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British Trains

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If people say that you should be environmentally friendly and travel using public transport, it's a sure sign they haven't experienced the wonders that are British trains. This entry will try to explain why there are problems with trains in Britain and how to cope when you encounter them.

The Service

Ever since the railways were privatised problems have arisen. Trains are late more often, delays have become more frequent and accidents more common. This is due to several different companies all running on a shared track network. Railtrack is responsible for maintaining the track network and has come under a lot of fire recently due to the increased number of accidents. The track was in a bad state and was on the whole responsible for the numerous accidents. Railtrack set out a repair programme that meant trains followed a restricted speed limit, which caused late, delayed and even cancelled trains. These problems were not entirely under control even a year after the repair programme was announced.

Who Runs the Trains?

The railways were nationalised in 1948 and then were privatised in 1993. Railtrack is responsible for the track maintenance. Before the privatisation all the trains were run by British Rail; they were subsequently divided up between numerous companies:

The Train Operating Companies

Company NameArea
Anglia RailwaysEast Anglia
Arriva Trains - MerseysideMerseyside
Arriva Trains NorthernNorth England
Central TrainsThe Midlands
Chiltern Railway CoNorth London
ConnexSouth East England
First Great EasternEast Coast
First Great WesternSouth Wales and Devon
First North WesternManchester
Gatwick ExpressLondon
GNERLondon - Scotland
Hull TrainsEast England
Island LineIsle of Wight
Midland MainlineThe Midlands
ScottRail RAilwaysScotland
Silverlink Train ServicesThe Midlands - London
South West TrainsSouth West England
Thameslink RailBedford - South Coast
(Replaced the old 'Bedpan Line')
Thames TrainsCentral and South London and Thames Valley
Valley LinesBristol and Wales
Virgin TrainsAll England
WAGN RailwayEast England
Wales and WestWales and the West Coast

Games to Play on Trains

There are a number of factors to consider when taking a game on the train - it must be:

  • Easy to pack
  • Not too long
  • Easy to play (even on a large, unsteady table)
  • Easy to pick up quickly

The most suitable games to play are either card games, electronic games or board games1.

What to Pack for a Journey

Packing for the train is always a problem, you must try to anticipate all eventualities2, while at the same time not weighing yourself down with heavy items that are not necessary. This list should help you pack all the necessary items for a simple journey:

  • An extra jumper in winter or sun cream and a hat in summer
  • A snack and emergency food
  • A torch (kept in an outside pocket, so it can be found easily)
  • Medicines and tablets if they are prescribed
  • A pair of slip-on shoes

Following this list will hopefully give you the peace of mind that you have packed for any likely happenings. You may of course wish to take additional items such as a camera and film or Walkmans etc.

The Golden Rules

There are two golden rules to remember when travelling on a British train. They are:

  1. Always plan a contingent route, either using the train or an entirely different mode of transport, in case your train is badly delayed or cancelled.

  2. Never lose your temper with the ticket collector or other members of staff. It is not their fault and they cannot help it. Calmly ask for a complaints form at the desk and fill it out. They will then direct your annoyance to the right people who can sort it out.

Trivia Train Fact

The Intercity service from Bedford to St Pancras London used to be affectionately known as the 'Bedpan Line'

1As long as they do not have too many small pieces and are not to bulky. Travel board games are now available, which are perfect for train journeys.2A hurricane, the train breaking down in the middle of Wales etc.

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