Reading time: 5 minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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 and 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.