Trainline was formerly known as Thetrainline.com and is an independent digital rail platform that sells tickets through a website, via the phone and through a mobile app available on IOS, Windows Phone and Android.
The Trainline’s offices are located in London, Paris and Edinburgh and it offers a range of cheap journeys and affordable tickets – especially for those that are able to book far in advance of their travel.
History of Trainline
Trainline was originally formed in 1997 and began selling online tickets in 1999. The company was formerly a part of Virgin Group but is today owned by private equity investors and management. The company grew rapidly during the early 2000s and acquired the number one online competitor QJump from National Express Group in 2004.
The company doesn’t only sell services to customers under its own brands but also handles online services for 8 out of 20 UK train operating companies. It also offers a rail business travel service for many large blue-chip corporations, travel agents and travel management organizations. It has a call center service as well for handling customer queries.
In 2015, Trainline was purchased from Exponent by KKR, a private equity firm. In 2016, the service extended its offer with Captain Train, thereby including European rail routes.
The Services at Thetrainline.com
To use Trainline, customers can visit www.TheTrainline.com, where they will be greeted by a simple booking form. Here, they can enter the details of their chosen journey and will then be presented with a list of options. The option selected will automatically be the cheapest journey by default.
Ultimately, the Trainline is just a ‘Middle Man’ for other services. If you are looking for easy journeys around the UK, then you will be better off heading to NationalRail.co.uk. National Rail is the portal site for various train operating companies and here you will see their direct price. When you book, you’ll be redirected to that provider and will pay there.
The Trainline is a reseller or an agent and so when you book through their site, you might have additional booking fees or credit card fees charged on top. This is how Trainline makes it money and as such, for your ‘standard’ journeys around the UK, there is really no benefit to using Trainline.
At the time of writing, I am comparing the same journey on Trainline and National Rail. The National Rail Enquiries site offers an off-peak Bicester Village to London journey with a Network Rail card for £16.75, while the same exact journey on Trainline is £16.85. There is a 10p charge that effectively acts as Trainline’s finder’s fee.
But there are scenarios where Trainline might be preferable. For one, Trainline has the advantage of brining together offers from 86 different train companies under one roof and allowing users to compare them. It also makes it very simple and easy to pay through the app, which might be considered worthwhile for the small fee of 10p!
One of the downsides of using National Rail, is that you end up paying through a lot of different companies, which means you can have to enter details on the move through your mobile. That can be fiddly on sites operated by the likes of Chiltern Railways, which aren’t that modern or mobile responsive. Using the Trainline app can make things significantly easier on the other hand.
Go International with Thetrainline.com
The other advantage of Trainline is that it is an international platform that allows for international travel. Trainline currently operates in the following countries:
- Northern Ireland
- Republic of Ireland
- Czech Republic
Some of these countries only have partial coverage but that is still an extensive list and this makes Trainline a great option for those that want to travel internationally. The platform is still growing and it aims to eventually connect the entire world.
Popularity and Brand
This convenience obviously appeals to some people, seeing as the company is doing extremely well. The apps and website together get over 45 million visitors every month. They sell over 125,000 journeys daily and that covers 24 different countries.
The company is operated by a team of over 500 professionals and self-described ‘tech innovators’. Those employees come from 48 countries and research is focused on incorporating machine learning in order to provide better travel recommendations and price options.
Trainline is also a popular option for businesses. They cater to companies of all sizes and provide self-managed and account-managed solutions.
Features You Can Avail at Trainline
The company offers a range of features and tools to help make life easier for travellers.
Trainline offers a ticket alert service for instance that allows users to sign up for email alerts. These notify the users as soon as advance tickets become available. These tickets are normally cheaper and that is a very useful tool for letting you quickly jump on a great deal before it disappears.
The apps also provide the benefit of allowing a very fast and easy way to find the best fare at any given time. This is particularly useful for those that want to book their tickets while they’re on the move, without having to fiddle with a computer or a website that is designed for a desktop setup.
BusyBot is an AI tool on the Trainline site that uses data from the app to predict where free seats will be available in carriages.
Trainline Fees and Refunds Policy
Specifically, the booking fees incurred by using Trainline operate on a tiered system. Customers will usually be charged somewhere between 75p and £1.50, unless they are buying the ticket on the day of travel. In these cases, there may be no fee, or there may be a flat 2% fee added.
Refunds and cancellation will depend on the type of ticket purchased. Since 2016, some refunds can be carried out via the app, though companies might charge an administration fee of anything up to £10. Trainline will automatically charge £10 for every ticket refunded, making this not a great option for travellers.
Getting the Best Prices
For those that want the very best prices, it is usually better to go direct to the service provider, rather than using Trainline. If you live in the UK and you’re looking to book a journey into London or elsewhere, then going direct to sites like Chiltern or Southwest Trains will allow you to get the best deals possible. By using the National Rail Enquiries website, you’ll be able to compare prices and times easily without having to use an agent such as Trainline.
As mentioned then, Trainline is most useful for the convenience, speed and ease of use that it offers. It is a very handy tool if you want to compare prices across lots of different journeys and especially if you want to travel a long way using multiple different rail lines and potentially multiple countries.
Some of these tools may also potentially help you to get a cheaper deal in some instances. For example, if you can use Trainline’s alerts system to get notified about advance tickets as soon as they become available, then this could be a good way to secure a seat on a busy service. Although there’s no reason you can’t get the alert and then still book through National Rail!
There are some strategies you can use to get the best prices whether you are travelling with Trainline or another service.
The first and most obvious tip is to avoid peek travel times. Peak travel times generally cover the mornings on weekdays. Usually, this means any train that arrives before 10AM. This means that if you’re travelling into London from Bournemouth, you actually could start travelling as early as 9AM on an off-peak fare, because the train would arrive after peak times. Look out for Super Off Peak times, which will offer you even greater savings.
By avoiding peak times you don’t only make huge immediate savings but you also become eligible for further discounts, such as those available through the use of railcards.
Speaking of which… get a railcard! If you are under 25, then you can get a ‘Young Person’s Railcard’ which will get you up to 30% off of all your journeys. This is highly worthwhile.
But if you are over that age, then a good option is to think about the trainlines that you use most often. A Network Rail card for example will get you a similar discount on journeys across London and the South East. This will cost you around £30 but lasts for a year and if you make just a few journeys into London, then it will pay for itself.
As ever, be flexible and make sure to keep checking the sites. Booking in advance can help you to make even greater savings and the same journey into London from Bicester when booked days or weeks in advance can be found for as little as £5 in some cases.