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Is travelling First Class on Virgin Trains Wheelchair Accessible

Last month we travelled to London to see the mighty Kings of Leon at BST Hyde Park festival as well as doing a few tourist things too. We didn’t particularly want to fly or drive so we looked into going by train instead. I had never experienced a train journey longer than 40 minutes so I was interested to see what it would be like travelling first class on Virgin Trains in a wheelchair for 4.5 hours from Glasgow to London.

Virgin Trains first class carriage J

Booking Tickets

Virgin Trains very kindly offered complimentary tickets in return for an honest review of the accessibility and as you’ll discover from this review, there are good points and some not so good points.

virgin trains seating plan coach j Pendolino CoachesOnce I booked our tickets online, I then went ahead and booked assistance online too. Booking assistance with Journey Care ensures the stations know what help you require, making your journey a lot less stressful and ensures you get the assistance you need on the day of travel. The wheelchair and carer/companions seats are 1, 3 & 4, which you can see in the image above.

Glasgow Central Station

We arrived at Glasgow Central Station in plenty of time for our 11:40am train. This gave us time to use the accessible toilet (just in case the accessible toilet onboard was out of order) and print out our tickets from the Fast Ticket Machine. Printing the tickets was quick and easy.

Virgin Trains Glasgow to London ReviewWe also made ourselves known to the staff at the Mobility Point desk, who asked if we required assistance to the train, but we were happy to make our own way there as long as someone was there to help me onto the train.

Virgin Trains Wheelchair access onboard Glasgow Central StationWhen it was time to board we made our way down the long platform to the very end as we were seated in coach J. There is a mobility cart that can drive you to the train if you have difficulty walking. There was two staff waiting at the entrance of coach J and the ramp was already positioned for me by the time we got there. The two women were busy talking to each other that they failed to ask if I needed any help, thankfully I didn’t.

Accessibility onboard Virgin Trains

As I drove into coach J I was pleasantly surprised at how spacious it was especially the wheelchair space and how close it was to the accessible toilet. Usually, the accessible spaces on trains are next to the smelly toilets, but that wasn’t the case on this Virgin Train. There was an automatic door separating the coach from the toilet and it wasn’t smelly at all.

Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible seat onboard Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible height adjustable table onboard Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible seat onboard The wheelchair space is classed as seat 1, Allan had seats 3 & 4, which can only be booked with the wheelchair space so, therefore, cannot be booked online. One of these seats is reserved for a companion. There was a table between Allan and me, which was height adjustable on my side.

Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible seat onboard Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible and companion seats reservedVirgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible seat onboardThere was an emergency call button at the side of me and lots of space behind, giving me lots of room for moving. Plug points on both sides of the table made it easy for both Allan and me to charge our phones and work on our laptop. If I didn’t have a full wheelchair battery, I might have charged that too.

Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible toilet Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible toiletAs I mentioned early there was an accessible toilet onboard and it was in working order during both journeys, to and from London. Although I didn’t use the toilet, we made sure to take some photos of it. It wasn’t tiny but it wasn’t large either, probably just big enough to fit a wheelchair inside and a companion as long as you can manage in tight spaces.

The journey and service to London

We were quickly served drinks soon after leaving Glasgow and the journey, on the whole, was pretty smooth with the occasional bump. I have to admit the staff serving the food and drinks were not very helpful or friendly, in particular, the service manager who was rude and abrupt when I asked a simple question, which was disappointing.

Virgin Trains first class menu vegan food options When the complimentary food cart came by we asked what the vegan options were as there was no menu on our table. They shrugged their shoulders, blankly stared at us and said they had no idea. This was very awkward and made us feel a nuisance. I felt like they should have been more helpful and known more about the food they are serving as I’m sure we’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last to ask questions like this.

Virgin Trains first class menu vegan food options We decided to check for ourselves by searching for the menu online. We opted for the only vegan options, poppadum’s & chutney and seeds & super-roots salad. You can view the First Class menus here.

The train manager was great though by making sure we were okay and called ahead to London to confirm assistance was definitely booked for us.

Onboard Wi-Fi & Entertainment Service

I’m not going to lie, the thought of a four and a half hour train journey filled me with dread. As much as I enjoy reading a good book, I’m not one for reading while I’m on the go. I’d love to, but I just can’t-do it as holding the book even for short periods hurts my arms, back, neck.

