All aboard for London rail link - VIDEO

I've travelled to London by rail lots of times – but never directly from my home city...

But now – for the first time since the early 80s – travellers, tourists and business people will be able to travel from Sunderland to the capital without having to change trains.

The service is due to start in the next few weeks, but we were invited on board one of the test trains which are travelling the East Coast mainline ahead of the service's launch.

We stepped on at Sunderland Central Station at 6.46am and arrived three-and-three-quarter hours later at London Kings Cross, stopping at Hartlepool, Eaglescliffe, Northallerton, Thirsk and York.

In between, we were treated to a retro train experience, priced at 69 standard return or 138 for First Class, where passenger comfort is key.

Marilyn Monroe beams down on passengers in a black and white picture that shows her sitting beneath a sign for the original Grand Central –- the station in New York.

Her iconic image looms large in all five passenger carriages of this Intercity 125 as a reminder that this is no ordinary train service.

For starters, staff line up outside the train at each station to greet you and assist any passengers who need help finding their seats.

On board, each table is fitted with Cluedo, chess or Monopoly boards to keep passengers entertained. Pieces can be purchased from the buffet or brought from home.

You can even stretch your legs as the standard carriage is fitted with 64 seats instead of the usual 84.

The position of the seats also means that every passenger is guaranteed a window view as the high-speed train whizzes at 125mph through the English countryside.

At the front of the train, which is equipped with WiFi, First Class has even more to offer with wider, reclining seats and adjacent power points for phones, personal entertainment or laptops.

The retro railway experience continues in the restaurant and buffet facilities. Named Route 26, after the road that runs through Monroe County, the restaurant will have four different menus a month, offering anything from 8oz prime rump steak to Highland lentil soup or chocolate and Jaffa orange pudding.

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I boarded the train – but it turns out that Grand Central are on the right track.