One fact that I know is whether you’re in first class or not - you’ll still get to the same destination at exactly the same time as other passengers on the train. However, other passengers like the idea of added luxury throughout their train journey whether it be the free refreshments, free WiFi or even just the extra legroom. When I needed to book train tickets upon hearing the news of a family emergency, I found that there was only a slight difference between Standard and First Class Tickets - in my case, with a 16-25 railcard, a First Class Ticket would only cost me around £5 extra. This working out £2.50 per way to have the added luxury that Greater Anglia prides itself on as well as access to the First Class Lounge at London Liverpool Street.
First Class Lounge
Upon arriving at London Liverpool Street I quickly bought some newspapers and magazines for the journey as well as treating myself to breakfast. Looking for the First Class Lounge took a lot longer than usual as it’s very hidden next to Platform 10 near where Lost Luggage can be found. Accessing the First Class Lounge was easy since I wasn’t asked to show my ticket nor have to wait long to get in - I simply pressed a button that opened the automatic doors and I was in. The First Class Lounge is small but wonderful, it was a nice peaceful place to sit before boarding my train. To my surprise there were tea and coffee making facilities as well as free bottles of water available. Considering that I had only paid £5 extra, with these free tea and coffee making facilities I had saved myself at least £5, not to mention the free bottles of water. There were a range of different seats, if you wanted to and charge your phone or whether you wanted to use your laptop within the lounge - you were sure to be comfortable. There’s even a small screen outlining the future departures, which allowed me to keep track of my train without feeling rushed or anxious that I would miss my train. If you’re travelling from London Liverpool Street to Stansted Airport then help yourself to the free magazine on offer.
First Class: London Liverpool Street to Norwich
When boarding at London Liverpool Street the first carriage is luckily First Class - which allowed me to get onto the train and relax, rather than walking miles upon miles to get down to the front of the train. For this specific journey there were only two carriages for First Class but it was more than enough as there were only 6 people in my carriage as well as even fewer in the next carriage.
Each seat in First Class allows passengers to have a table, whether it be a single seat or a double, there is more than enough space for a laptop or a notebook. That was at least one promise that Greater Anglia kept to including the extra legroom which was perfect for tall people such as myself. For one journey I was able to stretch out rather than trying not to hit the chair in front of me with my knees. Within the seating area there was the option to allow sunlight in with the curtains, unfortunately for me these thin curtains still allowed the light shine right into my face. Luckily for me though there were other seats available as within First Class as there’s no reservations on seats which allows passengers to move around as they please. Another added benefit of First Class is the plug sockets next to every seat which worked perfectly throughout my journey. However, I’ve travelled with a Standard Ticket and have had the luck of finding a plug socket next to my seat, even though these opportunities are few and far between, it’s a guarantee in First Class.
WiFi? The WiFi throughout First Class wasn’t working on my outbound journey and my inbound journey from Norwich, which was very frustrating. Even though it’s a benefit that Greater Anglia list on their website, they have also noted that the WiFi is currently not working. For me, this was a huge disappointment since one of the reasons I wanted to pay the extra upgrade for First Class was to be able to use WiFi to complete some work on the go as well as go through the hundreds and hundreds of emails I had. Exchanging emails with the Customer Service Team was quick and easy, although they were unsure as to why the WiFi wasn’t working even after trying every method in the book and giving numerous bits of information. Although, on my return journey I was given an answer, rather than a solution, which reads “This Train is being affected by a known issue, there is a hardware fault and as such WiFi will not be available unit its is Physically fixed". Furthermore, this led to me eating up most of my mobile data for the majority of the journey which meant I had to ration it between emails and checking my website.
Yuck. That’s all I can really say about the toilets. There’s no separate toilets for those in First Class which isn’t that much of a problem if the toilets weren’t dirty and disgusting. Not only is there the problem of staying on the toilet throughout a rocking train but one in which isn’t in the best of conditions. It wouldn’t have taken much to make the toilets a little cleaner throughout the journey, considering that it’s just a little under 2 hours. Either way, when you need to go to the toilet and there’s a toilet there, there’s little you could do.
