BritRail – Journey by Train

Rail travel in Britain has seen better days. The privatization process has been completed and the results are mixed. Privatization was supposed to encourage competition, but we’ve yet to see all the benefits. Prices have gone up, service is spotty, accidents are more frequent, and delays are the norm.

Still, taking the train is often the best way to get from Point A to Point B. There are express trains to the airports and between major cities. But for long trips to distant cities, the low-cost airlines are a much better value and can save you time too. Smaller towns all over the country, are still serviced by trains, although many of these lines are being discontinued as unprofitable.

Rail tickets are not cheap, and prices continue to rise. A word of advice: don’t buy one-way tickets unless you must. They’re now priced like airline tickets, meaning a round-trip costs only a pound or two more than a one-way, so you’re paying a big premium. If you’re planning an extensive rail journey around the country, you should opt for one of the many passes available through BritRail. This will save you a lot of money and time waiting in queues.

I was very impressed with some of the new trains coming into service. Virgin Rail is putting its new Voyager trains into service and these are almost like airplanes inside (with much more leg room). You can even jack in your headphones and listen to several channels of very good music and interviews with artists. But then again, you’d expect that from the company that owns Virgin Records. Virgin Voyager trains are all non-smoking, and they have special mobile phone prohibited cars. Their restroom facilities are state-of-the-art too!

I had an interesting experience on a trip from Brighton to London. There were several short delays and the train conductor was so apologetic, getting on the P.A. system each time, giving long detailed explanations about each incident, and expressing such heartfelt regret that we were arriving late. He was so concerned that we might be inconvenienced. All this for delays that totalled together less than 15 minutes. I felt like patting him on the back, to let him know it was O.K, and we weren’t too upset about it. This is how it used to be, when service was the name of the game. Don’t expect such personal concern on a regular basis anymore.

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