On Trains & Buses

Travel news, views & information from Europe & North America by an independent public transport user

Journey Planning

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 becoming part of the scene. Sticking with the web though, here are some places to visit while trying to fathom the logistics of getting somewhere without resorting to private means.

Platform 1 Destination Sign at Wolverhampton Station, West Midlands, England
Any

Traveline

Quick access to a 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.

Bus

bustimes.org

Given some of the timetable links on this website point to it, it seems remiss of me not to have added the corresponding source for these. Both Britain and Ireland get covered, and you can drill down through its country, nation/territory, region and location sections to find what services are on offer. The information is a re-presentation of what is on Traveline but in such a different way that it makes timetables available when you cannot find them so easily elsewhere. After all, not every operator has these on a website and local authorities are often not all that forthcoming either.

Rail

National Rail Enquiries

This site, maintained by RDG, 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 and contact details for train operating companies are also featured. A more notable facility is the ability to buy train tickets online.

Open Train Times

BR Times

BR Fares

Quite amazingly, anyone with web development expertise can access Network Rail’s data feeds to craft their rail journey planner and these do something a little differently 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.

Trainline

To many, this is their preferred place to buy train tickets. They do have an app to go with their website, but there are fees that are avoided by buying direct from train companies.

Redspottedhanky.com

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.

Raileasy

Some may assume that rail ticket sales became a monopoly but that there are others that you can use. This is one, and they even offer a dedicated split-ticketing website as well.

Deutsche Bahn

There was a time when the National Rail website was even less inspiring than today, so I ended up turning to this German offering at times. 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.

BritRail

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 take 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.

Rail Europe

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.

European Rail Timetable

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.

Loco2

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.

Scenic Rail Britain

Though primarily geared for the leisure market, this easily deserves a mention here. After all, there is a lot of information to survey with all the scenic railway lines that there are and there is a blog too where you can read about the experiences of others. That is not all for you can plan and book your trips too.

Byway

This does include the U.K. but it mainly has uses for overseas travel in an age when some frown on air travel. Rail is included, and other forms of surface transport get included too. In a nutshell, it is a travel planning website that I found via Wanderlust magazine.

Helpful Councils

When it comes to the provision, some local authorities are better than others. Quite a number do get to providing a list of bus timetables while others merely tell you to take a hike over to Traveline. My preference is not to go criticising folk all the time so here’s a list of those who put in the effort. Sometimes, you can get the wrong end of the stick because the information is hidden so I’ll extract it from the back shelves where that appears to be where it has gone on them. This list will be a living one with new entries added as I go along so don’t let small beginnings make you think that councils are generally unhelpful to the public transport user; most support services that otherwise would be commercially non-viable.

Arriva Bus in Bollington

This is the part of Scotland that you’ll find immediately north of Dundee. With visitor attractions such as Arbroath located there, it’s just as well that the local council does its bit to help folk get about without a car. Bus timetables and other information of the same ilk are there as one would expect.

Argyll & Bute

Just because areas are hilly and mountainous or that there are far-flung islands doesn’t mean that there isn’t a useful public transport service for getting about (the name of this part of the council website as it happens). There are timetables to be found for next to every means of travel imaginable with ferry and air services complementing the more usual fare of bus and train information.

Bedford Borough Central Bedfordshire Luton

These unitary authorities replaced the now-defunct Bedfordshire County Council and public transport information provision is continued by the replacement authorities. Luton does less well than the other when it comes to providing bus timetable information though it makes amends with its Travel Luton website. That provides live bus and train travel times as well as timetables for the new Luton busway.

Cheshire East

The now-defunct Cheshire County Council didn’t do so badly when it came to travel information provision and it’s good to see that it is being carried on with listings of bus timetables complimenting that on train travel and other modes. It’s also where you find your way to the real-time bus tracker, limited to services between Macclesfield and destinations like Knutsford and Manchester for now but still useful nonetheless.

