All means of transport have their pros and cons. Trains are a great for getting from A to B. They are a great combination of speed, price range and comfort since buses are usually cheaper and planes are faster. The United Kingdom has a great network of rails. However, as you can see here we discover first disadvantage of train as a mean of transport – it can only go where the actual rail lies. Although it more or less cover the major cities not some still remain unreachable by train. However, this by no way restricts you from travelling by train. Whenever I can I choose the train – sometimes it is even a better choice than a plane since it is much less of all that hassle. Anyways let’s not beat around a bush – here is what you need to know about the trains in the UK.
Major rail companies operating in the UK
- East Coast
- National Express
- East Midlands
- London Midland
- Ariva Trains Wales
- Others (all other smaller locally operating companies)
If you want to check out the most up to date rail network map with operators and stations, visit National Rail website
Where and how to buy the tickets?
There are lots of different websites which sell train tickets. You can obviously visit each provider but these are the most popular websites to buy your tickets:
- National Rail
- East Coast website *IAMintheUK recommended (selling all the tickets at cheapest prices)
- Virgin Trains
- National Express
I suggest before you buy any ticket you check the prices agains all of these websites and then choose the cheapest one. The difference may not be huge but you might save up to couple of £££. To buy your ticket you need to choose the train station you will be leaving from and the destination. Some bigger cities such as London, Birmingham, Glasgow or Edinburgh may have more than one train station so check out Google maps to see which one is the most convenient for you.
You can also purchase the tickets in train stations and trains, however, the cheapest fares are online. If you buy your ticket online you can either print it yourself or go to the train station and use the machine similar to the cash point to obtain your ticket. However, you need to remember if you plan on collecting your ticket from the train station just before the departure, you need to have the same credit card you have used to buy your tickets and the confirmation code you would have received in form of an email after your purchase. If your friend or your parent bought you a ticket you better print the ticket yourself from the website otherwise you need their credit card!
- Check out all of those websites to obtain the cheapest ticket
- Railcard Discount Card which gives you 1/3 off of almost any train fare
- Train tickets are usually cheapest exactly one calendar month before the day of departure
- Some providers such as East Coast do bulk discounts if you travel in group of 3-4 people or more. Check out their websites and use the search
Other tips for travelling by train
- Numbering. The coaches are numbered in letters (A, B, C, D…), seats are numbered by digits and letter (94A, 95B). 94A & 95A are next to each other – letter A only indicates the side of the coach.
- Quiet coaches are literally quiet. You are not supposed to chat with your friend or use your phone in them. However, they are great for reading a book or listening to your mp3.
- Food. The majority of trains have restaurants and trolleys which sell food and drinks. They are obviously overpriced so I suggest getting something from the train station. Use your BiTE Discount Card for the purpose.
- Luggage and storage. Trains do not have a lot of storage. You can put small pieces of luggage above your head but your suitcase would go either to the front or the back of the coach. The storage is limited and this is a reason why trains are not always the best option. If you are travelling on the peak time, you may need to leave your suitcase in another coach. I personally never had to do this but watch out.