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BRITAIN RAIL INFORMATION

Essential Travel Information on Britain's Rail Network, including the Britrail Pass and Airport Transfers.

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RAIL INFORMATION

RAIL TRAVEL IN BRITAIN

Travel Information on Rail Travel in Britain

Some people prefer not to drive on the "wrong" side of the road whilst others simply enjoy the convenience of gliding through the countryside and soaking up the scenery whilst you travel; either way, touring Britain by rail is very popular with overseas visitors to the UK. And with your adeo Travel Britain Expert on hand to advise you every step of the way, planning your Britain rail tour couldn't be simpler.

Since Victorian times we have had a wide-reaching rail network with frequent and regular services to most areas, especially along popular routes. This, combined with a range of flexible passes specifically designed for overseas visitors (Britrail Passes) or direct route tickets, make a rail tour of England, Scotland or Wales both excellent value for money and a convenient way to travel during your Britain vacation. As official Britrail agents, adeo Travel can offer the full range of passes perfect for any rail tour or tickets for one-off or return journeys to complement your self-drive, coach or mini-coach tour.

Destination guide to Scotland - Castle Stalker

Castle Stalker, Scottish Highlands

The British Rail Network

The rail network in Britain is the oldest in the world and dates back to 1851 when the first public service opened. Having played a major role in the transport of heavy goods after the industrial revolution, Britain's network grew considerably in the 1800s and 1900s and, despite line closures in the late 20th century, remains today one of the world's, busiest and densest networks. Today, use of the network for rail vacations in Britain is more popular than ever.

Coverage

The rail network in Britain is comprehensive and far-reaching with almost 10,000 miles of track reaching to the corners of our small island.

England - England is possibly best suited destination for a rail tour with almost all major cities and most prominent towns connected via the rail network, though sometimes services at the outer reaches (such as in Cornwall) are more limited and infrequent. Many of the larger towns and cities (such as London, Birmingham and Manchester) act as rail hubs with several mainline stations and links to many surrounding towns and places of interest; for a convenient England rail tour and travel it can be useful to base yourself at one of these hub cities for several days and make journeys to nearby locations such as on the London and Beyond rail tour.

Scotland - Scotland's rail network is excellent around the central belt and the major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh however is more sparse, as you would expect, in the remote Scottish Highlands where the terrain is rough and there is little population. By making use of additional bus connections, however, a Scotland rail tour is still a great way to explore this nation and Scotland is also home to some of the most scenic and rewarding rail journeys Britain has to offer. Edinburgh and Glasgow can both be reached from London on high-speed rail links with a journey duration of just 4.5 hours.

Wales - Wales sees a similar situation with major routes in the south and in the north but very little in the way of track coverage through the mountainous central region of Wales which means that a Wales rail tour passing from north to south (or vice versa) is all but impossible by rail alone without back-tracking across the border in to England. Again though, as you might expect from such a rural nation, Wales is home to some real gems in terms of scenic rail rides. The Wlesh capital of Cardiff is well connected by rail and can be reached from London in just over 2 hours.

Subway Systems - Some cities in Britain have their own subway systems (most notably the London Underground system or "tube") but it should be noted that these are not considered part of the national network and rail passes will not be valid on these networks.

High-speed / dedicated lines - In some locations you will find high speed services (used in areas of high volume of passengers or where large distances will be covered. The most notable of these are the Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express Rail links which take you from London's major airports directly in to central London stations. There is also a high speed link between London and Edinburgh and London and Glasgow which stop at just a few major stations on route (as opposed to lots of little stations). These services are all considered part of the national rail network and your Britrail pass can be used for travel as usual.

Popular Routes and Services
  • London to Edinburgh - using the East coast mainline connecting London with York and Edinburgh this is one of Britain's most important rail lines and enjoys high-speed services meaning you can travel between the English and Scottish capitals in just 4.5 hours (a journey of more than 7 hours by car and 9-10 hours by coach).
  • London to York - again availing of the highspeed connection this journey can be done in just over 2 hours and is very popular with people enjoying a rail tour of England.
  • York to Edinburgh - speedy but scenic, just over two hours takes you through the beauty of the north Yorkshire and the Scottish Lowlands from one of England's most picturesque cities to the elegant Scottish capital.
  • London to Cardiff - In just 2.5 hours you can be away from the metropolis of London and in Wales' first city ready to explore an entirely unique culture and countryside. London to Bath - Just two hours from England's capital city lies one of England's historically significant cities where you'll find architecture from the Romans first settlement through to medieval time and Georgian splendour in the city of Bath.
  • London to Liverpool - uncover the thriving city of Liverpool and its Beatles history on a rail ride from London which lasts just over 2 hours.
The Trains and Service

