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“Please help me persuade Crosscountry to change the interior smell of Voyager trains” – David Stewart David


David Stewart David

It has been unpleasant (unhealthy?) since Voyagers were new, when I did complain to Virgin X Country because I thought the carpets had been flooded with effluent, but I'm told the trains are meant to smell this way. It surely would be cheap to correct this particular problem - and then maybe start on seat reservation signs, lack of legroom and window seats that don't have a window - but I realise that these are more difficult deficiencies. How bizarre that 21st century trains should be so much more uncomfortable than those of 50 years ago.

Problem History

  • 1 David Stewart David reported the issue on FixMyTransport. close 21:36 31 Aug 2011
  • 2 David Stewart David wrote to Crosscountry close 21:36 31 Aug 2011

    Here is the letter that David Stewart David wrote.

    Voyager Trains

    Voyager trains are unsatisfactory in many ways, but one problem could be cured. When you board the train, or stand near the toilet, there is an overwhelming stink like a back alley on a Friday night. I am told that this is the smell of disinfectant. If so could the smell be changed to something neutral?

  • 3 Customer Relations responded to David Stewart David close 21:45 31 Aug 2011

    Thank you for your email.  We will reply again soon with a
    unique reference number.  We aim to respond in full with 10
    working days.  If your email is urgent then please call us on
    08447 369 123. 

    Frequently Asked Questions: 

    Where can I get a cheaper train ticket?

    [1] has many tips, tricks and tools
    to help you find the best deal.  We offer the same tickets as
    other ticket websites, such as, for all
    journeys in Great Britain.  We also offer free methods of
    delivery (e-ticket or self service collection if e-ticket is not
    available) and we donÂ*t charge a booking fee. 

    How do I apply for a refund?

    If you havenÂ*t used your ticket and you booked it online with just log onto My CrossCountry or a
    create an account using the same email address you entered when
    you booked your ticket.  From here, go to your booking history
    and select refund.  Remember, all Advance tickets are
    non-refundable.  Alternatively call us on 0844 811 0124 and say
    Â*existing bookingÂ*. 

    How do I change my ticket?

    You can change the date and time of your journey by paying the
    difference between yours and the next available fare by calling
    us on 0844 811 0124.  When you call just say Â*existing
    bookingÂ*.  We will charge a £10 administration fee for this
    service which we will deduct from the cost of the ticket you
    currently hold. 

    My train was late or cancelled Â* can I claim compensation?

    Yes, if CrossCountry caused a delay to your journey because your
    train was late or cancelled you can make a claim for
    compensation under our Delay Repay scheme.  Simply forward your
    original email to us with scanned copies of your tickets
    including your journey details and your full postal address. 
    For more information about delay repay click here:


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  • 4 Katrina Navickas commented close 22:05 31 Aug 2011

    All Voyagers smell of the toilets, no matter what route. I presume it's something to do with the air-con.

  • 5 CrossCountry Customer Relations responded to David Stewart David close 10:15 05 Sep 2011
    Dear FixMyTransport 

    Thank you for your email.  

    We welcome comments from our customers and ask that Mr
    Stewart contact us directly on the phone number or email
    address below where our experienced customer relations team are
    able respond to the issues raised.  

    Kind regards 


    5^th Floor, Cannon House 

    18 The Priory Queensway 


    B4 6BS 

    Email: [1][Crosscountry problem reporting email] 

    Phone: 08447 369 123 

    Fax: 0121 200 6005 

    show quoted sections
  • 6 Myf Nixon commented close 16:06 06 Sep 2011

    Please do keep us updated as to how this conversation progresses, even if you take it offline as Crosscountry request.

  • 7 Aidan R commented close 20:14 18 Sep 2011

    I'm a regular train user but occasional on this train type.
    Every time I see my journey involves a Cross Country Train, my heart sinks.
    This is because the trains always smell bad. So bad it's unpleasant to breathe.

    I am not talking about one journey I had, this is every CC train I've ever been on.

    I am ignorant of the 'intended smell' policy because I'm a newcomer to the stink but as a passing-trade passenger I just assumed it is because they are carpeted and the carpets are not cleaned properly. Some awful scented product must be squirted on them to kill germs and the effect is like posies on corpses.

    I have developed a method to survive the nasty-aired journeys. I cannot afford a first-class ticket but if there is a first class carriage I spend the whole journey just outside first class, where the carpets seem to be less soiled.

  • 8 David Stewart David commented close 16:35 26 Jan 2012

    This problem seemed trivial but easily solved, so I mentioned it to a manager with X Country trains, whose attitude was "we inherited Voyagers". I gave up because I can usually avoid Voyagers because my most common journey is Newcastle to York and back, and I can use TPE or East Coast trains. I put the smell of Voyagers in the public domain in the hope that it might cause shame.

  • 9 David Stewart David added an update close 16:38 26 Jan 2012

    Arriva know that many people dislike the smell, but since it is supposedly "healthy" it is unlikely that they will do anything about it.

  • 10 Karen Williams Pearson commented close 09:32 14 Jul 2012

    How can this be acceptable? It smells of sewers. I feel like I am on one of those rides where you experience the actual smells of the Victorian era every time I board. What disinfectant in hell are they using???

