From Gothenburg, I had to make my way to Stockholm, where I would depart Europe for my return journey back to Singapore. There are domestic flights between the 2 largest cities in Sweden but as a fan of railway journeys, I decided on taking the train since I was staying close to the railway station in Gothenburg. There are several train companies including SJ which is Sweden’s national railway company and MTR Express (a unit of Hong Kong’s railway company) selling train tickets for travel between Stockholm and Gothenburg. Fares have a wide range, and can cost between 200-1000 SKr depending on the time of departure. While there are regular departures throughout the day, the duration of travel varies and can take between 3 hours for the most direct high speed train to more than 6 hours in the case for a normal train.
Since I was spending the day in Gothenburg, I opted for the latest departure time which is around 8:19pm, putting me into Stockholm just slightly before midnight at 11:45pm. This is the last departure of the day and it costs me just 295 SKr for a First Class ticket, which is near the cost of the cheapest Standard Class fare. Since it was a slight premium, I picked this fare to experience more comfort for the 3 hour journey.
SJ Lounge in Gothenburg Central Station
Passengers travelling on the First Class ticket gets to enjoy the use of the SJ lounges that are operational in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. However, these lounges have opening and closing times. For the Gothenburg SJ lounge, the opening hours are from 5:45am to 7:30pm meaning it would close before the last train is due to depart. On Saturdays, the lounge is closed while on Sundays, it is open only from 12 noon to 7pm.
The SJ lounge is located inside the Gothenburg Central Station and it is easy to find. Once inside, there is a reception desk on the right of the door where staff would check your ticket. Beside the reception desk is the buffet corner where there are also newspapers and magazines for guests to read.
In the main buffet area, there was 2 kinds of pre-mixed salad and pasta that was served for dinner when I visited. A sliced wrap was also served along with a plate filled with fresh fruits.
Other than the food, guests could make their own cappuccino or latte from the touch-screen espresso machine or brew their own tea. By the shelving cabinet, there was a juice dispenser with a touch-screen control and various condiments along with packets of instant hot chocolate.
Next to the buffet area was a row of dining tables with bar tables set up by the windows for single guests. There was a set of lounge chairs in the corner for guests who just want to sit down and read a book.
Past the main lounge area, there is another room that contains more sofas for larger groups to sit down and socialize. This space has dimmer lighting and more comfortable high-backed armchairs which makes it great for just relaxing before your train journey.
During my visit before my train ride, the lounge was quite crowded but cleared up quickly as there was an earlier departure. Since the lounge closes before the last departure, it became quite empty after the 2nd last departure. Thus for the remainder of the time, guests are expected to wait at the benches located in the Central Station arcade. There are several shops and restaurants in the station for passengers that do not have access to the lounge.
First Class Rail Journey
With no more lounge before the boarding I made my way to the platform and based on the train configuration, First Class was located up front. Surprisingly enough, I saw the MTR Express operated train just beside the SJ carriage that would bring me to Stockholm.
Boarding the train was not possible earlier on due to the carriage being cleaned and it was only about 10 minutes before the scheduled departure that we were able to come onboard.
In the First Class carriage, the seats are in a 1-2 configuration with some of the seats facing each other. So couples could get seats facing each other or be seated side by side while work colleagues on a work trip could be seated in groups of 4. A magazine net was placed at the lower part of the seat back with a small cupholder on the side. At the upper part of the seat back was the wooden tray that could be pulled down.
These seats onboard the First Class carriage has decent legroom that is more or less similar to the domestic First Class in North American airliners or Regional Business Class in Asia. When compared flying within Europe, the legroom was definitely better than Business Class.
The first hour of the ride was still under the setting sun since it was in the summer and even at 9pm, the light was still bright enough. That allowed me to enjoy the views of rural Sweden with quaint lakeside chalets in the outskirts of Gothenburg to farmsteads further along the route.
Travellers riding on the SJ train would also be glad to know that there is complimentary wifi inside the train and I was able to use it with not much issues and it works alright even for video streaming as a speedtest yielded download speeds of up to 14.1Mbps and upload speeds of 18Mbps. About 40 minutes or so after departing Gothenburg, a staff member will pass by the First Class carriage to offer snacks and refreshments to passengers on a First Class ticket. The snack was a packet of brownies and an apple or orange. There was coffee, tea or water available as beverage. Once the staff has finished the service, he will leave some snacks and refreshments at the back for passengers in case they wanted additional helpings.
Inside the cabin, the light load made for a very quiet ambience and there are lavatories at the end of the carriage by the luggage compartments for passengers who need to relieve themselves. The lavatory space is clean and functional while the steady train ride meant it was no problem getting to and from the lavatory, even though the space is constrained like in an airplane.
Limited stops during the last train ride of the day meant it was an uneventful ride for most of the journey. Around the halfway point of the journey, the sun began to set across the horizon though the bluish light continued to illuminate much of the sky, making for a nice sight as we passed through the suburb of Södertälje.
Just a few minutes before midnight, I arrived at the Stockholm Central Station to a more or less deserted station. As I made my way out to the city, there was a couple of taxis located across the street which brought me to my lodging in the city. As a few final words, I arrived in Stockholm well rested on the fast train ride and the late sun set made this train journey much more pleasant, though the experience might differ somewhat in the winter with the colder weather and limited sunlight. On rides where the cost is not that much more, the First Class service certainly made the ride more enjoyable whether you are travelling alone or as a couple. The additional amenities made it more worthwhile to pay extra to be seated in First Class compared to other similar premium rail journeys in Europe.