Rail tours of England, Scotland and Wales and train travel in Britain is generally very comfortable and, whilst in the past, the system has been criticised for delays, in recent years the rail companies have made many steps forward in improving services. Whilst the tracks are all maintained by a government funded organisation (Network Rail) the trains themselves are operated by a number of private companies who are contracted to different regions, routes and services. By taking your Britain rail tour in conjunction with the Britrail Pass system, your passes are valid on all trains with any operator and so there is no need to worry about who to buy tickets from and where they are valid.

Most trains on the system are modern and comfortable making touring Britain by rail a very popular and convenient option, especially when travelling over longer distances. Carriages (especially those on regional/long-distance services) generally have plenty of luggage storage space, on-board bathrooms and food carts or restaurant carriages to purchase on-board snacks and refreshments. Some seats will have power-points, where passengers can recharge phones or plug in laptops and there are usually some table seating available for groups of more than two.

There is often little difference between first class and standard class seating on British trains however if you are looking for something a little special you may choose to travel in first class. Below we list the advantages of first class travel over standard class, please note that not all of these services are available on all trains. It should also be noted that not all trains have first class carriages so please check with your Britain Expert if it is worth upgrading on your particular itinerary. An upgrade is generally most beneficial on a rail tour of England (especially in the south east) as this is where the network and trains are busiest.

First Class Travel Benefits
  • Access to first class lounges at stations (where available).
  • Boarding closer on the platform to the gate at departure stations.
  • Larger luggage storage areas.
  • More spacious, comfier on-board seating.
  • Air conditioned carriages and curtains to shade from sunlight.
  • Complimentary wifi access and newspapers.
  • Power-points available at all seats.
  • Complimentary refreshments including glass of wine and full meals on certain services.
Luggage on board British trains

There is no weight restrictions on luggage that you can take on board a train. Technically you are limited to three items of luggage (two large items such as a suitcase or rucksack and one smaller item such as a carry-on bag or lap-top bag). However, luggage restrictions arerarely enforced unless you are carrying bulky or oversized items (such as a bike or golf clubs). There are luggage storage areas at theend of each carriage (where you can stow your suitcases/rucksacks) and over-head shelves or under-seat storage for smaller bags. The thingto remember when packing for your rail tour of Britain is that you need to handle your luggage yourself through the train stations and on and off of trains which can mean up and down steps and sometimes over a small gap. For this reason we would always recommend travelling as light as possible and either using aback-pack or a suitcase with wheel that can be dragged. You should be able to lift your bags yourself and be able to carry them off the ground over a short distance. Assistance with luggage is only available for disabledpassengers at manned stations and by prior arrangement with station staff.

Rail Travel Etiquette

There are some unwritten rules regarding rail travel, don't forget the following when enjoying your rail tour of the UK:

  • Allow people to disembark before trying to board the train yourself.
  • Don't use cell/mobile phones in the quiet carriage of a train (you will see a sign denoting the quiet carriage) it is frowned upon.
  • Check seat reservations - some people will have pre-booked seats, try to avoid these seats even if they are unoccupied - their owners may be boarding at the next station.
  • Have your tickets and personal ID to hand; you may be asked for this both at the station to pass through the turn-styles to the platform and on board the train by the conductor.

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BRITRAIL PASS INFORMATION

Travel information on the Britrail Pass

Traverse the whole of Britain gliding from one destination to another in the comfort and simplicity of rail travel. Valid across the entire British national rail network, your Britrail pass can take you the length and breadth of England, Scotland and Wales, from their magnificent capital cities and major towns through spectacular landscapes and along some of the most scenic rail journeys you'll find anywhere in the world. From the Snowdonia national park, and the Scottish Highlands to the Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, York, Liverpool, Bath and Cardiff, your Britrail park offers the ultimate in accessibility across Britain when travelling by rail.

The Britrail Pass provides highly flexible rail travel, offering as much use and as many journeys as you like on each day of validity of the pass. There are no geographical limitations to where you can or can't travel, you can explore as much as you like across any of the Britrail zones as outlined on the the Britrail map which can be viewed by clicking here.

