LNER or Lumo? Big brand vs budget
In October 2021, there was a new kid on the block when it came to travelling between the English and Scottish capitals. Designed to compete with the likes of easyJet, Lumo promised lower fares than ever. But are they really cheaper for everyone, and how do they compare to LNER? We’re here to help you decide: LNER or Lumo?
LNER or Lumo – the trains
When it comes to comparing the actual trains, you won’t find much difference! They look pretty much the same on the outside. Lumo operates all-electric Class 803 trains, which are five carriages long. Meanwhile, LNER operates a mix of bi-mode (diesel and electric) Class 800 trains, and some all-electric Class 801 trains. The vast majority of their trains from Edinburgh will be formed of nine carriages.
They come from the same family and were built by Hitachi. Our only issue would be that the Lumo trains are only five carriages, which means they’re likelier to feel a bit ‘cosier’ on busier services!
Railsmartr says: LNER has the edge with longer trains and more seats, but the trains themselves look much the same!
Waiting to get on board
In Edinburgh and London, you can usually board an LNER train around 20 minutes before the train leaves. Before that time, the platform number won’t be advertised on any screens, but you might find a slow trickle of people wandering over earlier as some apps/sites will show it before the station boards do! As a result, most trains, other than the busiest ones, have a pretty calm and gradual boarding process.
Lumo is extremely variable. When we caught our train from Edinburgh on a Thursday afternoon, a crowd was allowed to build on the platform until we were eventually allowed on around 10 minutes before departure. This made boarding a little chaotic as people tried to rush on to find their seats.
The following week, we caught a Wednesday evening train, the last one of the day. Despite the train needing to be swapped at the depot, it came in with about 20 minutes to spare and everyone was allowed straight on.
Railsmartr says: With Lumo, there’s a chance that boarding might feel a bit more chaotic or left to later. No problem if you’re alone, but it might not be ideal if you’re with family.
LNER or Lumo – the seat test!
When you’re travelling such a long distance, you’ll want to know whether or not your seat will be comfortable. With LNER, we’re just going to look at Standard Class – as Lumo doesn’t have a First Class option at all!
Here’s what you can expect with LNER:
The seats are pretty firm, we’ll be honest. While legroom is good, they won’t be winning any awards for comfort. You’ll also find a tray table for each seat that’ll pull out to make some more room for a laptop.
Under your seat, you’ll see that there’s a four-pin socket each. To our surprise, Standard Class didn’t have any USB sockets! However, the seats themselves were in good condition and the sockets worked. Everything felt clean and well looked after.
There are between four and eight sets of table seats in each carriage for families and groups, so it won’t be difficult to keep yourselves sat together.
The Lumo seat actually looks a little more impressive, at first glance:
You can tell that some more thought has gone into these. The headrests are winged, which makes them perfect for a nap, while the seat isn’t quite so fully upright. Yes, the seatback is pretty thin, but this means that legroom is only slightly tighter than on LNER, despite more seats being squeezed in.
You’ll find a power socket and two USBs under the seat in front of you:
The only issue with this is that it makes putting things under your seat a little more difficult. The overall shape of the seat base is quite curved as well, so kicking a bag under there is a bit more of a squeeze.
On the back of the seat, there’s a tray table and even a reading light:
One thing to note with the tray tables is that any drinks need to go in the contoured part (pull the table out to reveal) as the rest of the table is totally smooth with no lip. Anything capable of moving will slide off.
Our only complaint was everything felt a bit worn already. Around the socket was quite scratched and one seat in the carriage even had a tray table missing. For trains only introduced in 2021, it was clear that some parts weren’t very hard-wearing.
Lumo trains also only have two sets of table seats per carriage. This makes it very likely that larger groups won’t be sat together, so you should bear this in mind when booking.
Railsmartr says: Despite being a bit well-worn, Lumo wins the seat battle. They were more comfortable, have USB sockets available and most importantly, they’re better to nap in! You might prefer LNER if you want a table, though…
Travelling with luggage?
The Hitachi trains that both companies use have been criticised for lacking luggage space. In fact, LNER ended up taking out some seats so people had enough space to store bigger bags and cases!
In every carriage on LNER, you’ll find at least two luggage racks at the ends of the carriage. On a nine-coach train, coaches B, C, H and J have four, while G has three. Five-coach trains (rarely seen on the Edinburgh to London route) have two in each carriage. The racks have two parts, with a smaller top part for smaller cases (visible in the picture below), with a bigger part for large cases.
The overhead racks will take a cabin-sized suitcase, while backpacks can be slid under the seats. The overhead racks are angled a little bit downwards too, to minimise the risk of anything falling out.