Cumbria

Before this local authority came into existence, the Lake District was spread over parts of no less than three different counties. Now that it is included in one along with some Pennine hill country and coastal areas, the local council would need to do what it can to reduce the number of visitors bringing their cars to the honeypot. To be honest, it doesn’t look as if they are having a great deal of success but the more extensive service in the heart of the National Park do their bit when it comes to moving folk about. Satisfyingly, bus timetable provision is what you’d hope it to be and they make it easier to get information on lake ferry services along with providing something on rail travel too.

Denbighshire

This is a part of Wales that I suspect is passed by many on their way to the more well-known destinations in that part of the principality. However, it does have its own merits too and the council does its bit when it comes to informing the public about public transport. Like so many of their counterparts, bus timetables are shared here too. Perhaps strangely, there’s no mention of trains but I suppose that you’d find out about those elsewhere anyway. The Clwydian Ranger bus service information dates from last year at the time of writing and I do wonder if funding will allow it to reappear for the current year.

Derbyshire

A few years back, this local authority took an enlightened view and had a separate website offering travel information. Sadly, that no longer is the case and you are left having to work a little harder than before. Nevertheless, there is a satellite website with bus timing information that remains more than useful. In a way, it’s a shame that things like these are as easy to find as they were, particularly given that the county plays host to a very popular national park that gets crowded in places every bank holiday weekend, but that can be an outcome of piling more things into an already cluttered structure if you’re not careful.

Devon

As well as a section on their main website, Devon County Council also has JourneyDevon for promoting the use of public transport in their area. Like what Powys offer, there is an interactive map where you can click on a route number and see the timetable for that service. Community transport offerings are on there too and that’s important with two areas of wilder countryside within the county area: Dartmoor and Exmoor. Two stretches of coastline allow for the promotion of certain routes for their scenic value and videos show off these. For those unfamiliar with the use of buses and trains, there also are helpful guides on how to do just that. That is never to say that the main website section is redundant since there are links to district timetable guides in eBook form for those wanting a more traditional feel than an interactive map, as good as that is.

Dorset

This is a website from more than one Dorset local authority since Dorset County Council is but one of these. Otherwise, there is Christchurch Borough Council, East Dorset District Council, North Dorset District Council, Purbeck District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council. While it is admirable for resources to be pooled like this, it would be for nothing if the results of such a collaboration did not deliver for the public and this multi-modal website certainly does that. Live road travel information, a necessity given the stormy winter of 2013/4, is on here along with much needed public transport information. Bus timetables are available as is any other information that a bus user would need. For rail users, a lot more is offered than just links to the National Rail and train operating company websites. Air travellers find a link to Bournemouth Airport but that might be enough while Dorset’s coastal travel needs are addressed by the boat travel section. Walking and cycling are not neglected either and the information goes beyond mere commuting needs to include recreational opportunities too, an unusual subject for a transport website. In summary, there is a lot on here so it deserves a visit to survey what is on offer.

Dumfries & Galloway

This is one of the few local authorities that owns its own buses, primarily for school travel provision but also for less frequent socially necessary public bus services. Naturally, timetables for all bus services are available on here along with the sort of other local travel information that we have come to expect of local authority websites.

Dundee

There may be larger cities than Dundee but it gets its dedicated travel information website. There may be more than public transport information on here but that makes it a port of call for all. Dundee City Council seems to have done a good job with this one though a browseable list of bus timetables would be no bad idea.

Gwynedd

Never let the usefulness of a list of timetables be downplayed when it comes to exploring an area and that’s how it has proven with the Gwynedd of the Snowdonia National Park. In addition to the usual sections on day-to-day bus and train travel, there’s a section devoted to the Snowdon Sherpa services for those wanting to get to know those hillier areas while leaving the car after them.

Halton

Another one of Cheshire’s unitary authorities and one that didn’t reach my consciousness until recently, it also has a devotion to the provision of public transport information. The area centres around Runcorn and Widnes together with smaller places such as Helsby and Frodsham too. There are bus timetables listed here like so many other council websites and it is an area that I might go exploring too. After all, the Sandstone Trail starts in Frodsham so a walking idea has come into place.

