Traveling by rail is typically a bit of an extra adventure: the reliability is low, compared to other European countries. The network is in a rather poor state and on top of that rail strikes are not too uncommon. Thus, I was a bit of nervous, when I picked the TransPennine direct service to commute between the Weird Al Yankovic 2023 Tour stages in Glasgow and Manchester. The service operated and thus I can share you some thoughts on one of the rail company’s latest addition, the Nova II train or CAF Civity, how it is called technically. Here is my review of their First Class service.
TransPennine Express Nova 2 – The Anglo-Scottish Route
Currently the so-called Anglo-Scottish Route is the only one on which you can ride the CAF Civity train. In fact, this is a set of three different train routes. First of all, there is a service from Liverpool Lime Street to Glasgow Central. From Manchester Airport (MAN) Station, there are two routes to Scotland, one to Glasgow Central and one two Edinburgh Waverly. The travel time from Manchester to Glasgow is about 3:29 hours. I took that route in February 2023. The advance purchase First Class ticket, which is fixed to the specific train connection, was roughly 41 GBP.
TransPennine Express Nova 2 / CAF Civity – The Train
The 397 class (or Nova II) is a version of the CAF Civity, which is – in other configurations – also known as the ETR 563 and 564 at the Italian rail or in many other European countries. TransPennine Express runs twelve of these trains, which are used electrically in a five car configuration. The total length of one train is 118 meters. One of the five cars is dedicated to First Class and has less than 30 seats, the other four cars are hosting the Second Class cabin. There are control units / cockpit on any side of the train. The CAF Civity’s high speed is 200 km/h.
What I felt a bit weird was that the train which actually operated my rail ride obviously had a hit with a wild animal recently. I would have expected that they at least remove the blood front the front of the train. In general, I felt that the train is shaking much more during the trip compared to other Central European rails. As the rolling stock is rather modern, I guess it is rather an issue of the tracks in the United Kingdom.
TransPennine Express Nova 2 – First Class Wagon
As said, there is one First Class car in a Nova 2 train. Due to the cockpit and staff area, there are just 26 seats in a 2-1 configuration as well as two wheelchair seats / positions. You can recline the seats, but they rather slide like TGY/Thalys seats, so that this does not influence the other seats. In general the seats are arranged around a table, with the space between the seats either being used as luggage storage or dustbins. I felt that the seats are rather stiff and did not feel that comfortable. But they were fine for the three hour journey.
The seats are having a power socket with an additional USB port next to the seat. There is a text information screen on the ceiling of the car and monitors at each end, informing about the typical things like timetables and delays and next stops. The reservation system with a red, yelllow and green light is similar to the one in the ICE3neo in Germany. The end of the First Class car features a toilet as well, which is very spacious and should be suitable for wheelchair users as well.
The most obvious difference to first class is that the lower class wagons come with a 2-2 seating (2 seats per side). Additionally, there is no complimentary service at your seat and a shorter seat pitch (i.e. distance) compared to the higher class product. Depending on the car (the middle one features two toilets, which reduces the capacity), the cars hold 68 or 80 seats. Coach A at the other end of the train comes with 48 seats and bicycle storage.
TransPennine Express Nova 2 – Service
TransPennine Express offers complimentary drinks and snacks onboard. I will feature that in a Food I Had Onboard posting. The service manager who cared about the catering was super-sweet and caring. Unfortunately, I did not like that the staff did call the passengers to the platform, just letting us wait outside with doors locked as they discussed something in first class cabin. The staff also kept their luggage (a backpack as shown here, also other bags) in the lower racks of the luggage racks, which are located at both ends of the car. I felt that this is rude and disrespectful behavior.
There is WiFi in the train, which is not at all comparably to the ones on German ICE or French TGV. A lot of ports and functions are blocked as well – they would not be sensible under the speed provided.
TransPennine Express Nova 2 – My View
Overall, I had a good trip with TransPennine Express. However, the rude staff behavior blocking the lower racks with light luggage and the too weak WiFi are issues on the negative side. I am also rather mixed about the seats. The catering onboard was a huge plus, though.
“Rides on Rail” Postings
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Flyctory.com in Glasgow
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