Once again there wasn’t the availability of refreshments throughout this train journey. This is understandable as Greater Anglia had stated that throughout journeys on the weekend there will be no refreshments provided but on my return journey the same rule seemed to apply even though I returned on a Monday. It seemed at this rate, I had been shown a very different picture than the one that was painted when booking the tickets. Even though I had already eaten beforehand as well as taken full advantage of the free drinks that the First Class Lounge had to offer, it was still a shame that there was no trolley service that would’ve provided even the smallest of snacks - simply since I love freebies.
Is It Worth It?
Greater Anglia have currently stated on their website that “When there is engineering work between London and Norwich, services may be formed of electric multiple unit stock and will not offer table seats, refreshments or WiFi. Availability of First Class Advance tickets may be restricted on engineering work days”. In essence, the perks of First Class have been limited in such a way that it’s simply luck whether you’ll travel with them or be stuck without them. If all the perks were included - free WiFi, refreshments and even the guarantee of a table seat then I would recommend travelling First Class. However, if you have the mindset that everyone will get to the same place at the same time regardless of their seat preference, then travelling with a Standard Ticket would be the best option. If you have to pay a lot more than I did for an upgrade to a First Class Ticket, then I’d advise against it.
Ever since the O2 opened in 2007 it’s been an entertainment hub for those wishing to see artists and special events as well as those wanting to visit the cinema, play a game of bowling or visit the never ending row of restaurants. Now there’s a new edition which makes the O2 seemingly complete - the ICON Outlet which is home to over 85 stores including popular names such as Jack Wills, Levi’s, Nike, Adidas and Ted Baker, to name a few.
Getting to the O2 is simple as there’s a range of public transport links including the Jubilee Line which allows passengers to use the London Underground as well as a bus station just a few minutes walk from the O2. The buses that stop at North Greenwich are the 108, 129, 132, 161, 188, 422, 472 and 486 which go towards both Central London, South East London as well as locations just outside of London such as Bexleyheath. There’s even a Cable Car connection that goes from North Greenwich to The Royal Docks which is notably known for the ExCel Exhibition Centre where events are held constantly throughout the year.
The ICON Outlet at the O2 has gained popularity very quickly for the impressive discounts which can be up to 70% in some cases. This seems too good to be true, but it really isn’t! When I first visited the ICON Outlet I was overwhelmed with the displays stating these amazing discounts and upon further inspection they were right - a Levi’s jacket was £95 but had been discounted to £25 but then rung up at £15 at the register - my bank account was safe for another day as I began planning my new wardrobe. Even in shops such as Yankee Candle I was in discount heaven - candles that had an RRP of £30 were as cheap as £11 and there wasn’t a shortage of accessories and gift sets. Shops such as The Body Shop runs on a basis such as ‘the more you buy, the more you save’ which is great for those wanting to stock up on their favourite products without breaking the bank. If you have a sweet tooth then Lindt Chocolate doesn’t disappoint with visitors being able to pick and mix their favourite chocolates which is weighed per gram. The ICON Outlet is a great idea for those wanting to get presents for any occasion, admittedly I had plans to buy friends and family gift sets from Yankee Candle, The Body Shop and even some clothes from Adidas and Nike.
Not only is the ICON Outlet a hub for shopping but also offers discounts to visitors such as a free shopping drop for those going into the actual O2 Arena. To be honest I was surprised that this shopping drop was free but then again the O2 Arena operates on a basis that limits large bags coming into the O2 Arena for security reasons. Additionally if you do spend over £150 then you’ll be happy to know that you’ll get your shopping delivered directly to your home. Luckily this saves carrying around masses of bags that begin to make you wonder how and when you bought so much and whether you actually need these items - of course you do! However, if you don’t want to break the bank then there’s the option of 4 hours free parking when you spend over £35 which seems more likely for those travelling here. My personal favourite offer from the ICON Outlet is the option to buy a gift card, which doubles up as a present or a bank card for the day to prevent you overspending - once your money runs out then it’s time to call it a day. Other services here at the ICON Outlet include wheelchairs and scooters available to hire for the duration of your stay and Changing Places toilets onsite. These Changing Places are quite large and were made specifically for those who may have additional accessibility requirements.
