Guide to Train Travel in Britain
by Ben Johnson
It is perhaps unsurprising that Britain, the country that invented the train, is criss-crossed by a massive rail network! Most major towns and cities have their own train stations, with some villages and rural areas also having their own stop.
As a general rule of thumb, most train lines head to London, although Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh are also considered major termini.
Before 1997 all train services in the UK were operated by the publicly owned British Rail, although today all rail services are privatised. This means that there are now 23 different franchised passenger services, making the process of buying train tickets slightly more difficult that we would like!
That being said, over the past few years a lot of work has gone into making the ticketing system more straight forward, with the most popular tickets being:
Advance – Usually sold more than 7 days in advance of the departure date, sold in limited numbers and usually only valid on a specified train and at a specified time.
Off-Peak – Much more flexible than the Advanced fare, usually with a return date that can be used within one month from the initial date of outbound travel. However, off-peak times can be slightly confusing and sometimes vary between train companies, so be sure to check before travelling!
Anytime – Like the off-peak tickets but can be used at any time of the day or night.
It is also worth noting that some of the tickets have additional restrictions on them. For example, many of the cheaper fares for travelling from London to Birmingham are restricted to only London Midland trains which tend to run slightly slower than their Virgin Train competitors. If you attempt to board a Virgin Train with a London Midland-restricted ticket then be prepared for a fine!
Please click here for a map of ALL the railway stations in the country.
Book train tickets now!
As we mentioned above, booking train tickets in advance is often the cheapest way to travel. For the biggest savings, try to book at least one month before the date of departure.