First Great Eastern

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First Great Eastern

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68% positive

6 reviews from the community

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Review of "First Great Eastern"

published 19/05/2003 | SeasonTicketless
Member since : 18/10/2002
Reviews : 113
Members who trust : 47
About me :
Pro Good announcements
Cons Generally packed trains
very helpful
Frequency of trains
Reliability of trains
Speed of trains
Safety of trains
How extensive is their Rail Network?

"First Great Eastern or Worst Great Eastern"

All of my life I have lived a train ride away from London. Working from the age of 16, I have spent the best part of 9 years travelling to and from the City to get to work. Fortunately for me I learnt to drive when I was 17, and for some time was able to avoid the Connex-controlled route from my old town of Welling to London Bridge.

However, moving to Chelmsford saw me take a job in the centre of town – literally a 10 minute drive from home. Talk about bliss! No more hour-long traffic jams, or waiting in all weather for the train to pull in late again. What could possibly go wrong? I shouldn’t have asked, because within six months a company takeover saw me transferred to a London based office, and with some trepidation I started to catch the train to work again.

After several years of being subjected to Connex South Eastern, I was a somewhat hardened commuter already. I was used to rarely getting a seat, and trains not running to time. For all the problems that Connex were having, being dragged from pillar to post for their poor service in the media, I expected better things from First Great Eastern.

Now, two years of cramped trains, faulty signals and poor service, I’m back working in Chelmsford, and am glad to be rid of my daily grind into work.

You see I am big and ugly enough to take the occasional mis-hap on the way to work. It’s beyond the realms of probability that a train company will be able to run all of it’s trains on time, in a clean and safe environment. I accept that there will be times when a signal DOES fail, or a train DOES break down. I find it hard to believe, however, that these things can happen time and time again.

* - Punctuality

Assuming that a train runs solely on tracks, and to a schedule, it is therefore safe to assume that trains should not be reliant on other issues, such as traffic jams, roadworks and bad weather delaying them, which is generally the main problems a road user would encounter. Why then is it that the only cries of anger on Chelmsford station in the mornings are when a train leaves on time, and those that are used to it arriving a few minutes behind schedule are annoyed at having missed the train due to it pulling out of the station when it was actually meant to and not a couple of minutes late like it normally does? Punctuality doesn’t exist on a First Great Eastern train. A rough time, giving or taking a few minutes each way seems to be the way that they do things, which isn’t too bad, but there are also occasions when signal failures and vandalism to a train seemed to absolutely cripple the whole network, and this was a fairly common occurance.

* - Frequency

Thankfully, even if you miss your normal train, there is usually one a few minutes behind. Even with First Great Eastern’s “We’ll get there when we can” attitude, trains to London generally run every 5-10 minutes in the morning. Off peak times will see trains heading to and from London every 15-30 minutes.

* - Announcements

This is one of First Great Eastern’s plus points. Whenever a train is delayed, even if it is by merely a minute, an announcement is played over the tannoy reporting the delay. Although it is tinny and obviously pieced together by a computer (which makes it sound like it has been written with terrible punctuation: “The. Oh-Seven. Nineteen service. Calling at. Stratford. And. London Liverpool Street only. Is running approximately. Five. Minutes late. This is due to. Signal failure. In the. Bethnal Green. Area.”), it is concise and audible, and lets you know how late you’re likely to be. On particularly bad mornings when a lot of trains have been cancelled, the guards often announce exactly what station the next train is at, and when it is expected to arrive.

* - Cleanliness

Both the stations and the trains are generally very clean. The newer trains all have several bins on each carriage, and the floors are often clean enough to sit down on when you’re stuck standing in a carriage on a line that has severe delays. My only complaint would be that the toilets often smell really bad, and that First Great Eastern have not yet developed a way of preventing the toilets from being flushed inside stations, which generally means that getting on a train at Liverpool Street station is done as quickly as possible, breathing only through the mouth in an attempt to avoid breathing in the smell of used toilets and industrial bleach.

* - Safety signs and announcements

All train carriages have plenty of safety notices displayed, and the drivers quite often give out safety advice over the tannoy system at the start of each journey. The signs seems easy to follow, telling you how to exit the train in an emergency, and where to find fire extinguishers, and general strike me as being very handy.

* - Staff

First Great Eastern staff are your general train staff. For every one that is helpful, polite or happy, there are another five that talk down to you, are generally rude, or give off the idea that they cannot be bothered dealing with you. It’s a shame, as it reflects badly on the whole company, but my guess would be that most of the staff have been ground down by rude comments at commuters suffering a bad service.

* - Carriage size

Most of First Great Eastern’s trains are the newer type, with slightly more standing room, and carriages with more seats, as opposed to the old slam-door type. Most peak trains have the maximum of twelve carriages, but this doesn’t stop the overcrowding for many people to and from work. Thanks to the not so unusual delays, there is often a knock on effect that means the trains are busier than normal, meaning a cramped 35 minute trip to Liverpool Street, standing in a confined space with several others, with no real means of ventilation.

* - Price

Fares between Chelmsford and London Liverpool Street are as follows:

Chelmsford to Liverpool St - Standard Day Return £16.90
Chelmsford to Liverpool St – Cheap Day Return £9.30
Chelmsford to Liverpool Street - Weekly £60.00
Chelmsford to Liverpool Street - Monthly £230.40
Chelmsford to Liverpool Street - Annual £2,400.00
All Zones (1-6) Peak Day Travelcard £20.40
All Zones (1-6) Off-Peak Day Travelcard £12.40
All Zones (1-6) Travelcard - Weekly £72.00
All Zones (1-6) Travelcard - Monthly £276.50
All Zones (1-6) Travelcard - Annual £2,880.00

* - Overall

Overall travelling on First Great Eastern leaves a lot to be desired. The fares take a fair whack out of your pay packet each month, and you are quite often packed onto cramped, late-running carriages. Travelling at peak times is more often a nightmare than a dream come true, though off-peak is quite the reverse and can be quite pleasant. The attitude of staff leaves a lot to be desired, but I’m sure that they would argue the same about many commuters. If Ken Livingstone wants people to start using public transport a little more, then he should ensure services such as that of First Great Eastern clean up their image and their act. Three out of five stars for me, mainly because there is still no quicker way to get to London, the off-peak services are pretty good, and the announcements are generally very good. Stars were lost due to poor service and large ticket prices.


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Comments on this review

  • allyb2003 published 29/08/2003
    Great op, as a commuter myself (normally using the Central Line) I had to endure this line when the Central Line was out of action and I have to totally agree!!! Ax
  • Toonarmy published 20/05/2003
    I am fortunate, don't have to travel on anything but my 2 feet to work everyday. Great op though.
  • mumsymary published 19/05/2003
    I love traveling by train
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Product Information : First Great Eastern

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Listed on Ciao since: 09/12/2001