Though not an exhaustive list of all the train companies operating in the U.K. and Éire, it hopefully sends you in the direction of more information on the services that are being operated. It goes without saying that more should get added as time goes on.
For many years, Wales wasn’t even considered as a single railway “region” but the establishment of Arriva’s all Wales rail franchise changed that. Given that their services run into and skirt several national parks and other areas of outstanding beauty, the website is definitely worth a call. They also connect Wales with the likes of Birmingham and Manchester, the latter of which brings them through Cheshire.
They may not be operating in my usual stomping ground but this is the only train company in England with a twenty year franchise deal. Is that why they have been investing so much in the infrastructure that they use? As if rebuilding Birmingham’s Moor Street station wasn’t enough, they also are looking to open up a new route between Oxford and London, adding a few miles of new track to help them get onto their usual line near Bicester. Alongside all of this, the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary, runs services from London Marylebone to places as far afield as High Wycombe, Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon and Aylesbury with less frequent services to the likes of Kidderminster, Oxford and London Paddington.
Following Virgin’s loss of the CrossCountry franchise, it is now in the hands of Arriva and developments such as the removal of buffet facilities and fare increases have in for criticism from the likes of Barry Doe. Even without west coast mainline Anglo-Scottish services, their franchise area is probably the biggest of the operating companies with places like Cardiff, Aberdeen and Plymouth falling within their sway. Quite how the new catering arrangements play is unknown to me but I do get to wonder what those who expressed a preference for at seat catering make of the new arrangements.
There seems to be the sort of developing trend with East Coast Mainline franchises that leads one towards a certain quip attributed to Oscar Wilde (losing one parent is unfortunate but two seems careless). Both GNER and National Express East Coast came to a bad end due to paying too high a premium to H.M. Government and financial difficulties arising when passenger patronage growth did not meet expectations. Parent company problems such as the latter overextending itself with debt when money was being shovelled at all and sundry haven’t helped either. Now, a government company is running things until the next bout of franchise letting. It’s a sorry state of affairs for such a premium offering to be placed in the same rogues gallery as Connex’s franchises but that’s how it is. Let’s hope that DfT learns its lessons for next time but predicted change of government in between time might make things interesting. Nevertheless, the changeover to state control seems to have been a smooth one attended with the usual calls for full nationalisation from the RMT’s Bob Crow. Here’s hoping that passengers for destinations such as Leeds, York, Durham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness see stability rather than continual upheaval.
Along with services between London St. Pancras and destinations such as Sheffield, Chesterfield, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester and Loughborough among other paces, local services in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. Another offering is the Norwich-Liverpool service and places in Cheshire such as Alsager and Crewe fall within their sway too. I have always wondered if weekday peak time travel to London might be cheaper if I went via Derby and I do admit to going that way on a journey to London to visit friends when railway engineering works were causing disruption. The journey does take longer but avoiding extortionate fares would make it worthwhile.
With the construction of the Channel Tunnel, Britain joined the international rail travel league with speedy journeys to the likes of Paris and Brussels on offer. Being part of Railteam, high-speed train to destinations not served by Eurostar themselves is a possibility. The addition of High Speed 1 between Dover and London St. Pancras added even more speed though it meant deserting Waterloo. One benefit of the move is that trans-European train travel now becomes more accessible from more northerly starting points in Britain and plans are in preparation for High Speed 2. That holds the tantalising prospect of high-speed train travel reaching Scotland but it is looking more likely that it will extend only as far as Leeds or Manchester at this time, especially with the budgetary constraints being placed on public sector spending in the coming years.
Not an operator that I have had cause to use given where I live and work, I’ll admit readily but a recent business trip to Hitchin changed that. Though trains were well full when I was using them, I was still able to find a seat for the short journey that I needed to make from and to London King’s Cross train station. The franchise (who dreamt up that silly name?) is made from of the earlier Thameslink and West Anglia Great Northern one and came in for quite a bit of stick because its service level deteriorated. Nevertheless, you do have to wonder how their trains cope with heavy use like they to do and it looks as if that only can get heavier with the constraints that now exist with the public finances.
A few years back, this lot got loads of bad press and suffered the moniker “Worst Late Western” and passenger fare strikes. They seem to have put that behind them though on the one and only time that I used them, the train was late and a taxi was needed to get me to my final destination; in fairness, FGW did pay for this and it saved me from an hour’s wait. Running express services from London Paddington to Hereford, south Wales and the West Country (Somerset, Devon, Cornwall) is a big part of what they do but local services in Gloucestershire and the West Country fall under their sway too as do commuter services to Oxfordshire. Running such a varied franchise may well have been their undoing but the conditions under which it was let cannot have helped either.
Now part of First Group, there have been a number of complaints about the performance of this once steallar open access train company. In recent months, there has been a change of management so it’ll be interesting to hear if things are on the way up. The website has a very upbeat feel to it so I hope that the onboard service is in line with it.
This state-owned concern runs all of the Éire’s train services, with the possible exception of some services between Dublin and Belfast, as well as maintaining stations and railway track. In comparison with Britain, the network doesn’t look anywhere near as extensive, even on a pro rata basis, but it has to be said that it is run well and achieves what it sets out to do. Saying that, you end up with odd routes on some journeys with a trip from Cork to Galway taking you towards Dublin, particularly when you take into account the recent reduction in the number of stops on a typical Cork to Dublin service; there was a time when such trains stopped at nearly every station on the way.
In some respects, the naming of this company is an odd one but it echoes the former London Midland Scottish railway company for many years ago. The franchise involves operating local services around Birmingham and the West Midlands along with longer distance services extending to London and Liverpool. The latter means that it serves stations in Cheshire such as Winsford and Hartford.
Northern Ireland’s railways may not be that extensive in size and they should be invaluable nonetheless. Along with services within the province, they also work the cross-border Belfast-Dublin Enterprise service with Irish Rail, their counterpart in the south.
If you’re travelling on a local train service in the north of England, chances are that it’ll be operating by this award-winning lot. Not only do they serve cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle among others but their reach extends into the rural parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumberland, (County) Durham and Cheshire too.
Transport Scotland may be calling the shots these days and new train liveries are only part of this but First Group continues to operate the franchise for most of Scotland’s rail services, including overnight sleeper services between the likes of Fort William, Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. Timetable information and ticket sales all very much feature on the website as you would expect.
The re-letting of the CrossCountry was used by the Department for Transport’s Rail Group as an opportunity to reshape the Anglo-Scottish express train landscape. Part of this was a split between east and west but Manchester services were taken out of the new franchise too. Whatever was the reasoning for this, Transpennine Express are the people who run these trains and I did question the wisdom of using three carriage diesels on the route, even if two are joined together at times. Recently, I found that I wasn’t on the wrong track with this thinking when I encountered severe overcrowding while travelling to and from Edinburgh. Is this sort of thing safe?
The company connects Glasgow with London via the West Coast mainline as well as running services between Birmingham and both Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is also the odd London-Edinburgh and Glasgow-Manchester service as well as all of this. Ever the ambitious, they executed yet another of their timetable revolutions last December, once the West Coast mainline upgrade was said to have been completed though you’d do well to find anyone who places a great deal of credence on that assertion now.