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Virgin Train
Virgin Trains
Virgin Train

Working on the go just got harder

24th Jan 2018
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The mobile phone has just made yet another inroad into our ability to operate effectively.

Last Thursday, Virgin Trains East Coast sent out the following email.

From 20th May 2018, we’re removing the Quiet Coach seating option in First Class. We’re doing this to create a more flexible space and greater freedom for more customers travelling in First Class.

As a regular Quiet Coach customer we appreciate that this may not be ideal for you. However, research has told us that while most of our customers love the chilled out ambience of First Class, only 9% really value the Quiet Coach offering.

Depending on your viewpoint, the weasel words are comforting or maybe just cynical. I'm not bowled over by “a more flexible space”, not to mention “greater freedom”. I also struggle to understand exactly what “only 9% really value the Quiet Coach” means. Is this saying that many more than 9% value it but don’t really value it?

Going further, the 9% measure is not specified. Is this 9% of first-class passengers, all passengers, quiet coach passengers or merely directors of the company looking for an excuse to close down a facility that those wishing to work while using their services regard as extremely valuable?

In the language of normal people, Virgin might more accurately be saying that the new offering will provide “less choice” without any obvious benefit to travellers. On the plus side, I feel comfortable in the assumption that the company will not seek to reduce prices as a result of removing what was a particularly valued facility.

One of the big advantages of train travel over its competitors is the ability to sit somewhere quiet and get on with work for practically the whole duration of the journey. Working at the steering wheel is trick,y not to mention illegal, while getting on and off planes and messing around in airports is not generally an ideal recipe for efficiency.

In that light, the availability of a quiet coach on a long train journey was a real boon for accountants and those in other professions who need to travel up and down the country either occasionally or regularly. It is disappointing that this is now being callously withdrawn by company whose reputation is hardly riding high at the moment.

What is far from clear from this email is the situation in parallel circumstances.

  1. Will there still be a quiet coach in second-class? If so, Virgin are shooting themselves in the foot as many of us may decide to cut our losses and our costs simultaneously, saving a lot of money to get a bit of peace and quiet.
  2. Will other Virgin Trains, for example on the Glasgow route via Manchester and Birmingham, continue to have quiet coaches?

It seems very sad that because of this change the bane (or blessing?) of mobile phones will soon be even more prevalent and intrusive on trains than is currently the case.

It would be nice to feel that somebody with influence might take Virgin Trains to task over the next few months and persuade them that this proposed change is a big mistake, which should be put on the backburner for a few decades.

Replies (3)

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paddle steamer
24th Jan 2018 10:18

There is of course the thought that people managed to work on trains before quiet coaches were invented.

As a student CA in the 1980s for a long time I travelled daily between Edinburgh and Glasgow, I used to knock through a fair bit of revision during the 45 minutes in the morning (well not always, some mornings a glazed vacant stare was all that I could manage) and the 45 minutes in the evening.

A lifetime trying to work in a house with radios, TVs, game consoles and children has subsequently made me pretty immune to noise

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By neiltonks
24th Jan 2018 12:10

I suspect the real reason for this is that the quiet coach represents a large proportion (33%) of the total first class seating (as there are only 3 first class coaches), while there are 5 standard class coaches so the quiet coach is only 20% of the total.

First class is popular on this route, especially at peak times, and this has led to people buying first class tickets and then finding that the only available seating is in the quiet coach - not ideal if you actually need to make phone calls during the journey.

Later this year, when the new 'Azuma' units start to be introduced, many of the trains will be much shorter than now (because 12 of the 65 trains will be only 5 coaches long) and having a whole first class coach dedicated to quietness would be impossible.

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
25th Jan 2018 13:02

I use that service and agree that the quiet is not that needed. The first class coach could not really be described as noisy and I find it ideal for working and the 3 hour trip from Newcastle to London is actually as productive for me as my office is.

I have my phone on silent and I am discrete enough to receive and make a call without sharing the content of the call with others in the carriage.

Now if they were to take the free flowing refreshments out of 1st class, that would get this guy upset.

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