Is First Class train travel worth it in the UK?

Last Updated on 1 March 2022 by Dan

Hello everyone! In the UK we take trains a lot – for most people in my neck of the woods it’s the most practical commuter route. The price gap for UK First Class train travel can be large or small depending on the time of travel – so we thought we’d write a guide to if it’s worth spending your money on it!

What do I get with First Class train tickets in the UK?

Owing to the UK’s privatized train network, where different suppliers run different parts of the network on a regional basis, the answer isn’t actually that simple – because what you get in First Class can vary significantly depending on the network provider.

Some offer you quite a lot such as newspapers, inclusion of food and use of a lounge, and with some providers it’s just a segregated seat that might be a little quieter with less chance of being disturbed – but otherwise little different from standard class.

Can I use a Railcard for First Class?

Most railcards do not apply to First Class fares, but the Senior Railcard and the Disabled Persons Railcard do actually offer a third off all First Class travel, and the 16-25 railcard allows discounted first class travel on advance First Class fares.

We do think Railcards are great though – you can read more about the benefits and work out which are best for you on our page on if a Railcard is worth it in the UK.

Are UK First Class train lounges worth it?

Don’t have your expectations as too high for the lounges in most cases! They’re generally just slightly quieter waiting areas for your train although you will find complimentary newspapers and occasionally beverages.

Is UK First Class train food worth it?

Generally speaking what’s on offer with be the basic end of a hot meal, or cold prepackaged items such as sandwiches, wraps, biscuits or muffins. Whilst it’s convenient to get something hot, the short answer is that anything you get on train is unlikely to be significantly better than anything you pick up from in or near the station, and so not worth a significant premium.

Is the extra space worth it in First Class on a UK Train?

In terms of literal seating space, it’ll depend very much on the provider of the service.

With some, you’ll get significantly more room – with others, it’s literally the same seat in a slightly quieter part of the train.

One thing you should be able to rely on is less people about – how much this matters to you is a case of personal preference. The time it can prove really useful is on a packed commuter train where seating outside First Class is at a premium – but this is also when First Class tickets will be most expensive.

Is UK First Class Train Travel worth it?

If First Class is worth it or not therefore becomes question dependent on what’s on offer and the price difference between First Class and standard class.

Generally speaking if there’s a large increase in price (and there usually is) we’d say it’s generally not worth it, but if you’re paying just a little more when travelling with a train company with lots of amenities it may be worth considering and represent value.

To help you identify if First Class train travel does represent good value to you, we’re providing a guide to what exactly you’re getting with each train company, so you can identify who is serving your route and the likely value to you.

First Class Seating on a UK Train.

UK First Class Train Ticket benefits per train provider

(Note that train companies may change what they offer all the time – we update this as we become aware of changes but let us know if you think something has changed which we haven’t got! Experiences can also sometimes vary on specific trains or routes).

Benefits of travelling First Class with Avanti West Coast Trains

With Avanti West Coast Trains you get quite a bit more space for your seat and a guaranteed table if you need to work or want space for a laptop, along with power sockets and USB ports.

The biggest advantage is complimentary food and drinks, with breakfast served pre-11am and a light meal/dinner later in the day with hot options.

Travelling first class with Avanti West Coast trains also provides First Class lounge access when travelling from certain stations – specifically Birmingham International, Birmingham New Street, London Euston, Crewe, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Runcorn and Glasgow Central.

Benefits of travelling First Class on the Caledonian Sleeper

The Caledonian Sleeper is something of a unique option, being an overnight sleeper train running from London to Scotland and vice versa.

Here there isn’t a standard form of First Class but a number of different options where you’ll get a cabin on the long overnight journey, food and lounges at a number of stations on the Scottish leg.

Owing to this being a single daily train you’re unlikely to get much in the way of bargains or discounts on the Calendonian sleeper.

Owing to the greater complexity of options here, better to take a look at Caledonian Sleeper website for details of the different cabin options.

Benefits of travelling First Class on CrossCountry Trains

CrossCountry offers slightly larger seats, tea and coffee or bottled water and a selection of snacks like biscuits or muffins.

