Taking train in the UK

icon-time 23 July 2015
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Many students may be confused by a huge number of platforms and rail operators. Wondering where to start? where to buy ticket? where is your platform? Here’s a quick guide!

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Train system in the United Kingdom is considered one of the oldest systems in the world. There are over 28 operators, providing rail services. Regardless how messy it may seem, the schedule management is still among the best! Trains are (in most of the normal circumstances) on time, which will keep your life organized when planning your travel. Please note that this article is mainly about travelling across cities outside London.

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Here is how the travelling ticket looks like. This contains:

  1. Class: Type of your seat, whether it’s standard or first class
  2. Type: Type of your ticket, whether peak, off-peak, single or return
  3. Start Date / Valid Until: The valid date of travelling
  4. From: Station where you travel from
  5. To: Station where you get off
  6. Route: The operator your ticket is valid to travel on
  7. Price: The price of your ticket

There are 3 methods to buy ticket

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1. Buying at the counter

You can walk up to counter and ask for the ticket type you want, on the date and time you wish to travel. Payment can be made by cash or card. Your ticket will be issued by the officer, who will also be able to help if you need any additional advices and guidance. This method is suitable for those who still have no clue of how the train or booking system works.

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2. Buying at self-service ticket machine

Spotting some of the self-service machine around the station. Don’t try to find buttons, they are touchscreen! You can then select your ticket type, destination station and time of travel. In case you hold any discounted card, don’t forget to add them in! Payment can, again, be made by cash or card. The machine will print out your ticket alongside the receipt into the below box. This method is suitable for those who didn’t plan their travel in advance and don’t want to waste time queuing to buy from the officer.

3. Buying online

www.nationalrail.co.uk allows you to check train time and book the ticket online from all rail operators very conveniently. Searching by the date and time of the intended travel, and the station you travel from and to; there will be a list of details, prices, and options for you to choose from. All discounted card can be input and used on the website as well. After selecting your choice, you can then check out and pay with credit or debit card. You will be given the reference number to collect the actual ticket at the station.

On the travelling date, go to the self-service machine and insert the card you have used when making online booking. Fill in the reference number and the ticket will be printed alongside receipt. This method is suitable for those who can plan their trip well in advance.

Plus points of buying online are:

  • Convenient and quick. You can always pickup ticket whenever convenient prior to travelling date
  • Online ticket is sometimes cheaper with online-only promotion
  • You can reserve your seat in advance

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16-25 Railcard

Exclusive for students or young travellers aged 16-25. You can purchase the 16-25 Railcard at the price of £30 (as of 2015) and use this for discount on travel ticket. You will need to carry the card with you at all time when travelling, and present to the officer when requested.

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After sorting out your ticket, let’s see where to take the train. Checking out the black board at the station. It will show train time, whether it’s on time or delayed, and platform the train will turn up. The train will be appeared based on its final stop, so check carefully whether it will pass the town you are going to (notice where they are ‘calling at’) and or cross check with the time of your booking. Some station requires you to insert your ticket to get in, some doesn’t but will be checked by the officer afterwards. If you travel without a valid ticket, you will need to buy the new ticket with the officer, which will cost more and no discount applied.

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Always check with the board at the platform if the train that you are boarding is the right one and will pass the cities you are going to. When your train arrives, please allow the people inside to come out first. Go to your reserved seat, or if you didn’t reserve one, try to find ones that states “available”.

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In the train, there will be toilets located between coaches. You can shop for snacks and drinks in the shop carriage. There will be an announcement when arriving at each station, so stay alert and listen for your station. When getting off, don’t forget to press the button to open the door!