to the rails and put London Midland’s in train entertainment system Motion to the test as I travelled. Motion is currently rolling out across the network and offers movies, TV Shows, Kids TV, books, magazines and everything else the internet has to offer to its passengers. I figured that working for some of my train journey surely meant that I’d earned enough time to relax and enjoy the journey as well, so that’s exactly what I did.
I started my journey at St Albans Abbey, taking the Abbey Flyer to Watford Junction to change trains there. Now it’s worth pointing out that the Abbey Flyer is a part of the London Midland route that doesn’t yet have Motion on board its services, mainly because the rollings stock there is different to the rest of the service.
I’ve always loved the Abbey Flyer route. It’s a little single track community line that always makes me feel like I’m somewhere in the countryside. That is until I reach Watford itself!
Once at Watford it was a decision point as to how to continue my journey to Crewe. I could either head north to Milton Keynes and change to a Crewe bound service there, or instead go south to London and get on the Crewe train from where it started. The arrival time in Crewe would be the same whichever way I went but as someone who always likes to get a seat I decided to head south and ensure I was on the train for the start.
My journey from Watford to Euston was met first opportunity to try the onboard wifi and Motion. Logging in from both my phone and laptop was relatively simple to do and it was lovely to still be able to surf the internet whilst going through the various tunnels as you reach Euston. I luckily did spot one little quirk of London Midland trains though that I wasn’t expecting. Standard class seats don’t have plug sockets next to them! I spotted some in First Class as I walked through but I was expecting that all seats would have them. Luckily I went and charged my laptop in a coffee shop at Euston before getting on board.
The train from Euston to Crewe was actually incredibly busy. It’s only four carriages in length, but was pretty full when we left Euston and picked up quite a few people en route too. I managed to get a seat at a table and so was able to work well all the way north. Chatting to some of the other passengers on board they all said that the huge advantage of London Midland on that route was the huge difference in fare cost from Virgin. The London Midland trains may take a bit longer to go as far as Crewe, but if you’re time rich and cash poor then it’s a really good alternative.
The journey to Crewe was uneventful – much as you’d hope really. It gave me plenty of time to get a whole heap of work done and I loved the fact that I could be online for the whole journey and not have to worry about the data allowance on my phone. Yes, there were a couple of times when the signal dropped, but not many at all, and it was far more reliable than other on train wifi services that I have used over the years.
After an overnight stay in Crewe it was time to head south again, this time going straight to London Euston so I could then pick up the underground and travel on to Borough Market for the Wok for 1000 event that I was covering. It was another direct train, and again busy. The couple who sat opposite me were travelling down to London for work for the day and said how they had a choice between London Midland and Virgin, but nearly always chose London Midland due to the difference in prices for the journey. It was definitely a common theme amongst passengers.
Seeing as this was a relatively early morning train I allowed myself a bit of down time and after a spot of work treated myself to some Bridget Jones. I was really pleased with how easy it was to stream the film and also how good the connection quality was. It was also really nice to have wifi signal so that I could simultaneously carry on a twitter discussion with various people about the Fast and Furious franchise of films and whether they were all worth watching or not (the view is that you should watch one and then jump to five and you won’t have missed anything) Being able to stream content as I travelled certainly makes a nice change from downloading everything to a tablet before you travel. I may have been travelling without kids, but it was good to see a dedicated kids section on Motion too, as I find that a tablet can really help to speed up long journeys for kids and being able to give them something new to watch is also a good thing.
Less than 24 hours and four train journeys after I left St Albans Abbey I was back in Euston for the second time and ready for my onward travel. London Midland had kindly scratched that train itch for a while, but also made me keener than ever to plan some more train based adventures around the country.
Disclaimer: London Midland provided me with tickets to cover my journey to Crewe. No other compensation was provided. All opinions remain my own.