Other complimentary food such as hot drinks or sandwiches are also available, however it’s important to note this is only on weekdays, so if buying a cheaper weekend ticket you won’t get this perk.

Benefits of travelling First Class on East Midlands Railway

With East Midlands Railway you get a slightly bigger seat with a table and a guaranteed plug socket. There is also complimentary food in the form of a hot breakfast roll (on certain services) and wraps and sandwiches, along with hot drinks.

First class lounges are available at London St. Pancras, Nottingham, Derby or Leicester.

Benefits of travelling First Class on Grand Central Trains

With Grand Central Trains you get a slightly bigger seat, free wi-fi and complimentary snacks and hot drinks. A lounge also exists at Wakefield Kirkgate station.

Benefits of travelling First Class on Great Western Railway (GWR)

Great Western Railway offer slightly wider seats than in Standard Class which also recline.

They also offer first class lounges at London Paddington, Cardiff Central, Penzance and Truro. (I believe these are effectively just seating areas – please let me know in the comments if this is incorrect).

On high speed services, complimentary at seat hot and cold drinks and snacks served from a trolley between 6.00 and 19.30 – this is of a biscuits and cakes variety, with sandwiches presently not being offered.

On a very limited selection on trains (on the Plymouth – London Paddington Swansea – London Paddington routes) and a Pullman Dining Carriage is available offering a sitdown set menu option. If you’re travelling in first class you can book a space in the Dining Car up to 2 weeks in advance.

Details of which specific services are offering the Pullman Dining Car service can be found on Great Western Railway’s website here.

Benefits of travelling First Class on Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia now has a very limited First Class option, as it’s only on the train services between Norwich and London Liverpool Street (plus the stops in between).

You’ll receive complimentary snacks and teas and coffees on board. There’s also a lounge at London Liverpool Street station to make use of.

Benefits of travelling First Class on Hull Trains

With Hull Trains you get a slightly bigger reclining seat, free wi-fi and complimentary snacks and hot drinks.

Benefits of travelling First Class on LNER (London North Eastern Railway)

The benefits of First Class are slightly more extensive with LNER than some other service providers.

LNER have a fairly extensive network of lounges – these can be found at London King’s Cross, Edinburgh Waverly, Newcastle, Leeds, Wakefield Westgate, Darlington, Doncaster, Berwick-upon-Tweed and York.

On board, breakfast, lunch and dinner is available via onboard deli menu – generally this will be in the form of a hot or cold sandwich.

The seats themselves don’t vary that much in First Class, but the tables are guaranteed and bigger, meaning there’s more space for laptops or anything else needed for work.

Benefits of travelling First Class on South Western Railway (SWR)

South Western Railways First Class is very basic – simply offering a slight wider seat in a quiet area. Hot drinks may be available on certain routes.

Benefits of travelling First Class on Southern

Southern First Class is very basic, and simply offers the same seats that you would find in Standard class in a quieter section. It’s only available on certain routes.

Benefits of travelling First Class on ScotRail

ScotRail services can vary quite a bit, but are usually similar to standard class seating.

On most services between Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh they also offer trolley service with a complimentary hot drink and snack – but this has been temporarily halted.

Benefits of travelling First Class on West Midlands Trains

West Midlands don’t have First Class on all their routes, but offer a slightly wider and more comfortable seat. On some services, there may also be a private compartment to work or relax in.

An old fashioned UK first class train carriage.

When is the best time to travel to get cheap first class train tickets?

Broadly speaking you’ll find that First Class train tickets are significantly more expensive during standard commuting times, and at their cheapest during the weekend when the trains are quieter.

This isn’t unexpected – one of the biggest selling points of First Class train tickets are provision of extra space, which as anyone who’s been a commuter on UK trains will know can be rather welcome….

A number of train companies offer special promotions at the weekend where First Class upgrades are significantly cheaper, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for these.

Any questions?

As you can tell, we think UK First Class Train Travel is only really worth it in exceptional circumstances or where the price difference is minimal – but we’d love to hear your opinions and experiences!

So if you have any questions or want to share your experience, drop us a note in the comments below!

And that’s it!

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