“ Internet Site / Information „
The National Rail Enquiries website has improved a lot in the last few years - but there is still so much it won't do, and the layout just isn't intuitive.
The main reason most people use nationalrail.co.uk is to check their train times - when can I get from A to B and how long will it take. The site is great for this. It gives you a number of options (if you can find them, some are well hidden) like allowing more time for changes, only direct trains or a particular station to go through or avoid.
When it gives you a route you can look at details like intermediate stations which can occasionally be useful, for instance if you want to meet a friend who's starting from a different place. You can sometimes see which platform your train (usually) goes from which is nice to know ahead of time. But you have to be very observant to notice the tiny note at the bottom which tells you the final destination of your train - which is crucial information if you're trying to identify your service from the 10 or so listed on the tv-type information screens. As with much of the site, the info is there, but you have to know what you're looking for.
There is a whole section for live updates - you can see the departures or arrivals board for each station, and find a summary of current operational difficulties. The lists are neither complete nor totally reliable, but they do give a good overview of whether the journey you're about to start is going to be a total nightmare! You can sign up to receive updates on your particular service by text, free of charge although again the accuracy of these is rather variable.
There is information about destinations which again is a step in the right direction but nowhere as good as it could be. You can see a map of many stations to see whether the ticket office or waiting room is on your platform or the other one - the maps are aimed at those with disabilities & clearly mark stairs and other barriers to mobility. But inexplicably there isn't a map showing where to find the station from the town, and the details of parking are hopeless because they exclude council car parks which are often right next door and used as station car parks.
The other thing the site won't let you do is identify which station you want - except for their "selected highlight" destinations. For instance you can find out that the nearest stations to Alton Towers are Uttoxeter (6.5 miles away) and Stoke-on-Trent (18 miles away) but there is no clue about the best way to cover the significant distance between the station and the theme park. And if the town you're going to doesn't have a station, or it does have one but the station name is unrelated to the town name (Leuchars station for St Andrews, anyone?) then you'd best consult a good map before trying to work out your route on nationalrail.
If it were a school report I would say 6/10, must do better.
As soon as I make plans to travel within the UK that will necessitate a train ride, nationalrail.co.uk is my very first destination. Train times + cheap fares = a traveler's best friend!
Clearly, nationalrail.co.uk is your best source for timetables. It'll also helpfully provide you with alternative routes, allowing you to search options that are non-stop, or pass through certain stations. This was very helpful for my now-husband and me when we were trying to coordinate trips out west to Bristol when I was studying in Oxford and he was coming from London - we were able to coordinate meeting on the Didcot Parkway platform, thanks to nationalrail!
Another benefit to using the site to plan your trip is that it will find you the cheapest fares available at the time - either via the "Cheapest Fare Finder" (funny it's called that!) or just by searching all the railways and their fares and giving you links to buying those tickets. When your plans are less than definite - i.e. when you are looking at arriving/leaving within a certain time period, but not necessarily at any exact time - the Cheapest Fare Finder is your best friend, allowing you to look for the cheapest fares within 4 hour periods during the day. I have been able to find consistently find tickets for the trip from Oxford to London for less than 3 pounds, as little as 4 days before the actual journey - it's been great for keeping up with friends who are still living in Oxford.
Whilst you might have some choice words for National Rail when the automated voice is "very sorry" about the 30 minute delay to your train, don't assume the website is anything like it's parent - it's reliable, and really works.
I use national rail at least once per week. It's a great tool for finding out train times and also any disruptions - although this is not always as up to date as promised and you may find that that train you were planning on catching while appearing to run on time on the website, on arrival at the station it may be delayed or even cancelled.
The website itself is clearly laid out and easy to navigate. Finding out the price of advance tickets is something i do regularly and i save so much money by comparing how much a ticket would be at corresponding to the time i depart/return.
One draw back is that you cannot buy tickets directly from the site. It does; however, re-direct you to a train operator site or a third party company (e.g. the trainline, raileasy.com etc).
While the trains may not always be on time, at least you have an idea of how to plan your journey by using the nationalrail website.
National Rail Enquiries is the official, primary website for Britain's rail networks, and gives details of all train journies within the country. The site contains a simple Journey planner, whereby travel details can be entered (date/time of travel, route required, return/single) and travel itennieries produced. These are easy to interpret, and users can choose between journeys at different times by numerous criteria including journey duration and number of changes, and the site will automatically calculate the cheapest fare available on the day of travel entered. This can be annoying, as sometimes the difference between one connection and the subsequent one can be a hundered or so pounds, but admittedly this is a fault of the train companies' pricing policies rather than the website itself.
Once a journey is selected this itintery is presented in great detail, right down to whether the service has catering facilitues and a cycle policy, and this can be printed out for reference. Buyers can then choose to either pay on the train at the time or, should they need to purchase advance tickets, buy online, with the tickets normally arriving within a few days of purchase. The site also gives details of service disruptions and has a facility for locating hotels, although customers may well be able to find their own, cheaper hotel services themselves by looking elsewhere.
Whilst the site can be somewhat awkwardly laid out, with it being difficult to locate the required information and 'continue' buttons on the travel reports produced if you are not familiar with the site, once you have been on it for a short while it becomes very easy to use and allows you to find travel routes/fares very quickly. You can often save money by say buying 2 singles rather than a return or by cutting your journey up into segments (but still travelling all in one go) and this means that you might find yourself messing about for a while on the site in an attempt to save money, but this again is the fault of the company policy-makers rather than the site itself. A decent enough website, if only the train services themselves were half as good.