East Coast’s managing director Karen Boswell wasn’t on the train, but had already sent a farewell message to stakeholders, saying that significant investment had been made in staff and assets since the company inherited the business in 2009, with a “relentless focus” on customers. She said: “That’s meant we’ve been able to create a business that is financially strong, and East Coast is now one of Britain’s most profitable train companies.
“We’ve made significant improvements in train performance and punctuality too, and we’ve been able to achieve one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any franchised long-distance operator in the country, and an employee engagement score that is virtually unparalleled in the rail industry.”
On the way north to Aberdeen to catch this last train, I only witnessed one public reaction to this franchise change of national importance; a well-wrapped figure on Arbroath platform carrying what purported to be a coffin, but was in fact a poorly disguised large piece of taped-together cardboard daubed with the words ‘East Coast RIP’. As it appeared to be a stunt for a local newspaper photographer laden with expensive camera kit, this may not count very highly in the protest stakes.
Weekend catering in First Class is restricted to cold trolley food and hot and cold drinks, and those unfamiliar souls persuaded to upgrade their Standard Class seats to Weekend First by handing over the sums of £15 or £25 (depending on the length of journey), would have been disappointed by the poor fare.
The menu’s board of ‘corned beef pickle with cheese sandwich on soft white served with hand cooked crisps’ was in fact a pre-packed corned beef sandwich and, a small bag of crisps. The ‘creamy free-range egg and tomato sandwich on malted bread served with hand cooked crisps’ was an egg mayonnaise and tomato sandwich, and a small bag of crisps). The sweet course? A ‘carrot muffin’