A new first class service has been launched for one of Cumbria’s rail operators.

TransPennine Express, which operates trains from Glasgow/Edinburgh to Manchester, now has a premium passenger option, providing quality food and drink and more comfortable seats, with a guaranteed table, window, UK plug socket, and USB port.

The menu was planned so that it had elements of each station it stops at or their region, and hence has an Anglo-Scottish theme – with Edinburgh Gin, Irn Bru, Scottish breakfasts, and Tunnocks caramel wafers as standard, with Carlisle’s contribution coming from Pie Demand, as its signature sausage roll is regularly stocked.

News and Star: Vegan sausage roll sample by Pie DemandVegan sausage roll sample by Pie Demand (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

The food options are diverse so there’s something that should please everyone, and it’s served in sustainable bamboo bowls with wooden cutlery, with hot drinks served in plastic-free cups.

There’s always been a first-class offering, but not to this scale, as Kathryn O’Brien, customer experience and transformation director at TransPennine Express, explained this new one is ‘very enhanced’

She added that in the past, there’s been one first-class host to every train, having to balance serving customers with an at-seat service throughout the rest of the train.

“What this has allowed us to do is create 30 additional jobs.

“We have a dedicated host now. In first class, which is alongside an additional host to serve the rest of the train.

“It's been a basic offering up until now- this is a step change in the first-class experience for our customers.

News and Star: Tea with caramel waferTea with caramel wafer (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

“It's very important that if you’re travelling on a premium service you get that premium experience,” she said.

The locally-sourced menu was carefully thought our, she said, adding that for Pie Demand, TPE is now roughly 20 per cent of its custom.

Even the simple dishes like Mac and Cheese have local links, with the smoked cheddar coming from Belhaven Smokehouse in Dunbar.

On crafting the menu, Ms O’Brien said: “We work alongside Rail Gourmet, our partner for many years, and they've helped us develop the menu.

“They have a huge site near Heathrow Airport where they have lots of who try different combinations, and create meal planners.

“We've been working with them very closely to come up with this menu.”

She added: “We believe we're the first business to serve a Sunday lunch on board, obviously just on the weekend.

“But again, a very visual treat for customers travelling on the weekend.”

The food is made off-site and chilled before it’s brought to the trains and microwaved, but is served piping hot and tastes freshly-made.

I had the ratatouille chilli with basmati rice, and tried the cauliflower curry, which were both very pleasant.

News and Star: Ratatouille chilli with basmati riceRatatouille chilli with basmati rice (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

News and Star: Cauliflower and butternut squash curry with basmati riceCauliflower and butternut squash curry with basmati rice (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

Their sausage roll offerings provided a gourmet treat, and a ticket of course provides you with free drinks, coffee and tea to pops, and gin, wine, or beer, all sourced from smaller businesses from the line’s station areas.

There’s a beef stew option which was presented well, and the mac and cheese which I was told frequently was to die for.

News and Star: Beef stewBeef stew (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

News and Star: Mac and cheeseMac and cheese (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

I didn’t get a chance to try the breakfast, but I was also told that you’d never know it had been in a microwave, and the Lorne sausage is particularly delicious.

The menu changes the week after, and then back again, as there are a lot of business commuters who are travelling once a week and thus aims to provide variety.

The seats were very comfortable and it was reassuring to have a guaranteed plug to charge things and a table.

News and Star: First class cabinFirst class cabin (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

While working on the train, the wifi didn’t die and was quick enough for what I needed, and easy to sign into.

Prices for the upgraded service vary depending on which service you’re booking and when you book, but can be bought directly from the TransPennine Express website, its app, ticket offices, TrainLine, or by purchasing an upgrade of your standard-class ticket via the Seatfrog app.