Today I got my first ride on a new TransPennine Express (TPE) Nova train – the 09.29 from Morpeth to Newcastle. I was very impressed, as were the other passengers, with audible gasps of astonishment as we all boarded. But many passengers thought they were getting on the 09.24 CrossCountry (XC) which was delayed and running behind the TPE, although with faulty CIS at Morpeth, no one understood they were in fact on the TPE. The CrossCountry train is normally pretty packed so some of the delight, I’m sure, was not just at the impressive brand-new train, but also that it was virtually empty, making it seem even more spacious. But neither the onboard CIS or wifi were working. The conductor told me it was a train fault. I queried this as it was clearly a brand-new train. He then further elaborated that someone had not typed in the head code. So, it sounds more like staff carelessness. Thus, XC passengers still had no indication they were on the wrong train, despite us waiting at Morpeth for 5 mins (due to early arrival – we departed on time). I discussed this with the conductor too and he said he would accept XC tickets for anyone that had boarded the wrong train, which was good, but with the XC just 1 min behind us according to the National Rail website, I was concerned that wrongly boarded XC customers would not make the platform change at Newcastle, though I’m happy to say in fact they did.

There was an extremely long time to open the doors from train coming to a halt at both Morpeth and Newcastle. I hope this was just conductor over conscientiousness in checking the platform was clear rather than an inherent train fault. At Newcastle, 2 passengers in my coach were connecting with the onward TPE to Manchester Airport. We arrived on platform 5. They could see the train on the opposite platform (4) and with a 4 minute connection they got quite agitated at the long delay to open the doors, but in fact the connection was made ok, as was the connection to the late running XC which had to wait for the TPE to Manchester Airport to leave before following it in to platform 4. During this time, platform 3 was occupied by an out of service TPE Nova. What a pity the 3 TPE trains on platforms 3, 4 and 5 could not be moved round allowing a same platform interchange on platforms 3 and 4 between the arrival from Edinburgh and departure to Manchester.

From Newcastle, I then boarded the 09:58 LNER Azuma to London. Again, a very impressive ride with notably fast acceleration, though I was disappointed to note both toilets in my coach were blocked and out of service. The other problem I had was with the power sockets. Finding them (underneath and between the seats) was quite difficult, not something to be attempted once someone’s sitting next to you. And then, to my dismay, I discovered my laptop plug wouldn’t fit in, as the wire comes out the top of the transformer, and the seat cover thus blocks the plug from fitting in the socket. However, my battery lasted to London, and on my return journey to Morpeth (the 18:30 from Kings Cross), being on an older train, I was able to charge my laptop without problem.

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