If you’re an early bird or someone that prefers shopping later in the day then the O2 Outlet has you covered - with an opening time of 10am and a closing time of 10pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (times vary depending on the day). If you want to make a day of it then I’d recommend visiting around midday, then going for lunch with the numerous restaurants throughout the O2 itself. Then there’s the option to see the latest release at the cinema in the Vue cinema or you can treat yourself to a game at bowling at Hollywood Bowl. There’s even an indoor trampolining park called Oxygen Freejumping which is fun for both children and adults. Even though the shops at the O2 are mainly directed for adults, there’s the option to treat your child in the Build-A-Bear Workshop within the ICON Outlet. Not only is there a wide variety of bears and accessories to buy but there’s the option to hold birthday parties here which starts at £11.
The ICON Outlet has even more offers, which I wish I would’ve known before visiting as there have been numerous deals I have missed out on. Currently there’s an offer with Yankee Candle that allows visitors to claim a free melt warmer when a purchase of £20 or more is made. If candles aren’t your thing then Clarks are currently offering guests the offer of buy one, get the next one half price. The same deal is currently happening at Asics as well as two short sleeve tops being £24 or three for £32 on selected items. However, you should check when these offers expire as they change frequently and you do not want to miss out on these savings.
The London Living Wage, which currently stands at £10.55 per hour, which was designed to reflect the expensive costs that come with living and working in London. This wage was introduced to make sure that people living and working in London are compensated enough to cover all costs they may incur, as there’s a higher cost of living in London compared to other parts of the UK. As someone who lives and works in London, the London Living Wage has introduced a step forward for those living and working in London who face the rising costs of living in the capital. With transport prices increasing as well as housing becoming harder and more expensive to gain, there’s more chance that the London Living Wage will help people make ends meet rather than living in poverty.
The London Living Wage is currently the highest form of paid wage in the UK as the minimum wage for workers aged 25 and over stands at a mere £8.21. For workers unfortunate to be younger than the desired age mark then workers under 25 will earn £7.70 if they’re aged between 21 and 24. It gets even worse for workers who are aged 18 to 20 as they will get £6.15 and those under 18 will earn £4.35. These figures stated come from the National Minimum Wage section from the GOV.UK website. More information can be found by clicking here.
However, the problem with the London Living Wage is that companies aren’t legally forced to pay the London Living Wage to workers whereas they’re legally compelled to pay the National Minimum Wage. The Living Wage Foundation state that there’s currently 5,672 employers throughout the UK paying the Living Wage to workers, these companies including Ikea, Nestle and the People’s Health Trust. The Living Wage is available to workers across the UK, but is £9.00 as costs of living are deemed less expensive than London. Most companies are reluctant to pay the London Living Wage as this would mean that they’d be paying more for labour that they could simply get away with my paying the National Minimum Wage. The reason some companies offer The London Living wage is to firstly attract future employees by their high hourly rate and the second reason being is that a long term investment would result in happier staff which then in turn leads to positive experiences for customers. In layman’s term, it’s a win-win situation for both companies and employees.
With The London Living Wage so high, a beneficial wage that’s meant to help those working and living in London, it does have its downsides unfortunately. If someone working in London works 40 hours per week in line with the London Living Wage, they’re expected to earn £1,688 monthly which is pre-tax income. However, with tax and National Insurance contributions this leaves the employee with around £1,400 without the option of paying into a pension. If an employee received only The National Minimum Wage but worked the same amount of hours with the addition that they’re aged over 25 they would earn £1,313.60 which is pre-tax income. With tax and National Insurance contributions this leaves the employee with around £1200 without the option of paying into a pension. A mere £2.34 seems to make a lot of difference in this situation as it can result in the employee taking home an additional £200 per month after deductions. Once again in layman’s terms, the more you earn the more you will be subject to tax and financial deductions.
Luckily, for those who are aged 25 and under, The London Living Wage can lead to a substantial rise in payment and from there living conditions. If someone, who was aged 18 to 20 earned £10.55 compared to a mere £6.15 (in line with the National Minimum Wage) this would mean an improvable wage with an extra £4.40 per hour. If we used the same example with an employee working 40 hours a week, this would lead to an extra £704 per month if paid The London Living Wage. Overall, I think we can all agree that The London Living Wage is a step in the right direction for those who are living and working in London who find the prices and costs of living here unfavourable.
Tips and tricks for what to do in London as well as travelling around it.