Virgin Trains first class review WiFi accessWhile I was researching Virgin Trains I discovered they have onboard Wi-Fi and a great entertainment service called BEAM. You can get access to films, TV shows, games, and magazines. Make sure you download the app before your train journey as I made the mistake of waiting until I was on the train to London, only to discover it wouldn’t download. Oops! I was able to connect the laptop to the Wi-Fi though so I managed to read up on the news and work on my blog on both journeys.

Virgin Trains first class wheelchair access review (3)However, I made sure we both had the BEAM app on our phones for the return journey as I couldn’t get it to work on the laptop.

Euston Station

After four amazing days in London, it was time to head home. Again we had time to spare before our train departed for Glasgow, so we had some lunch in Euston Station.

Virgin Trains euston station review Virgin Trains first class lounge at euston station reviewWe then made our way to the Virgin Trains first class lounge (a perk of travelling first class) on the first floor via the lift. Still full from our lunch we didn’t want anything to eat or drink. It felt good to relax in the lounge away from the busy crowds in departures and enjoy the air conditioning as it was way too hot in the station.

Virgin Trains first class lounge accessible toilet at euston station reviewBefore leaving the Virgin Trains first class lounge I wanted to use the accessible toilet. I was impressed by the size of the toilet and it even had a walk-in shower. There was plenty of grab rails both pull-down and fixed. An emergency pull cord was positioned beside the toilet and one in the shower. I always carry Euan’s Guide red emergency cord cards with me so I ensured we attached one before leaving.

Virgin Trains first class wheelchair access review (2)We headed for our train and were pleased to see that assistance was already waiting for us with the ramp, ready to place it in position. I loved how quick and easy it was to board the train. No hassle at all.

The journey and service to Glasgow

Just like on our journey to London, we had the same seats on our return journey. This time the journey was much smoother and the service from the staff was fantastic. All the train staff were helpful and friendly, which is what I had expected from Virgin Trains.

Virgin Trains first class menu vegan food options (2)As we were heading home on Sunday the complimentary food and drink service is much less compared to during the week. This wasn’t a problem as we were still full from our big lunch, but we enjoyed some tea, orange juice, and fruit.

Virgin Trains first class carriage J wheelchair access reviewVirgin Trains first class glasgow to london reviewThe train became very quiet around the halfway point, which was nice and relaxing. This was a perfect opportunity for Allan to relax while I caught up on some blog work and emails. A great way to end a fantastic trip.

Virgin Trains first class wheelchair access review Glasgow Central StationWe left sunny London and arrived back in rainy Glasgow. Assistance was waiting on us as the train pulled in and we were quickly off the train making our way swiftly along the platform to get out of the rain.

Top tips for booking cheap train tickets

  • Book in advance
  • Get a disabled person railcard
  • Look out for discounts and special offers
  • Avoid Peak times
  • Be flexible

Final Thoughts

Considering it was a 4.5-hour train journey, it didn’t really feel like it. Thankfully the time passed fairly quickly and we were both able to pass the time by chatting, working and playing games on BEAM. I really liked the ease of travelling by train as a wheelchair user and it was a nice change from travelling by car and plane. Travelling first class was completely wheelchair accessible and I found the wheelchair space comfortable as well as spacious. Assistance was waiting for us at both stations and access on/off the train was incredibly easy. In saying that I’d definitely consider travelling to London again in first class with Virgin Trains, especially if the price was reasonable and I was able to grab a good deal on the tickets.

Virgin Trains first class wheelchair accessible seat onboardI was welcomed as a guest of Virgin Trains for the purpose of this review but as always all opinions expressed are honest and my own. 

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Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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16 Responses

  1. I’ve done many long journeys like that,both in Britain and on the continent. Almost all were 2nd class where the disabled place is almost beside the disabled toilet. Only one first class as it was only £4 dearer each. I must admit it seemed a better choice. Almost all with my wife. The key is to be there early to give the staff plenty of time. I’ve never had any rude staff and although there are problems from time to time but nothing too bad. Life’s not as simple. Just shrug my shoulders and try to relax. My illness puts everything else into perspective. Sometimes the sensitivity the staff show is amazing. I’ve sent emails many times to the section in appreciation. My daughter lives in Peterborough and there’s one guy there who is fantastic to both of us. There’s a guy who travels that line who has very poor vision and he mentioned to me how good he was as well. I let the assistance bloke know what he had said once and the assistance bloke was so humble. So thankful.

