A beginner’s guide to train travel in the UK
Whatever means of transport that you choose for your travels around the world, there’s always the chance of something going wrong - some sort of disruption that throws your carefully planned journey into chaos. When something is beyond your control – whether it’s bad weather, mechanical failures, industrial disputes, or some other unforeseen development – there really is no other option but to take deep breaths and try not to let it stress you out.
When travelling around the UK, my favourite mode of transport is the country’s rail network – it crisscrosses efficiently across the country, and connects pretty much every small town.
The trains in the UK don’t always work perfectly - sometimes there are delays, sometimes the weather is against you, sometimes you’re faced with the soul-destroying prospect of having to endure a rail-replacement bus. However, when things are going in your favour, the UK’s vast rail network is a great way to travel.
It’s actually quicker door-to-door
If you’re only looking at the actual travel time of a journey, you could easily make an argument that it’s quicker to fly from London to somewhere like Manchester than to take the train.
While technically this might be true, you also have to factor in the time it takes you to get to whichever airport you’re flying out of London from, and then the time it takes to travel from Manchester airport into town. Plus, you’ve also got to be at the airport at least one hour before your departure time.
For the train journey, you can turn up to the station with minutes to spare, and you’re travelling from the heart of the city to the heart of your destination.
You can work while you’re travelling
While there may be times when you’re looking forward to that brief window of being completely disconnected from the world, if you’re travelling for work, or just needing to stay on top of what’s happening in day-to-day life around you, then you’ll appreciate that you can pretty much always be online while travelling via train.
Most trains offer some form of on-board wifi, but you’ll probably have a smartphone that will enable you to create your own wifi hotspot while you’re travelling. It’s surprising how productive you can be when it’s just you and your laptop with a bit of uninterrupted travel time, as your train rumbles across the country.
The odd tunnel might occasionally disrupt your signal, but in a way that’s part of the charm of train travel.
You can have an on-board picnic
With the increasingly stringent security regulations on planes, it makes a nice change to be able to stock up on provisions that you can enjoy while travelling by train. Your journey is going to be infinitely more enjoyable if you get to share it with a bottle of wine, some quality cheese, and a baguette of fresh crusty bread – if you manage to grab a seat with a table then it’s a total game-changer.
Most train services will also offer some form of on-board catering. If you’re travelling in first class you might get an at-seat meal included in the price of your journey, otherwise there’s likely to be a shop or cafe on-board that gives you an excuse to stretch your legs and explore the train if you’re feeling a bit peckish.
You get to enjoy the scenery
The countryside across Great Britain is quite diverse and often extraordinarily beautiful. It’s fantastic to be able to absorb some of the sights and character of the places that your train is speeding through.
In contrast, when you’re flying, it’s almost as if you have been teleported from one part of the world to another – the weather could be completely different, the accents could be completely different, and it’s almost as if you’ve suddenly landed in a completely different reality.