As you would expect, the original Britrail pass offers the greatest variety of options for travel and is available in ranging durations and in both consecutive and flexi pass formats.

  • Consecutive passes can be used for unrestricted travel over a set period of time from the first date of validation.
  • Flexi passes provide unlimited travel on a fixed number of separate days which can be used any time within a set period of time (2 months) from date of first validation.

Choose from this array of options to select a pass which suits all of your travel needs for your perfect Britain rail itinerary and maximize the value for money that you'll get when travelling with your pass. The Britrail pass also offers the opportunity to upgrade to first class travel for those seeking to make their rail vacation that little bit more special.

By purchasing your Britrail Pass as part of an adeo Travel rail tour package you can avail of discounted rates from the ticket face value and complimentary shipment within your vacation documents and information pack.

When booking your rail pass with adeo Travel we also provide advice and assistance in planning your vacation, ensuring your itinerary is workable within the confines of the network and timetables and as standard we provide information on station facilities, departure times and journey durations for your specific itinerary.

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AIRPORT TRANSFERS

Travel Information on the Heathrow Express

The Heathrow Express is a high-speed rail link connecting Heathrow Airport with central London and provides by far the fastest, smoothest and most hassle-free means of transferring from the airport to the city.

The service operates modern, stylish and comfortable trains with climate controlled carriages, on-board washrooms and modern services such as in-journey information and news screens. The trains have been specifically designed for those arriving by air travel in to Britain and include features such as platform level access for ease with your suitcases and ample dedicated luggage space.

Avoid long walks with your luggage, airport taxi-queues, complicated bus timetables and London traffic as you glide in to the city in comfort and convenience; the Heathrow Express can be boarded directly from each of Heathrow's five terminals and operates on a dedicated rail line which travels straight in to central London without stopping at any other stops on route. The link transfers you directly in to London Paddington Station with onward connections via the national rail network, the London Underground, local bus services or ample available taxis to take you on your short onward journey to a central London hotel.

As official Britrail agents adeo Travel are happy to provide Heathrow Express Rail Tickets as part of any of our vacation packages including our Britain Rail Tours and Britain Self Drive Tours. Please simply ask your adeo Travel Britain Expert to add this to your particular package/quotation.

Heathrow Express Key Features:

  • Direct link from Heathrow Airport to London Paddington Station.
  • Approximate journey duration of just 15 minutes.
  • Regular departures: Departs approximately every 15 minutes from 5.10am through to 11.25pm.
  • Excellent onward travel connections from London Paddington Station.
  • Route included on many Britrail Passes.

Travel Information on the Gatwick Express

The Gatwick Express provides the major rail link between the city and London's second major airport at Gatwick and offers the fastest and most efficient means of making the journey.

Each train that travels on the Gatwick Express service combines modern and spacious trains with ample seating and full air-conditioning to ensure a smooth and comfortable ride after your flight passage. Most carriages offer platform level boarding and ample dedicated luggage space to ensure the utmost in convenience when travelling with suitcases.

Avoid airport taxi-queues, complicated bus timetables, a long road journey and London traffic as you glide in to the city in comfort on your Gatwick Express rail transfer; the service station is located in Gatwick's South Terminal but is easily accessed from the North Terminal by a dedicated inter-terminal shuttle and travels directly in to central London. Arriving in London Victoria Station you will find yourself in the very heart of London at a major station with excellent onward travel links including to the National Rail Network and the London Underground system. Victoria National Coach Station is just a short walk from the railway station and there are taxi ranks ideal for if you want to make a short onward cab ride to your central London Hotel.

As official Britrail agents, adeo Travel are happy to provide Gatwick Express Rail Tickets as part of any of our vacation packages including our Britain Rail Tours and Britain Self Drive Tours. Please simply ask your adeo Travel Britain Expert to add this to your particular package/quotation.

Gatwick Express Key Features:

  • Direct link from Gatwick Airport to London Victoria Station.
  • Approximate journey duration of just 30 minutes.
  • Regular departures: Departs approximately every 15 minutes from 5 am through to 11.45pm.
  • Excellent onward travel connections from London Victoria Railway Station.
  • Route included on many Britrail Passes.

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BRITISH TRAIN STATIONS

Travel Information on British Train Stations

When travelling on an adeo Travel rail tour we will always provide you with plenty of station, schedule and route information specific to your own tailored itinerary. However below we outline some general facilities and services that you can expect from the train stations throughout Britain.