Hertfordshire

This county is surprisingly rural given its proximity to London yet is a place where I wouldn’t have thought of going but for business trips within the last few opportunities. That’s not to say that there aren’t countryside walking opportunities for the locals so having buses for getting about would be handy. Usefully, the county council’s dedicated public transport website seems a good port of call for travel information with a library of bus timetables like the others on this page.

In addition, they also are involved in the Network St. Albans initiative for reducing the amount of traffic generated by single-occupancy motor vehicles. Along with the usual mix bus and train travel options, cycling and walking are mentioned along with car-sharing.

Isle of Anglesey

It’s an island through which many pass on their way to and from Irish Sea ferries to Dublin but it surprised me by having its own (county) council. Very usefully, it does its share when it comes to providing public transport information and there’s a comprehensive list of bus timetables available; there’s even a link to the website of the local airport!

Lancashire

Following a round of savage bus service cuts, there is a partial restoration in progress following a change of council cabinet. The increase in support for bus services is welcome and they do get a whole independent section of the council website with a timetable listing being part of the offer. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a nod towards rail and tram (in Blackpool, that is) services either.

Lincolnshire

This has been a county that evaded my notice for several reasons but a dedicated bus service website has come to my attention. Both scheduled and demand-responsive services get their place on there along with a news section for service updates too. The county may not be that hilly but it does have its Wolds and the city of Lincoln is well worth a trip as I found on two visits.

Monmouthshire

With the Brecon Beacons National Park on its doorstep and the Wye Valley AONB within its boundaries, there is a certain attraction to visiting the southeastern corner of Wales. With that in mind, it’s just as well that the council’s website features a list of bus timetables for those wanting to get about without a car. That the service level isn’t so extensive probably makes any information provision all the more important.

North Yorkshire

This is another area worthy of attention from the outsider and one where the local council does its bit for ensuring that you know how to get around too. Some of the areas served are surrounded by hills and it may surprise you where services go. The list of bus timetables is split by area but a useful overview map ensures that you don’t end up scratching your head to work out where the likes of Craven is.

Oxfordshire (Oxon)

They may only list timetables for bus services that they subsidise but it remains a good place to start when it comes to finding out what public transport services operate in this part of the Home Counties. In any case, Traveline Southeast isn’t shabby when it comes to timetable provision so they’re a good backup option; a pre-Christmas look at that for the 66 between Swindon and Oxford revealed a section communicating what was running over the Christmas and New Year period. Also, finding out what operators serve a county can be a useful option too for the curious; well, as long as there are timetables on there, that is.

Pembrokeshire

While my two visits to this part of Wales were separated by several years, it is heartening to see that information useful for planning a long-overdue return to the area remains easily accessible. Included among the available bus timetables are those for leisure services that enable the exploration of the spectacular coastline that is to be found down there. Pointers for rail and ferry information are to be found too.

Perth & Kinross

Is it telling that clicking on a link named Public Transport Information takes you to information about trains? Do they feel that an apparent bias towards bus travel would be unfair? I am not going to venture an answer to either of these questions about that one but a spot of concentration will fish out the bus travel information for you. Saying that, an obvious suggestion would be to have a general landing page for public transport information rather than arriving on the train one like now.

Shetland Islands

They may be Scotland’s, and hence Britain’s, most northerly islands but that is not to say that regular travel services do not operate. Given that these are a set of islands, it should not come as any surprise to find bus running information complemented by that for air and sea services too. The latter pair are necessary for getting from one island to another, let alone connecting them to the rest of the world around them.

South Gloucestershire

This was found via Travelwest and its associated live bus tracker; both of these shared with Bath & North East Somerset , Bristol City Council, and North Somerset . That doesn’t stop its website from having a full list of bus timetables for its area, unlike others in the same vicinity. Naturally, other means of travel such as rail are featured too though the aforementioned does take such good care of itself that councils need not do so much for its users. All in all, there seems to be an attempt to sell the transport network too, something that has become rarer in these austere times.