    1. That’s fantastic Roy. I’m so glad to hear you’ve had many great experiences and service as that is how it should be. I love to write emails, tweet etc when I’ve had a good experience as I hope it will encourage them to keep it up. Thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂

  2. Great post and I’m glad things went well.

    I did my longest train journey too, again with Virgin. It was a trip to Manchester to see Arcade Fire ( again ) which went very well. For example, I’m always impressed when the person is waiting with the ramp at my destination station at the exact door I’m at! I always have a bit of anxiety when I’m not departing at the terminus station but their communication was faultless.

    I went via humble prole-class and was beside the toilets in a reasonably roomy area. The toilet wasn’t too much of an annoyance but – yeah – in humble-class there’s no extra door between me and it. I didn’t try their wifi.

    The only niggle was when I booked my tickets. Their online system automatically allocated seats for me and when I phoned Virgin, the first two people I spoke to told me I couldn’t change them to wheelchair spots ( they were wrong ). I eventually found the national train assistance line ( I previously only had the Scottish one ) who arranged everything and have the authority to effectively over-ride any seat numbers on the tickets. Those people were great and for anyone interested, their number is 0800 197 1329.

    My next adventure will hopefully be to London – I’ve not been since i was abled – and I won’t feel daunted by the travel aspect of the trip.

    1. Hi Declan. Thanks for your comment – I really appreciate you sharing your experience of travelling with Virgin. It’s great you had a good journey with them and that the national train assistance line were able to help change the seats. When are you thinking of going to London? I hope you have a great time whenever you go.

    1. I have found it impossible to get the wheelchair discount online (no disability rail card) I have to purchase my ticket at the train station also a lot of the staff are not aware of this discount.
      I now have a screenshot on my phone of the discount available if travelling in your wheelchair and show them that which let’s me travel at nearly half price.

  3. In my experience I found that the amount of space in first-class on Virgin Trains is much more than standard class. It’s a lot easier to get behind the table, which I don’t think is something that we should have to pay for. It’s not just a matter of comfort, it’s practicality. Everyone else has enough room so why should we have to pay extra to get the space we need.
    I’ve never travelled on the train in my Powerchair before because it’s always been such a squeeze getting round the corners and through the doors even in my manual chair. Have you ever experienced any problems using your Powerchair on trains? I doubt my Powerchair would even fit in the toilet.

    1. Thanks for your comment Alex. I’ve only ever travelled on trains in my powerchair. It can sometimes be a squeeze, but I was pleasantly surprised with the space in first class. Definitely more comfortable that’s for sure.

  4. Alex, I should have said in my comment above that i did my journey in a powerchair. It’s quite big…1 cm too long for me to travel on National Express, and no I’m not kidding.

  5. I’m grateful you had that experience. Sadly on my last Virgin train trip in economy I had a different story. I was left on the train in Leeds at midnight in my chair. My sister who was travelling with me had to carry my chair off and come back and carry me off. We had been waiting half an hour and no assistance arrived. We arrived at midnight, managed to get off the train by 00:40 and my friend who was waiting for us on the other side of the gates was pacing. When I complained to the conductor he said “I have 10 minutes to come and check you’ve got off.” But we had been waiting longer than that. I have emailed them several times since that April trip as I can’t handle phone calls and no response. I won’t be travelling with Virgin again.

    1. Oh I’m so sorry you had such a terrible experience on your last train journey. That must have been so stressful to deal with and unacceptable that your sister had to carry your chair and then yourself off the train because no assistance had arrived. I hope you eventually get a response from Virgin.

  6. fantastic to hear of all the good service. At my local station, always found the staff on the trains helpful no warning given that I was coming as it is a short journey. The trouble is that the loo is always next to the bay which is a very smelly journey. My big gripe is the research that has to be done to ensure that the station is accesable. The nearest to my son isn’t so he comes to pick me up from the nearest accessable one

    1. Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience of your local train station. Glad to know that the staff are helpful. Shame the station near to where your son lives isn’t accessible though. Hopefully one day soon it will be.

  7. We are thinking of travelling to penzancxe from preston in Lancashire first class we need wheelchair access do you have any idea of prices for return journey? Thank you

    1. Hi Bernadette. Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, you are best contacting Virgin Trains regarding prices as they will be able to give you the most up to date and accurate prices. Hope it goes well!

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