Location

Most British train and railway stations are located in the centre of each town or on the outskirt depending on when they were built and their original purpose. When you are travelling on your Britain rail tour you will generally be able to walk to your accommodation or hotel or it will be reachable by a short journey in a taxi. Wherever possible, adeo Travel will recommend centrally located accommodation convenient for both the station and for sightseeing within the destination town or city. Most stations will have a taxi rank located at them or taxis readily available outside which can be flagged if you choose not to walk whilst you have your luggage with you. Your taxi-driver will generally help you load your cases into the car. Most stations will also have onward transport links such as bus services which depart from the station.

Station Services and Facilities

Train stations in Britain offer a range of services which can vary at specific stations. Most stations in major towns and cities will be manned (they will have permanent staff present throughout the day and night). These stations will have barriers where you will need to present your tickets to a member of staff before proceeding to the platform. Stations at smaller towns can be unmanned, you are free to walk directly on to the platform and board the train without showing your tickets. The train will generally have an on-board conductor who will check your ticket so please have them to hand.

Other facilities available at most stations:
  • Departure lounge / indoor waiting area.
  • Timetable boards and screens with latest rail information and scheduled arrivals/departures.
  • Rest rooms and wash facilities (sometimes chargeable in major stations).
  • Cafes/restaurants/newsagents/shops for purchase of refreshments and items for your journey.
  • Left luggage areas or luggage storage facilities (please note that this facilitiy is only available at certain stations - please check with your adeo Travel Britain Expert if you intend to stop at a location and want to store your luggage which you sightsee). This service is payable.
  • Ticket offices or ticket machines.
  • Information desks and staffed customer service desks.
  • Luggage trolleys (usually only at major stations).
  • ATM / cash machines.
  • Payphones.
  • Complimentary wifi (major stations only).
  • Car parking, taxi ranks and onward bus services.
Major British Mainline Train Stations

London:

  • London St Pancras - Dating back to 1868 this magnificent station has been renovated in recent years and now connects London with Paris (and Europe) via the Eurostar.
  • London Euston - One of London's oldest and busiest stations Euston is the city's main hub for travel to central England and the northwest including the cities of Oxford, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
  • London Kings Cross - home of the fictional platform 9 and 3/4 from the harry Potter books and originally built in dedication to King George IV, Kings Cross connects London with cities in the North and East such as Cambridge, York, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • London Paddington - home of Paddington Bear this historic station connects London with major towns in the West of England and Wales such as Cardiff, Bath, Bristol and Exeter and is also the place to catch the Heathrow Express link to Heathrow Airport.
  • London Victoria - located in the heart of London close to Buckingham Palace this station connects the city mainly with towns and cities to the south including Canterbury and Brighton not to mention Gatwick Airport on the Gatwick Express rail link.
  • London Waterloo - the city's largest station and situated on the south bank of the Thames this station is most commonly used for connecting to cities to the south west of London including Salisbury, Portsmouth and Southampton.

Birmingham:

  • Birmingham New Street - one of central England's busiest rail hubs linking the north West with London and the South East. Major routes both north and south including fast connections to Cardiff, London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow as well as more local locations such as Stratford-upon-Avon and the Cotswolds.

Manchester:

  • Manchester Piccadilly - the city's magnificent Picadilly station is a major hub with connections to locations throughout Britain including Edinburgh, Glasgow, York, Liverpool, Birmingham and London.

Cardiff:

  • Cardiff Central - the Welsh capital's major rail hub with mainline connections to both the East including Bath, Bristol and London and West Wales including Swansea and Tenby.
  • Cardiff Queen Street - used mainly for local services Queen Street is where you can connect to the fashionable Cardiff Bay area of the city.

Edinburgh:

  • Edinburgh (Waverley) - situated right in the heart of the Scottish capital in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh Waverley is the arrival station of major services from England including the East Coast Mainline which passes through Durham and York on route from London. It also connects with the rest of Scotland including Glasgow and Inverness.
  • Edinburgh Haymarket - most service heading east from Waverley also pass through Edinburgh Haymarket making it a hub for much of Scotland and to Glasgow.

Glasgow:

  • Glasgow Central - Scotland's largest station Glasgow Central connects mainly with the south of Scotland and England including the Lake District, Birmingham and London.
  • Glasgow Queen Street - situated on the northern side of the city centre Glasgow Queen Street is used primarily for travel within Scotland including to Edinburgh, Stirling, Fort William and Inverness.

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