Web site which lets you book tickets on any train on any service in the UK.

Run by Virgin, but I believe Stagecoach have a hand in running it, and Cap Gemini are behind the infrastructure.

It's fairly reliable, but sometimes leads you into believing you can buy a certain combination of tickets, but then won't let you purchase them without giving a reason (eg. some heavily discounted tickets aren't allowed in conjunction with some railcards, but they show up as possible fares anyway)

The site has two faces;

  • www.thetrainline.com - damn funky design, but sometimes slow due to heavy promotion
  • www.virgintrainsfares.co.uk - more suited to booking tickets on Virgin Trains services, but still offers the full range of tickets on other services.
And now for something completely different..

...yes indeed, in that customer service wasteland that is the British rail industry, there is a small haven of comfort, service and innovation. Unfortunately it's not a train, it's a website.

Let's face it: rail travel in the UK is still an adventure. 160 years since rail travel became a commodity, in the UK you'll still don't know whether

  • your train will leave
  • your train will arrive
  • your train will be on time (ha!)
  • you won't sit in a carriage from 1951.

All of that for the price that will blanche your cheeks, baby.

Thetrainline.com lets you plan and book your rail journey without needing to go to the station and join a massive queue between drunken lager louts and smokers, all in the comfort of your home, even saving you money. By booking in advance, this site will give you a range of fares for your specific journey which you can then choose to match your requirements. For instance, if you travel from King's Cross to Grantham first class and you buy your return ticket on the station before you leave, GNER will want a whopping 110 pounds (ca 160 Euro) from you for 90 minutes traveltime.

If you are able to plan your journey before, you might be able to book an off peak first class ticket for the same route for only 35 Pounds. Quite a difference, ay?

Thetrainline.com is a joint venture between Virgin and Stagecoach, two big players in the British rail industry, who are obviously having a big interest in people using the rail network as often as possible. Fortunately this site sells tickets for all of the UK's networks, apparently having 293 million fare- and route combinations in their database.

After booking, you can pick your ticket up at one of their ticket machines or have them couriered home (again, no queueing at the station) and wander to your wreck, er, train.

According to the lore their customers initially all landed on U.S. AOR group Train's website trainline.com, boosting their single Drops of Jupiter.

Criticisms? Few. The GUI is not very intuitive and pretty clattered, and sometimes the server has a pronounced lag, (not as bad as e2 though) but otherwise this comes pretty close to sliced bread.


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