Travelling back from Somerset yesterday, we travelled on two trains that are deeply flawed, both in different ways, but both involving the Class 221 "Super Voyager".
Firstly, let me set the scene by mentioning the train itself. the "Super Voyager was designed to replace loco-hauled stock on cross-country routes. As a DEMU, it isn't particularly suited to the task. It is quiet by multiple unit standards, but still no match for loco-hauled coaches. Most of the seats are "airline" style, with only a handful of "seats round tables". HSTs are quieter, more comfortable and have better catering facilities.
So firstly the train from Taunton to Birmingham. This train is in fact the Penzance to Glasgow train. the only reason why we weren't staying on it for the whole journey to Glasgow is that the route sends it via Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh, before travelling west again to Glasgow via Carstairs. As a means of getting to Glasgow it is pointless. This train is not so much about the end-to-end route as the stations on the way. It connects the south west of England to the north east. Glasgow would be better served by East Coast trains. East Coast strangely enough have cut back the number of trains they send to Glasgow. To fill the gap, Scotrail have started running trains on the Edinburgh-Carstairs-Glasgow route. But still the XC service remains. If you are masochistic enough to endure the almost 10-hour journey from Penzance to Glasgow you won't just be uncomfortable, you will also go hungry, because the only catering on bard is from a trolley that only serves sandwiches and snacks. For such a long trip this is totally inadequate.
Hot food from a proper buffet counter is on offer from the Virgin Class 221 on the Birmingham-Edinburgh run. What is strange about this train is that it is a diesel train running on a wholly electrified route. When questioned why they ran Voyagers "under the wires", Virgin, on Facebook, replied that they didn't have enough Pendolinos spare. Which means that someone in an office somewhere got their sums wrong. In the meantime Pendolinos. are occasionally dragged over the non-electrified line to Holyhead in Wales because Voyagers aren't big enough for the job. It is only a shame that the recent lengthening of the Pendolino fleet wasn't used as an opportunity to buy more Pendolinos for the Birmingham run.