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East Midlands Railway First Class: is it worth it?

Taking a trip in East Midlands Railway First Class? Here's our guide on what to expect.
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I’ve used East Midlands Railway First Class a couple of times before. I used to live in Sheffield, so they were a pretty economical way to get to and from the Capital. So, when the price seemed right, I’d indulge in a little bit of luxury. I can remember that the service wasn’t all that great though, and you were lucky to get anything to eat. But, in the past year or so, East Midlands Railway has made some changes. So, it was time to check them out again and see how they’d improved. 

Where can I get East Midlands Railway First Class?

So, if you want to travel in East Midlands Railway First Class, then you’ll only find it on their InterCity routes between Sheffield and London, and Nottingham and London. You’ll also get First Class on their occasional services to Melton Mowbray, as well as the daily train between Lincoln Central and London. 

Do you get any lounge access with East Midlands Railway First Class?

During COVID-19, all of the East Midlands Railway First Class lounges were closed. They haven’t reopened in the same guise, though some of them have turned into normal waiting rooms. So, in my case, it was straight to the train. I can remember using the one at St Pancras in times past, and recall that it was extremely busy but with very little in the way of refreshments. So, perhaps it isn’t a huge loss. 

Thankfully, my train, the 10:37 from Sheffield to London St Pancras, was unlocked and ready to board when I wandered over at around 10:15. So, what are the trains themselves like?

What are the trains like?

I had a seven-car train today. There are only a few of these left with East Midlands Railway, but they have a positively insane amount of First Class. Three of the seven carriages, in fact! As a First Class passenger, this is great, as it’s unlikely to be busy. If you’re in Standard though, it’s less than ideal. 

My first impression was the same as I’ve always had with these ‘Meridian’ trains. The seats are large and comfortable, and they feel very ‘solid’. You feel like you’re in a proper heavyweight armchair of sorts. Certainly, comfort-wise, I had no complaints. There are nice big wings on the headrests too, which are great if you’re in need of a quick nap. 

east midlands railway first class interior

My main issue with East Midlands Railway First Class is that these trains are tired and in desperate need of a refresh. The windows, in particular, were filthy. There’s really no excuse for this: 

dirt on train window

The other thing to bear in mind with these trains is that you’re likely to get a very poor mobile signal for much of the trip. They have a film on the windows which means that a stable internet connection (or even a phone call) is much more difficult than normal. While at the platform in Sheffield, I couldn’t even get my work inbox to refresh. 

How about ride quality? This is one redeeming feature. For much of the journey, the trains will be incredibly smooth. They’re solidly built, so you’re not likely to have to make a grab for things that are about to go flying off the table. The only ‘bump’ in the journey is just on the approach to Bedford. 

What’s the East Midlands Railway First Class service like?

This is where East Midlands Railway First Class used to fall short. But now, I’d say that it’s one of the biggest positives. Within five minutes of leaving Sheffield, two friendly ladies came down the train with a trolley full of drinks and snacks. I took advantage of some water, a fruit cake and two bags of pretzels. They were both tasty options, and a little more exciting than just crisps and biscuits. 

10 minutes later, I was presented with a tray of different sandwich options. You could choose from a chicken salad in tiger loaf, an onion bhaji wrap, a tuna salad pot or a gluten-free chicken sandwich. I went for the first option and was quite impressed. For a pre-packaged sandwich, it was tasty, and every bite had some chicken in it. 

sandwich served in east midlands railway first class

There was essentially a service for each station, with the trolley coming around again after Derby and Leicester. For those of us who’d already been served sandwiches, there were offers of more snacks and drinks on every run. What was even more impressive was that 15 minutes before arrival, there was a final run of the trolley so we could ‘fill our boots’ with any more refreshments if we wanted. The staff were proactive, friendly and professional. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them. East Midlands Railway First Class certainly comes with a first-class service. 

east midlands railway first class menu

If you’re travelling in the mornings, then you have the choice of a bacon roll, sausage roll, vegan sausage roll or a breakfast burrito. They’re, of course, all hot options, which is good to see. The only stickler for me is that if you travel on a Sunday, you don’t get anything at all. The at-seat service is only available Monday to Saturday. 

So, is East Midlands Railway First Class worth it?

On a Monday to Saturday, yes! I’d say that East Midlands Railway First Class is absolutely worth it if you can get the right fare. You’ll get a decent amount to eat, a big comfy seat, and plenty of space to stretch out. If you have a flexible ticket, then you can upgrade on board for just £12 at the weekend, too. If you’re travelling on a Sunday, then you won’t get anything to eat, but some trains can be extremely busy. It might be a small price to pay for a near-guaranteed seat. 

The trains themselves are worn out, but change is afoot, and I’m curious to see what the new fleet will mean for the first-class experience. Certainly, with a cleaner train and the same brilliant level of service, then East Midlands Railway will be on to a winner. 

Is there anything else I should know?

Looking to take a trip? Whether that’s in East Midlands Railway First Class or on a different train, we’ve got you covered at Railsmartr. We don’t charge any fees on our bookings, whether that’s when you get your tickets or if you’re looking to change or refund them.

We’ve got even more Expert Tips to help you on your next adventure, too.

Author Richard

Hi, I'm Richard and I've been working for Railsmartr since 2022. I make sure that everything we communicate with customers is top-notch and write exciting and informative content for the website. When I'm not at work, you'll still find me on the rails - though often in the far corners of Europe!