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Trains in the United Kingdom

Pauline Kenny

The train system in the United Kingdom was privatized during the 1980s. Before that it was government owned and run as in most other European countries. Now several private companies run trains, but the government maintains the track and stations.

Train travel in England can seem expensive, but when you consider the price of driving (gas prices are almost four times the price in the US), it is worth it, but take the prices into consideration when planning your trip. There are a variety of ticket prices going from a standard changeable, refundable ticket, to an inexpensive "cheap day return".

For example, for a train from Stroud in the Cotswolds to London Paddington in April 2006, prices ranged from £58.10 ($101) for a Standard Open Return (buy on day of travel or in advance, can be refunded with £10 fee, no day or time restrictions) to £18.50 ($32) for a Super Advance Return (must be booked by 6pm the day before, cancellation fees, limited availability). Stroud to Paddington - journey time of 1.34hr.

Small station at Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire

Small station at Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire

Buying Tickets

Buy your ticket at the train station on the day of travel or purchase ahead of time online or at the station. Cheap day return tickets can be purchased on the day of travel, but for longer trips you will probably get better prices buying ahead of time.

Tickets

When purchasing tickets at the station, you are given one ticket for the outgoing ride and another for the ride back. Be sure to check that you have the right number of tickets. You may have to show your ticket at a gate to the train platform. Your ticket is checked by the conductor on the train (the ticket below has been punched by the conductor).

Ticket from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath Spa

Cheap Day Return train ticket from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath Spa (2004)

Buying Tickets Online

www.thetrainline.com: The Train Line, buy tickets and view schedules online.

www.nationalrail.co.uk: The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) represents and supports Britain's passenger railway. Britain does not have a national railway, but has several private companies running trains. This site lets you look up schedules for all passenger trains and purchase tickets.

See our other web resources below.

At the Station

When you are at the station, check the Arrivals/Departures board to find the track for your train. In small stations, like Bath Spa pictured below, it is a printed schedule posted beside the track and there are only two tracks (one for each direction). Some stations have many trains going through them so watch carefully for the signs on the train to figure out which train is yours.

Small town stations, like the one in Bradford-on-Avon pictured at the top of this page are simple stations with a ticket window, indoor waiting area and two tracks, one for each direction. Remember, as with cars, trains drive on the left! Most stations will have a pedestrian bridge to take you from one track to the other. Check the Departures board to see what track your train will be on (to be sure you are waiting on the right side of the tracks).

Departure schedule at the Bath Spa train station

Departure schedule at the Bath Spa train station

Note: This page has very basic train information for England. I will be adding more to it in the next few months.

Resources

www.thetrainline.com: The Train Line, buy tickets and view schedules online.

www.nationalrail.co.uk: The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) represents and supports Britain's passenger railway. Britain does not have a national railway, but has several private companies running trains. This site lets you look up schedules for all passenger trains and purchase tickets.

www.nationalrail.co.uk/ldb/: Live departure and arrival board - so you can check current train information.

www.transportdirect.com: Transport Direct compares public transportation to driving, view schedules and ticket prices. This site directs you to other sites, including The Train Line and the train websites, for purchasing tickets. The website is funded by the government.

www.infotransport.co.uk: Information about all types of transportation in the United Kingdom.

www.seat61.com/UKtravel.htm: Seat 61, everything you want to know about train travel in Britain.

See our page on the Gatwick Express.

www.nationalexpress.com: The National Express, buses (coaches) in the United Kingdom.

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