Vale of Glamorgan

It may be overshadowed by nearby Cardiff but this coastal district is good at supplying public transport information too. The nigh-on obligatory bus timetable directory is on there along with news of any changes. At the time of writing, they are facing the rather inconsiderate withdrawal of Veolia from the British bus market. Hopefully, they’ll work through this upheaval to a better future since Veolia hasn’t been much good at sharing information about their services anyway.

Western Isles (Na hEileanan nan Iar)

Some may find it a surprise to discover that these outliers from the Scottish mainland have their bus services too along with the requisite ferry and air travel links on which any island is so dependent. However, given the size of the grouping (spending a few days getting from top to tail or vice versa is likely), those bus services prove invaluable if you are without a car and they very handily link in with ferry and air services too.

Worcestershire

This section of Worcestershire County Council’s website may run under the heading of Buses in Worcestershire but there is a page on rail travel in here too. Bus timetables and all the other information that you’d hope to get is to be found here for this more rural part of the West Midlands. The presence of the Malvern Hills in the county makes it a visitor so any information about public transport around cannot be anything but useful.

Wrexham

It may be a largely urban borough but it has inviting countryside on its doorstep too. Since I last had a look, the website has had an overhaul with the addition of bold text and colours that give it a very contemporary feel. Strangely, there isn’t a single public transport landing page with bus and train sections jostling for attention with those for school buses, taxi buses and highways maintenance. Mind you, the overall thrust of the part of their website devoted to Transport and Streets is related to public transport anyway, even if finding their useful collection of bus timetables requires a little more clicking than might be ideal.

Transport Authorities

Because of their usefulness when it comes to tracking down public transport information, I was wanting to add a page on here for Transport Authorities for a while. There aren’t as many of them in existence and they tend to manage things for major metropolitan areas, taking over from local authorities as they do so.

Manchester Metroshuttle

If TfGM (see below) covered all of East Cheshire as well as its current patch, I couldn’t see Cheshire East Council offering a bus timetable library like it currently does. Without a transport authority doing the oversight instead of a borough council could be interesting and it even might improve things for us out here too.

Transport for Greater Manchester

This is the new name for GMPTE, the executive and operational arm of GMITA and its predecessor, GMPTA. That probably looks like alphabet soup but just hover over the acronyms to see the words represented by those collections of letters. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why a new name might appeal though you have to ask why other name changes were good ideas.

Despite all those dull acronyms and changing titles, this quite possibly is THE one place for public transport information in the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester and very good it seems to be too. Along with travel news for bus, tram and train services, there’s a journey planner and a bus timetable library too. As if that weren’t enough, there’s even a bus stop finder on there.

Merseytravel

Given that this ITA (MITA) looks after an area sitting astride a river estuary, it should come as no surprise that ferry and under-river tunnel information gets on here. Naturally, you’ll find timetable libraries, a journey planner and travel news available too. Even though most if not all of the services are provided by private operators, it does seem as if this authority has a tight rein on things too with the Merseyrail being a franchise that they, rather than the Department for Transport, let and that’s unusual in England.

Metro

In West Yorkshire, their ITA (WYITA) uses another name, Metro, and its logo and branding are to be found on local train services operated by Northern Rail too. When it comes to public transport information, it’s got the lot with bus and train timetable libraries, travel news and journey planning all being part of the offer.

Transport for West Midlands

There was a time when Central Trains provided services around Birmingham and the West Midlands emblazoned with Centro branding. Network West Midlands is the successor to this with WMITA being the transport authority in these times. As you’d expect, there are timetable libraries (for bus, tram and train), a journey planner and travel news. Mind you, making people know their bus number beforehand isn’t always the best…

Nexus

TWITA is the ITA in the Tyneside and Wearside with Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland falling under its sway. The website is operated by its transport executive and provides the information needed to get about light and heavy rail, bus and ferry services in the region. While journey planning and travel news complement timetable libraries there is an added distinctive feature in the form of visitor information for those coming from further afield and it highlights places to visit too.

