Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Getting to The ICHF Craft Shows at the NEC with Crosscountry Trains

I haven't travelled on the train for quite a few years! Having become a driver towards the end of university, no longer having lots of long journeys to do and having children, I've never really had the need.
When I decided that I would be going to the ICHF shows at the NEC, I thought that maybe driving would be a bit much; the traffic, navigating, parking etc, so I logged into my old Crosscountry account to find out whether I could get there by train.
I remember the days of sitting with my earphones in, watching the world go by and this seemed like a much better way to travel. 

I suddenly rediscovered the easy to use booking system on the Crosscountry site. There are selected trains which are really cheap if you buy singles each way and you can choose your seat reservations; where in the train you would like to sit even choosing window or ailse seats! When booking, it is advisable to check the T's & C's. On some of the cheaper tickets there is no refund available. Having said that, in the past I have received a full refund for a journey when cancelling the day before just by returning unused tickets! It's just a case of checking exactly what you are paying for. 

After receiving my ticket for travel with Crosscountry I wrote down all of my train times. I was nervous as I was going to some stations I had never been to. When I arrived at Cardiff Central, the train was already on the platform which made boarding and ensuring I was on the right train a breeze. I found myself a comfy seat in a small carriage that was dim in lighting; it gave a cozy feel which I quite liked. As the train began to leave the station, I was reminded of one of the (very) few reasons that travelling by train isn't as 'comfortable' as driving. Other people! Of course that is not to sound mean or unsociable. A very inconsiderate person was playing music out of his EARphones hanging around his neck and the ticket conducter didn't really address this; despite signs asking passengers to be respectful of others and to keep noise to a minimum. He was also eating in a rather annoying manner! So I found myself a new seat in a carriage down the train! It was a less 'cozy' seat but I soon found that not only did I have more leg room but I was facing the direction the train was travelling so it was preferable. The coach was quiet despite being fairly busy and I was next to the luggage storage area so I could pop my bag in there. The only annoyance was the fact that someone had decided to leave a half chewed sweet on the floor under the chair in front. So gross. I had also naively assumed that there would be a refreshments trolly on board and soon came to realise that this doesn't happen on all services! Regretting no having got myself a coffee before boarding, I enjoyed a quiet and comfortable journey. I did not follow the lead of the lady in front who used her time productively by setting up a 'desk' on the table seat and working. I just watched the world go by...

My second train was brief and of that I was glad as it was so busy I had to stand outside of the toilet. Not the ideal way to travel; but the train was to Birmingham International which was very close and I found myself coming off of the platform and straight into the NEC! I didn't have to exit the station onto the street. The craft shows were across the other side of the NEC (which by the way is HUGE) but as they run shuttle buses to each area, this wasn't an issue. I highly recommend travelling by train to the NEC. It certainly beats paying for car parking after navigating, sitting in lots of traffic and paying for fuel and service stops. 

En route home, my first shorter journey was on a more updated Crosscountry train so I had the opportunity to plug my phone in to charge next to the seat! This was very welcome as I had been using it all day and it was running low with me facing a need to contact my lift at the other end. I also saw that there was WiFI on this particular train and I feel that Crosscountry definitely delivers value for money in keeping up with today's world; if you get on the right service. My second longer train home had no sockets or WiFi (boo!) but it did have a refreshments trolley which I made use of for a nice latte! This time I did sit at a table and tried to use my time productively but I was too distracted by the scenery out of the window; which I always miss when driving. 

Not only does traveling by train win a thumbs up from me, in particular the Crosscountry experience was comfortable. Although facilities are not necessarily consistent between services, the price of advanced bookings and ability to reserve seats, more than makes up for it and you are able to see what facilities are available on your chosen train when booking. For anyone traveling to the NEC, I couldn't recommend travelling by train enough. Even if it is just the last part of your journey if you are close by. The station you require for the NEC is Birmingham International. 

Why not have a look at see if Crosscountry can offer up some cheap options for your next journey across the country?

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*Although I received complimentary travel with Crosscounty train in exchange for this review; all opinions are my own.

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