FIRST class journeys on the East Coast Main Line have surged since the introduction of a complimentary food and drink service and new timetable, the state-owned operator has claimed.
East Coast, which operates trains between London and Leeds, is reporting a 21 per cent increase following the change last May.
Managing director Karen Boswell said more people were travelling first class than for any time in the last five years.
“Not only are many people voting with their feet and trying us out, but that they are coming back for more,” she added.
“Following this good start, we’ll continue to work hard to improve the consistency of our customer service – and welcome more people on-board in first class.”
The company came under fire when it announced plans to scrap its restaurant car service, the oldest in the UK.
Halifax Labour MP Linda Riordan accused operators of putting “profit before passenger comfort” by removing a service which was available to passengers in both standard and first class, and said it would hamper the “passenger experience” on long distance journeys”.
But on-board catering operations were losing £25m a year, forcing railway bosses to act.
They introduced a complimentary food and drink service, including hot meals on weekday morning and evening trains, and a timetable with an extra 117 services every week.
East Coast recorded 1.468m first class journeys between May 22 and February 4, up from 1.215m the same period the previous year.
The firm said it had the most first class journeys since 1995 in the 28 days between January 8 and February 4.
A spokesman told the Yorkshire Post: “Business travellers on the key battleground route with the airlines ditched the plane for the train thanks to East Coast’s key advantages – city centre to centre travel, complimentary wi-fi and the new complimentary food and drinks service.”