SPT

The first time that I noticed the logo of the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport was when I was from Edinburgh, where I lived at the time, to some scenic corner of the Scottish Highlands. One thing that you’ll notice from the website is that there are quite a few modes of travel covered, including even walking as well as ferries and the Glasgow Subway. Timetable libraries aren’t so extensive though but there are bus timetables for supported services. Other than that, there’s the usual journey planning and travel news provision that appears on so many transport authority websites.

Transport for London

Amid bus service deregulation around the U.K. nearly 25 years ago, things were done differently in London with all bus services being franchised by the transport authority rather than being offered by private operators. That has meant some rather big changes in fortunes over the years with previously successful companies falling on hard times (the now Stagecoach re-owned East London group comes to mind here). There is such an assortment of travel modes covered here that it becomes difficult to list them all. Even congestion charging, taxis and walkers get mentioned so it cannot be said that the site isn’t comprehensive. Of course, journey planning, timetable libraries and travel news are all on offer as well as the more unexpected elements.

Travel South Yorkshire

Even as long ago as the 1970’s, Sheffield and its surrounding area seemed to have good public transport oversight and the present SYITA wants to restore the situation somewhat though they have suffered something of a setback with First withdrawing from an agreement. Live bus timing information is to be found here along with bus timing updates, journey planning and travel news.

Efforts of Enthusiasts

Blurred bus on rural road. Dartmoor, Devon, UK

It isn’t just the business of local authorities to provide travel information in their local areas because local folk sometimes take matters into their own hands too and this is where I get to highlight a few of these and plan to add more as and when I find them. My efforts on here may help in their little way but others do a far more comprehensive job for their respective local areas. Please give me a nudge below if you know of more than these.

Bus Times

It may look otherwise but this is the effort of one person plugging things into open sources of information to create something very impressive for both Great Britain and the whole island of Ireland; even the Republic of Ireland gets included so multi-national coverage is offered. There even is a map-based function that zeroes in on where you are using the location of a mobile device and creates a list of the next buses at nearby stops. This may not be live information though but even having timetable information delivered like this puts some other sources to shame. There are actual bus timetables too so the traditional way of looking at things is available.

Bus Services in York

The name of this website doesn’t do justice to its content. The services for which timetables are supplied do not serve York but also the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales national parks as well as other parts of Yorkshire. It’s the work of one person as far as I can see so adding in all those timetables must take a lot of work, especially with them changing all the time. Since I quite fancy revisiting North Yorkshire for walking trips after what feels like too long, this should have its uses.

Stourbridge Interchange

This is something of a labour of love with galleries of old and new bus photos to go with the service information. Timetables naturally find their place on here along with details of service changes and other public transport for this part of the English West Midlands.

The Man in Seat 61

This began as a labour of love for a railwayman and now appears to be how he earns his living. It is a railway information guide that extends beyond Britain and Ireland to include other places as well. The guy has two books published too and the site has won awards so there is something about this web outpost.

Recent Snippets

12:25, January 26, 2023

For those wanting to get to Canadian Provincial and National Parks without using a car, Parkbus offers some useful travel options from Toronto and Vancouver. These do vary by season, but the destinations include Golden Ears, Garibaldi Provincial Park and Joffre Lakes Provincial Park in British Columbia while those in Ontario include Algonquin Provincial Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Elora Gorge, Rockwood Conservation Area, Rattlesnake Point and Crawford Lake.

20:04, January 22, 2023

Moraine Lake and Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada have been suffering under their popularity. Now, Parks Canada has banned the use of private vehicles on the approach to Moraine Lake year round. That may sound heavy, but oversubscribed car parks meant that the excursion was not such a viable one anyway. It means that human-powered travel as well as usage of shuttle, chartered or scheduled bus services are favoured. The move has attracted criticism, so we will need to see if that brings change.

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