So you’ve figured out that on your upcoming trip to Britain, you want to take a train to London. This is a good start. As soon as you begin your search, you realize that there are several different ways you could do this – and several different train companies that all kind of look the same at first glance. Which one is the right choice? Do they all have wifi? Is there luggage storage? Where will you go after London? What if you choose the wrong train?
No worries, we’ve got this. Here’s our list of Britain’s top six railway companies and the different routes that they service, amenities they offer, and fun facts to help tell them apart.
First Great Western Trains in Britain
You might expect a lot from a train company with a superlative in its name – and, well, why shouldn’t you? First Great Western has definitely earned the “first” in its title. It operates the UK’s only high-speed inter-city, commuter, and sleeper train system (meaning it’s probably one of the first to appear in your UK trains search results); the company states that its central mission is to “put customers first; and, of course, it’s the first of the UK trains to be mentioned here on our list.
First Great Western carries one and a half million passengers a week across 9,000 services, covering everything from London and South Wales to Devon and Cornwall. The trains were recently renovated to include environmentally friendly engines, updated seating accommodations, and more efficient on-board facilities. If you’re looking to take any trains to London from a nearby town or the English countryside, First Great Western will probably be among your very first choices. Let Rail Europe be your first option for First Great Western train tickets, search now.
Fact to remember: Widest variety of service.
Britain’s East Midlands Trains
While First Great Western’s most notable feature is its range and variety of service, East Midlands is known for creating the perfect user experience. These trains reduce the stress of traveling in almost every single way: the atmosphere onboard mimics the comfort of home with the lighting, tables, and curtains tailored precisely for relaxation. The schedules are flexible and trains run frequently, meaning you’ll probably have a few to choose from no matter which time of day you decide to set out.
This company operates trains to and from London and around the East Midlands region, the most popular destinations being Liverpool, Derby, Crewe, Nottingham, and Leicester. If you’re planning to take a train to London and then heading onwards via the Eurostar, there are East Midlands trains leaving from Leicester, Wellingborough, and Kettering early enough to arrive in London before the first Eurostar train leaves.
Fact to remember: Use these trains to connect to Eurostar bright and early, before everyone else wakes up!
Traveling on Virgin Trains in Britain
Along with First Great Western, Virgin Trains are probably among the better-known British railway companies. These high-speed trains, traveling up to 125 miles per hour, give travelers a taste of the classic, luxurious high-speed train experience that brought many of them to Britain in the first place. First class offers complimentary wifi (it’s pay-as-you-go in second class), meal service at your seat Monday-Friday, power outlets for your electronic devices, and a Quietzone for getting some work done – or for a bit of procrastination in the form of window-gazing before breaking out the work
Virgin trains to London leave from Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham every hour, and the Virgin-run West Coast Main Line connects England, Scotland, and Wales. You’ll experience either the electric Pendolino trains or the diesel Super Voyager trains, depending on your route. Virgin hopes to increase West Coast Main Line speeds to 135 miles per hour in the near future. Virgin train tickets are available from Rail Europe, get fares and schedules now.
Fact to remember: If you hear mention of the terms “Quietzone” or “Pendolino,” it’s probably a Virgin train.
Traditional East Coast Trains
The East Coast Trains are for the traveler who ventures a little further off the well-worn path, and who appreciates the traditional train rides of old as opposed to a modern, high-speed vessel. Running from north to south along the eastern side of Britain, each East Coast Train’s quick jaunt to and from London allows travelers a chance to see a more local, routine side of Britain.
The 300+ miles of railway lines link cities such as London, Peterborough, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and beyond. Hopping on one of these trains to London after stepping off a modern Virgin or regal First Great Western train will give you an appreciation for the more traditional, classic trains of Britain’s past. Get your East Coast Train tickets from Rail Europe.
Fact to remember: For the far-venturing, nostalgic train traveler.
British Grand Central Trains – Let the Games Begin!
The Grand Central trains operate a bit differently than all of the other British railway companies mentioned here: they are not part of a government franchise, and therefore they receive no public subsidy. This means that – while all British train companies strive to please the customer above all else – these trains depend on it for their livelihood. In both first and second class, you’ll have access to power outlets and complimentary wifi, more windows than you’ll know what to do with, a bit of extra legroom for good measure, and – for the kids – game boards available on every table in Standard class! Choose from chess, Monopoly, and Cluedo. And when we say “kids,” we mean “the kids inside all of us.”
Trains to London arrive at Kings Cross Station, and if you’re taking the train out from London you can head towards Yorkshire or the Northeast. Either way, make sure to bring your Monopoly playing pieces and your best game face. Search for the Grand Central Train that best fits your itinerary.
Fact to remember: The games, of course. And the incredible customer service!
The Extensive Rail System of Britain’s CrossCountry Trains
For travelers looking for more than just trains to London, there is the CrossCountry network. From Aberdeen to Penzance and Stansted to Cardiff, this is Britain’s most extensive rail system. And you’ll find that the interior of these trains is pretty extensive as well, with 35% more seating and 25% more luggage space. You won’t even need to vacate that space to go find snacks, as the train staff will provide food and beverages for purchase directly at your seat. This is one of the simpler routes as far as train features and amenities go – but there’s a reason they say that less is more, after all. And on these trains, you definitely get more of the important stuff – more traveling distance, more personal space, and more relaxation. Find your CrossCountry train tickets now.
Fact to remember: Britain’s most extensive rail system – and your most extensive legroom.
There you go, that concludes our list of top UK trains – your only problem now will be constructing a route that allows you to ride each of these trains at least once!
The Rail Europe website can help you plan your trip on British trains. Offering a direct connection to the British train inventory and e-tickets, Rail Europe can make your trip aboard UK trains in Britain, well, great! Buy your British train tickets today.