As a consequence of the fact that the UK rail network was privatised many years ago, there are now a number of different companies operating along certain sections of the network. On first inspection, the UK rail system can seem a little daunting, but then once you start to dig a little into this, you will soon realise that it is not that bad.
It definitely helps in that you can log on to most of the company’s websites and purchase a train ticket to cover any journey throughout the country. Even if you are buying a ticket that will be through another operator, you should not be penalised financially.
Network Rail are the company that is in charge of the actual rail lines and this is a national coverage.
All-in-all and in comparison with most other countries, rail fares in the UK are exceptionally expensive. In fact, it is not uncommon for you to be able to find a domestic airfare at a fraction of the cost needed to travel via rail. With this in mind, here is some helpful advice on how you might be able to locate those cheapest fares:
Always try to book your ticket as far in advance as possible. If you are booking a ticket to travel on the same day you will be paying the most expensive rates. Also, within one week of travel, the prices are not as good as they would have been if you booked at least 8 days in advance.
Avoid travelling on a Friday as this is when the train operators really become greedy and fluctuate the fares massively.
Try to avoid travelling in the rush hours as fares will rise in line with demand at these times.
Although there are several train companies operating the services across the UK, let’s be honest here, they are all pretty similar. The livery of the coaches will change to reflect the company’s colours and image but everything else about the UK rail network will feel the same.
Most of the companies operate regionally or between the largest cities. The company that covers the majority of long distance rail travel is called Cross Country Trains and this company has only been in operation for a few years. This is because all sections of the rail network are won through franchises and as Virgin Trains lost their right to operate on most sections of the system - this was passed over to Cross Country.
This Franchising system can cause confusion to the general public and annoyance when you just start to get used to how a company works. On the other hand, when the companies know that their franchise is up for renewal every ten years and if they have not performed well they may lose this, it does tend to keep them on their toes.
In terms of punctuality for train companies around the UK, there is plenty of room for improvement here. For a first world nation, it is generally accepted that the UK is lagging way behind. However, train companies are well aware of this problem and they are making genuine attempts to improve their punctuality rates as far as possible.