UK Rail Travel

UK Trains
UK Trains - © David Luther Thomas

The UK rail travel guide outlines the many possibilities that exist for visitors to the UK to explore the UK further by rail. The rail network gives access to just about all areas of the UK and is particularly well suited for tourists as places of interest and attractions are on the whole covered very well by rail. While travelling by rail is usually more expensive (although this can vary & is not always the case) than using buses and coaches, it does have the advantage of extra speed in comparison to the other two. The extra speed is very useful for visitors on tighter schedules and those with less time to experience the UK.

Rail Travel in the UK

Seeing the UK by Rail
National Rail Services
Airport Rail Services
Rail Travellers Tips

Seeing the UK by Rail

Travelling by rail can present visitors with a lovely way to see and experience the UK. Travelling through the famous English countryside, seeing the Welsh valleys and mountains or the Scottish Highlands and stunning scenery can be experienced by rail. For visitors not keen on driving a car themselves whilst on holiday and for travellers that feel bus/coach travel is possible too slow for them or not exactly what they need, using rail offers a good alternative. Travelling from towns and cities across the UK, the journey times can be significantly faster than using other forms of transport such as buses/coach and road.

Visitors can travel by rail from London all the way to Scotland and back, the network means visitors do not necessarily need to rely on using taxis or hiring cars themselves, by using trains you can meet much of your travelling needs. Using rail to travel across towns and cities can represent the fastest and most efficient way to travel. When using the faster inter city trains it is possible to travel on day trips, overnight and two night short trips to visit attractions and places of interest for visitors.

It should be noted that the UK rail network is in the process of being upgraded after being put off for many years and this legacy has led to trains and infrastructure that operate at lower speeds than visitors may have experienced in places such as continental Europe or Japan. With a large and ambitious redevelopment project going on over much of the rail network, visitors are well advised to always check their route & journey before they travel to ensure there are no engineering works etc that should hinder their journeys.

National Rail Services

Network Rail operates the rail infrastructure in the UK and there are a number of private companies that run rail services on the privatised UK rail system. The rail companies provide rail services for their designated areas. In order to learn more about the rail services that operate in the areas/places you wish to visit and for up to date rail service information and journey planners to help you plan & organise your rail trip better please see: National Rail Enquiries

Using rail services to see the UK or enjoy a break are popular among visitors from overseas and locals alike, National Express offers a Special 2 Night Rail Break that includes 2 nights hotel accommodation & return rail travel at cheap rates, making it great value for money.

Latest Rail Offers & Discounted: Deals

See National Express Rail Offers for the latest offers. The National Express Rail Breaks include travel from and to a range of UK mainline stations with children under 16 going for 50% less than the adult fare.

Airport Rail Services

The airports in the UK are connected to the rail network, for visitors arriving to & departing from UK airports, there are likely to be rail services available that you can use.

Heathrow Airport:

The Heathrow Express provides a non stop fast train service from Heathrow Airport to central London. There are services every 15 minutes, the service operates 7 days a week and starts at around 05.00 until approx mid night. Fares start from around £17 for a single ticket.

The Heathrow Connect train service offers services between central London and Heathrow airport, the journey time takes about 30 minutes and there are services every 30 minutes too. The Heathrow connect service stops at other stations on the way to the airport making it useful for those wishing to use the stations on the way. Whilst not as fast as the Heathrow Express, the Connect is cheaper. Fares start from around £7 for a single ticket.

Gatwick Airport:

The Gatwick Express train service goes from London Victoria station to Gatwick Airport and vice versa. The journey time is approx 30 minutes, the non stop service is probably the fastest way to get to Gatwick airport from central London. There are currently 4 trains per hour and services start at around 03.30 until a little after midnight.

Stansted Airport:

The Stansted Express offers train services to and from Stansted airport from London Liverpool Street station. The journey takes just over 45 minutes in total and currently stops at Tottenham Hale before going on to Stansted airport. The services start at around 03.30 until approx midnight.

Manchester Airport:

The trains go to airports in the North of England and the North West including airports at Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle. For more information please see: TransPennine Express

Rail Travellers Tips

Check to see if there are any special deals and discounts available for booking early, these can represent good value with the price increasing closer to the time of travelling.

Consider buying your tickets in advance to avoid being late for your train on the day and avoid lines at the ticket machines.

Make sure you use the toilet before getting on the train, not every train has one on board toilet and there may be occasions when the on board toilet is out of operation.

Allow for extra time for your journey, train journeys can be subject to delay due to engineering works, the weather and unforeseen circumstances. If you need to get somewhere on time leave some slack in your timetable for delays.

Take the train timetable with you in case you need it.

If you do not have a valid train ticket, do not get on the train. You are liable to get a fine and there is the possibility of being prosecuted, it is not worth the risk.

Ensure you keep your train ticket with you, there are ticket inspectors that can and do inspect passengers’ tickets unannounced.

If you are unsure where a train is going to, check first with a train guard and the electronic train boards. Do not assume your guess is correct, you may end up at the wrong destination far away with the wrong ticket and be liable for a fine. Otherwise you could end up somewhere you did not want to go & lose your way.

If you are prone to motion sickness, take motion sickness tablets/medication at the appropriate time before you begin the train journey.

Do not show your mobile phone on the train but keep in your pocket so you can use in an emergency if needed.

Do not show any valuables such as money & jewellery on the train. Keep these out of public view.

Do not leave your bags/luggage unattended, if you need to put the luggage in to a luggage rack make sure you watch it at each stop to ensure no one walks off with it. Remember to take your luggage with you when you get off the train.

It is not common practice in the UK for strangers to talk to one another on trains or other forms of public transport. Do not be alarmed by a lack of conversation among strangers and keeping themselves to themselves.

Try to plan your journey in a way that you use train stations that are busy and have other passengers. Avoid using train stations that are isolated, poorly lit and are deserted. Try to get on & off the train at busier stations if possible.

If you are going to a place you are unfamiliar with, try and keep a count/track of the stations as the train stops, it is useful in knowing where you are and for identifying the stop you need to get off at.

Tourists and visitors to the UK that wish to travel around the UK have the option of using the UK rail travel network to make their way to different destinations. Rail travel in the UK is not without its flaws, with trains running at slower speeds on average than some of the fast train services on the continent and some older infrastructure causing a few delays at times. However the rail network is overall a very good and safe way to see the many attractions in the UK, the network is connected to all corners of the country allowing good access for visitors to explore the UK further. Good planning and organisation such as checking when cheap/discounted tickets are available can help visitors save money, rail offers a viable alternative to driving and flights and for those that need some extra speed compared to bus and coach journeys, it is a good option worth considering.

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