Scottish transport correspondent Alastair Dalton traveled with photographer John Devlin on the Newcastle-Edinburgh leg of the Lumo preview trip after taking an LNER train from Edinburgh to Newcastle to compare the services.
Lumo will seek to woo airline passengers between capitals with its discounted fares, but its main rival will likely be the London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which also operates on the main east coast line that connects the cities.
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However, the new business – owned by Aberdeen-based FirstGroup – will initially only provide two daily round-trip services compared to LNER departures every half hour, some of which are around 15 minutes faster.
Lumo’s inaugural service after arriving in Edinburgh Waverley on Thursday. Photo: John Devlin
Lumo, the first ‘open access’ operator to reach Scotland, hopes to make money by running shorter but more comprehensive trains than the LNER, and by focusing on improved customer service which it says it will be provided by two employees, called “ambassadors”, on board.
It hopes to attract one million passengers per year, occupying two-thirds of the 1.5 million seats available.
The blue color scheme inside and outside Lumo contrasts sharply with LNER’s red, but the operators’ trains are in fact similar, both made by Hitachi in County Durham.
The newcomer will stand out with novelties like a reading light on the backs of the seats above the folding tables, while also offering free movies and TV shows streamed through the LumoGo app, which is similar to the BEAM service of the former operator Virgin Trains East Coast, which LNER scrapped when it took over in 2018.
The name Lumo was created by combining “brightness” – defined by the operator as “new thinking and innovation” – and “movement”. Photo: John Devlin
Lumo chief executive Helen Wylde said the company would look to mimic airline customer service levels to attract more of their passengers.
She said: “We have modeled our service on airlines to be more like airline service. “
Ms Wylde said Lumo ‘ambassadors’ would be more available ‘to handle people’s needs’ and ‘provide someone to talk to’, while there would also be more announcements made during travel for keep passengers informed.
She insisted that air transport, and not other rail operators, was Lumo’s main competitor.
Lumo’s cars have few seats, round tables, and some without a view, but reading lights above the folding backrest tables. Photo: John Devlin
Ms Wylde said: “A mark of our success would be to develop the rail market. “
How much will Lumo tickets cost?
Lumo will operate a single class of service, with no separate first class, unlike other cross-border operators like LNER.
Until December 1, Lumo will offer one-way fares for a maximum of £ 19.90 if booked at least a day in advance, which is significantly lower than LNER’s cheapest.
The interiors of LNER cars have similarities to those of Lumo – but in red. John devlin
After that, the company said 60% of its pre-booked one-way fares would be less than £ 30.
Lumo’s Edinburgh-London fares verified by The Scotsman on Wednesday 2-3 December were on sale between £ 29.90 and £ 46.90 – around £ 6 to £ 20 cheaper than LNER fares for trains departing from around the same time of day.
However, Lumo will charge up to £ 69 for tickets purchased on the day of travel.
How’s it going on board?
On first impressions, there was little choice between the Lumo and LNER seats, both firm but not uncomfortable.
The Lumos are slightly wider, but a little shallower.
Lumo CEO Helen Wylde is committed to equaling the airlines in customer service. Photo: John Devlin
The legroom between the knees and the seatback was also similar, although there appeared to be less vertical space under Lumo’s seatbacks to stretch as comfortably.
Both operators have convenient vertical shades, but there’s only one charger socket for two seats on Lumo versus two on LNER, which could be a problem if adjacent passengers want to charge a device at the same time.
The folding tables on the seatbacks are similar in size on both operators, each extending to accommodate laptops, but the Lumos also have a reading light with two brightness settings.
There are fewer seats around the tables in Lumo cars – two versus eight in LNERs – and more Lumo seats in the middle of the cars are not adjacent to a window and therefore have no view.
Launch of new Lumo train service between London and Edinburgh
However, the grab handles on the edge of the seats to stabilize you when dismounting a moving cart are much better placed on Lumo – in the top corner – than those on LNER which are misplaced lower on the edges.
Both operators offer free wifi.
LNER cross-border trains are normally nine cars, while Lumo’s will be five cars.
What about catering?
LNER and Lumo each have food carts for service instead, with Lumo’s menu due to be released on Friday.
LNER passengers can also purchase direct from the buffet, which Lumo trains do not have, but their passengers can pre-order food before travel from High Street brands such as Marks & Spencer and Upper Crust, with unbranded items available for purchase on board.
When will Lumo’s services run?
Launched on Monday 25 October, the trains will leave Edinburgh Monday through Friday at 9:11 am (arrival in London at 1:48 pm) and 4:12 pm (8:47 pm), and will leave London King’s Cross at 10:45 am (3:17 pm). ) and 2:36 p.m. (7:15 p.m.) – approximately four hours 35 minutes.
There is one service each way on Saturdays and two on Sundays.
Lumo hopes to increase to three weekday round trips starting in December and five in early 2022 – the maximum number allowed.
Where do the trains stop on their way?
Morpeth, Newcastle and Stevenage only.
These are in part aimed at attracting air passengers from Newcastle and Luton airports near Stevenage.
Will Lumo services run during engineering work?
No. Unlike LNER trains, which can switch to diesel to take detour routes, Lumos are electric only and therefore cannot operate when sections of the main line on the east coast are closed, such as the weekend of the 4th. to December 5.
What does Lumo mean?
Good question. The operator said the brand was a combination of “brightness”, which he defined as “new thinking and innovation”, and “movement”.
Lumo has set the bar high by aiming to “re-imagine what it means to travel by train” and “reset travel standards”.
One of his slogans, written on the side of his trains, says: “Travel well, beyond expectations”.
He also promised his lower rates would “not compromise on comfort.”
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Lumo has set the bar high with its commitment to customer service. Photo: John Devlin