Tuesday 10 December launch of Azuma service from Inverness:
Richard Ardern and his wife travelled on the 07:55 Inverness-Kings Cross as far as York on a 9-car set. They returned Friday 13 December.
Speeches by David Horne, MD LNER and Helen Carmichael, Provost of Inverness.
Drummers, piper and fire dancers - very effective in the dark.
Coach L - First Class. I did not manage to track test the Standard accommodation.
Single seat tables, facing forward or back depending on position in carriage, on one side and tables for four on the other.
Just room for two trolleys to pass. Seems narrower than 125 for two people to pass and if the aisle seats are reclined you cannot move sideways into an empty seat space to facilitate this. The reason is that when the seats are reclined the base slides forward as the back angles backwards. This can also make it difficult to get out of a window seat.
Coach L is First Class for full length and thus seemed roomier than coaches M and K which are composites, therefore only part of the carriage. Kitchen is in coach M at the very front of the train. Our seats L44 and L51.
K on the way back was busier than L going down and we certainly felt squashed. Not the former First Class ambience. A very portly gentleman in a single seat opposite said to the trolley host "I feel particularly constrained in this new train. This is my first time in one".
Fairly high seat backs restrict views.
Difficult to adjust the head rests in First Class. I suspect the different positions will suit some people and not others.
Walking through Standard Class the heating was inconsistent.
Standard seat squabs have little, if any, padding.
Coach H for "Hush" is the Quiet Coach. There is not one in First though one of the composites could easily have been designated as such.
Acceleration was impressive at times leaving stations and the trains didn't slow down nearly as much on entering stations as the HSTs did - even Newcastle had none of the 10mph nonsense which affects Perth.
Riding was sometimes poor, with yawing between Tomatin and Moy. As it was only intermittent it is maybe due more to the track than the train, or a combination of both. Around Dunbar going south the ride was lurchy and plates were sliding down the table on the camber. There was also some rough riding south of Darlington in both directions. Sometimes there was a clunk underneath the coach which seemed to coincide with lateral movement.
Insufficient number of toilets in First Class - only two, including the Universally Accessible Toilet in the end carriage.
Standard Class has two toilets at one end of several carriages.
Bijou but adequate, with a largish wash basin and better hand drier than many other trains.
Water dispenser outlet is too close to front of basin, so when in use water found on the floor beneath. [New Trans Pennine Mark 5As are better]
Several of the spaces at the ends of carriages were available for bikes (two somehow suspended vertically) or for large items of luggage.
First Class "offer" seems to be much as before. Weekdays only. No hot food at weekends.
The "special" is on for a week and for regular travellers or even those travelling only twice but coming back within the same week it may appear repetitive.
Buffet is in coach G and provides toasties and other hot snacks.
It would be nice if there were no shortcomings to report, but there were several issues.
The recorded announcements of a stop at "Kin- gussy" with a "g" were drawn to the attention of the MD as we left Inverness.
The mispronunciation was still being heard as far south as York on the Friday. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.
Toilets out of water and toilet paper by Darlington southbound and the train was far from crowded, and by Berwick northbound.
Wifi intermittent - kept dropping.
The seat reservations traffic light system seemed to work well - we knew from it that there would be people coming to sit next to us from Newcastle to Gleneagles.
The Times newspaper was available to First Class passengers northbound and from Edinburgh southbound.
Rear four coaches off the platform at Falkirk Grahamston - it is a long way for passengers with luggage to get through from coach M to J or H to get off.
Luggage racks are roomy enough for most moderate sized cases.
Summary: An interesting train with fabulous acceleration under the wires.