  • 11 Lee Osborne commented close 23:26 20 Jul 2012

    It's actually a major design flaw on these trains that is very hard to fix. Basically the toilet effluent tanks are heated by hot exhaust pipes running past them. Hot gases then escape from the tanks and get sucked into the aircon system - so it's the fumes of hot raw sewage. It's impossible to do anything without drastic rebuilds. :(

  • 12 Dave H commented close 23:51 20 Jul 2012

    Several issues about 'toilet' end of these vehicles.

    1) the exhaust pipe is taken up through the body (inside) behind the panels in the corridor past the toilet (or immediately behind the seats in the former catering vehicle) this creates an uncomfortably hot area, especially under certain climatic conditions, and the vehicle air conditionsing reacts by going in to extreme chill mode, making the opposite end of the vehicle positively arctic whilst those by the 'toilet' are toasted. This 'hot' zone enhances the fugginess and potential to smell a bit.

    2) the zenith of UK railway coaches, the Mk 2f and Mk 3 have air conditioning with subtle design detailing that works to keep the smell of the toilets out of the saloon. The grilles in the sliding door and then in the bottom of the toilet door provide the route for the air under a slightly positive pressure to leack through and out of the grille at the top of the toilet window. In this way about 10% of the air circulating in the air conditioning is being replaced on every cycle, BUT more important, the flow of air out of the coach is taken out through the toilet and the flow of air (and smells) goes out through the toilet and there is no flow back in to the coach. In the Pendolinio there seems to be a positive feed in to the toilet from the a/c system pushing air from the toilet in to the corridor, and then the saloon, the Voyager is a similar design.

    3) the toilet waste is carried around in a tank under the carriage. This tank needs to be vented as it fills up, and the vent needs to be somewhere. there is a suggestion that the replenishment air for the a/c system may be drawn in close to the tank vent. HST's had a similar problem with smelly brakes and this was solved by having a flap which shut when the brakes were applied to stop the a/c drawing in the smells.

    4) on a Voyager train the rentention tanks might be carrying a further 1-2 tons of smelly toilet waste, between overnight emptying. There is an alternative option, used by the military and on building sites (both fairly harsh environments) where the waste is fed in to a very high temperature furnace and vapourised (toilet waste is basically a collection of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen compounds with vapourise in to gases commonly found in the atmosphere). This system would remove the smell, and reduce the weight being carried around as well as eliminating additional mileage to the costly toilet emptying facilities. But this is rather too innovative for the rail industry and as yet no one has even run a trial on a passenger train.

  • 13 Lorraine Roberts commented close 13:23 28 Sep 2012

    I am sick to death of putting up with stench of sewerage on these trains. Their engineering issues should a customer's concern . How do we make it any clearer that this appalling services needs to be rectified.

    My heart too sinks when I have to board a Cross Country train.

  • 14 Richard Tucker commented close 23:07 04 Mar 2013

    Like many, I have to endure an acrid sewage smell on the Cross Country Southampton Central train every morning on my commute to work. I wondered whether it was worth speaking to the environmental health (or the equivalent public health people) as it can't be healthy to inhale that smell, and by extension particles of human excrement, into your body.

  • 15 Ian Hannaway commented close 16:34 21 May 2013

    After my third time on the Cross Country service from Newcastle to Glasgow, I just had to google the stink and hey presto I found this thread. I just cannot understand how this is viewed by X Country as acceptable and allowed to continue? It makes me retch and by the time I reach my destination I feel as if the smell has impregnated my clothing and skin, it's disgusting. The first class service on this carrier is woeful. Meals microwaved and served in cardboard boxes, eaten whilst inhaling the miasma of sewerage vapours is not my idea of enjoyable travel.
    Next time I have to take public transport on this journey, if it's still X Country, I'm thinking on upgrading to Megabus.

  • 16 Sarah Beesley commented close 19:57 08 Oct 2013

    I'm having to commute Southampton to Reading for the next 3 months, and Cross Country is the "best" service on offer. Once an hour I can have a train that takes me to my destination within (a theoritical) 45'. In the morning, it seems to be on time.
    What is it with The Stench. It is absolutely vile. Short of shampooing all the seats and carpets and flushing the air-con, I'm not sure what can be done. The afternoon trains do not seem as reliable as the morning's.
    Fortunately the staff is pleasant, and admirable for working in such cramped and smelly conditions. Surely that can't be healthy, can it?

  • 17 Roland Karlman commented close 12:08 04 Mar 2014

    I travel regularly between Reading and Oxford but have learnt to avoid the Cross-Country service because of the acrid stench. I wait an extra 15 minutes for another service in order to travel without the smell.

  • 18 Michael Finch commented close 19:02 25 May 2015

    Living in Telford Shropshire, if I use a train it will normally be a class 158 provided by Arriva trains Wales, or a class 170 provided by London Midland, both of which as far as I am concerned, are quite adequate and comfortable types of diesel multiple units. However last week, I had to travel back from Birmingham on one of these Voyagers, and quite frankly it was vile, cramped seating, noisy, and lumpy riding, and generally not a very nice place to be. This worries me somewhat, as I assume these are used by Virgin for longer journeys, well I can tell you, I was glad to get off the heap at Telford and certainly would not want to journey far on one.

  • started 31 August 2011
  • supporters 13
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