Put simply, LNER has made an extra effort to make sure everyone’s luggage can fit. That’s essential on a long-distance train.
Lumo, in an effort to squeeze in seats, has kept the bare minimum luggage space. In coaches B, C and D, you’ll find just one luggage rack. Meanwhile, A and E don’t have one at all, so you’ll need to rely on the overhead racks.
That is, unless you’re sitting in any of the seats without a window at the carriage ends, in which case you don’t get an overhead rack either. The worst seats on the train for people with luggage are E01 to E12, as coach E doesn’t have any luggage racks at the carriage ends nor do those seats have them above.
Railsmartr says: If you have a lot of luggage, stick to LNER. Otherwise, expect a scrum to get to a luggage rack before somebody else beats you to it on Lumo.
If you’re feeling peckish
LNER have a QR code on the back of every seat where you can use their “Let’s Eat at Your Seat” service, as well as an on-board cafe bar. You can take a look at their menu here.
Lumo has opted for a ‘LumoEats’ pre-ordering service if you’d like anything substantial, having partnered with M&S, the Pasty Shop and Upper Crust. It’s a decent idea, but only allowed if you’re travelling from Edinburgh or London – no good for anyone jumping on in Newcastle! Equally, if you’re leaving early in the morning, it might not be offered – meaning that there’ll be a more limited drinks and snacks selection. If you don’t pre-order, a trolley will come through and offer drinks and snacks.
There’s no dedicated menu, but you can see what’s on offer if you type in some journey details here.
Which is cheaper?
But how do they measure up? Well, whether you choose LNER or Lumo, there’s the option to have food brought directly to your seat. But what about the cost? Let’s go for a simple sandwich, a bag of crisps and a drink:
On Lumo, the cheapest option we could find was:
- M&S Egg & Watercress sandwich – £2.30
- Burts Salt & Vinegar Crisps – £1.45
- Harrogate Still Water – £1.50
That comes to £5.25, which isn’t bad value at all for a train! Meanwhile, LNER offers a £6 meal deal. This allows you to pick any sandwich or rice pot, any bag of Walker’s crisps or chocolate bar, and any hot or soft drink.
Railsmartr says: Lumo definitely offers the more ‘interesting’ food options if you’re able to pre-order. But, if you’re indecisive or want something on the go, LNER is best. When it comes to price, both actually offer decent value for a train.
LNER or Lumo – which is cheaper?
When picking between LNER or Lumo, most of us will be thinking about price. After all, it’s a budget product, so we expect a budget price! To start with, let’s take a look at an Off-Peak trip, midweek, around a month in advance. We’ll be going from Edinburgh to London, one way, without any other discounts.
What have we found? Lumo definitely offers cheaper single fares. There isn’t a ground-breaking difference in this example, but you can certainly save a reasonable amount. The trend continues throughout the day in our example. For instance, you could take the 16:00 to London (LNER) for £45.70, while the 16:13 (Lumo) is £37.90.
Travelling a little sooner can cause the results to go either way. For example, we can see that there’s a bigger difference between LNER and Lumo for a late-evening trip down to London:
However, if we move that to the afternoon, it’s actually cheaper to choose LNER:
Fares quoted correct on Railsmartr.co.uk on 28/02/23 for travel on 04/04/23 and 07/03/23 respectively. All are subject to change at any time.
LNER or Lumo – our verdict
So, we’ve been through everything. But what’s our view in a nutshell? Here’s what we’d rate each part of the experience out of 5:
Railsmartr says: For an overall predictable and stress-free experience for all passengers, LNER definitely has the edge. But, we think that each company has its own market and purpose.
If you’re travelling as a family or in a group, we’d still recommend sticking with LNER. It has better luggage provision, more table seats and it’s likely to be less stressful trying to board and get settled. It also has a full range of food options no matter when you choose to order.
If you’re travelling light, alone or as a couple, Lumo might be the one for you. When you’re booking for yourself or for a couple of adults, Lumo is undoubtedly cheaper most of the time. The seats are more comfortable and the lack of luggage space won’t be a problem if you just have a backpack or small case.
So, LNER or Lumo? It just depends on who you’re travelling with and what you’re bringing with you!
Is there anything else I should know?
Looking to know more about the Capital? Take a look at our guide to travelling to London. We’ll tell you about getting the best fares on routes like Birmingham to London and Southend to London, as well as whether it’s worth upgrading to First Class on LNER.
You can book all of the tickets we’ve discussed on the Railsmartr website. There are no fees if you change your plans, either.
All fares and other prices, as well as times of trains, were issued on this page in good faith and were correct at the time of writing (28/02/2023). Railsmartr is not responsible for any loss, inconvenience or otherwise, as a result of the information provided.