There was a time when journey planning meant sitting down with a load of timetables or going making enquiries at a bus or train station but the web has changed all of that. Even so, paper and electronic timetable perusal have not been dispatched to history just yet and telephone based enquiry services look set to continue with information delivery by text messaging become part of the scene. Sticking with the web though, here are some places to visit while trying fathom the logistics of getting somewhere without resorting to private means.
Quick access to variety of journey planners, from the local to the national: very useful for planning journeys that require both rail and bus travel. They also operate a national 7 days a week telephone enquiry service between 08:00 and 20:00. Even with all the alternatives, I continue to think that it’s the best place to look for any journey in the U.K.
This site, maintained by ATOC, the Association of Train Operating Companies, is the official place to look when it comes to planning your rail journeys. Timetable information, train running times and lists of service disruptions distinguish this web offering. Other more mundane stuff like ticketing policies, contact details for train operating companies are also featured. A more notable facility is the ability to buy train tickets online.
Quite amazingly, anyone with web development expertise can access Network Rail’s datafeeds to craft their own rail journey planner and these do something that is a little different from anything else on offer. The first two will list all the train times from a given station on a given day while the last one provides easier access to fare information than you get elsewhere. Admittedly, they may be for the more experienced traveller but anyone can learn and these do help.
Formerly two separate companies but now two parts of the same empire, but former differences were a big help when booking journeys (the old QJump algorithm was the better, methinks, even if non-available ticket choices got shown to catch out the unwary).
Nowadays, I use neither service because trains companies sell tickets in the same way and collecting at the nearest station feels more instantaneous. Also, Trainline got some stick from Webuser magazine for its booking fees and they once ran an advertising campaign that insulted anyone with a preference for buying train tickets at a station immediately before travel, hardly a way to win over customers.
This alternative to the above pair was brought to my attention by Webuser magazine and promises low cost train tickets without credit card charges. While I have yet to use their services, they may be another option worth trying.
After the merger of the entity above, it could be assumed that rail ticket sales became a monopoly but that appears not to be the case thanks to this purveyor. Being a user of train companies for such needs, I haven’t gone to this bunch but they’re there to be tried anyway.
There was a time when the National Rail website was even less inspiring today so I ended up turning to this German offering at times. Since then, Britain’s biggest rail freight carrier has come into their ownership and they have had a go on the passenger franchising merry-go-round. Even so, this journey planning website remains their only incursion into the U.K. passenger transport market. One thing to bear in mind is that it isn’t updated as often as those in the U.K. but there may be times when another alternative is in order.
This is the place to go if you are planning to visit Britain from beyond its shores and wish to organise your train travel for when you arrive. Ticket and travel pass sales are all part of the offer though they make pains to ensure their services are provided to non-British residents. It could be invaluable if you are journeying from far away, especially when Eurail passes are not valid in England, Wales or Scotland and Interrail ones may not as extensive.
Now run by France’s SNCF (whose branding is predominant), this is a good place to go booking your cross-Europe rail travel. Naturally, Eurostar reservations are here along with so much else of the European high speed train network.
Rather than being an online rail planner like others, this is a publisher of monthly or seasonal printed rail timetables. There are subscriptions too but nothing comes all that cheap so you are going to have a definite reason for acquiring these. Curiosity may cause me to indulge at some time and it still is good to know that these exist.
This got discovered through an entry about isolated train stations on its accompanying blog and it is the ability to book train tickets for various countries that ensures its addition here. Britain gets included along with France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Spain. There may be others too but that would take a deeper look.