In Manchester by Rail

I had a very strange day. Worked much like normal, and then headed to the rail station for a short trip to a major hub, followed by a long trip to Manchester. I arrived about 9 pm, and checked into my hotel for my one night stay–back home tomorrow in the reverse trip. I’m constantly amazed at the persistent tendency of the local Brits to complain about the train service: I still find it totally amazing that I can just check the schedule, buy a ticket at the station and travel half-way across the country (in relatively bad weather even) in such comfort. I got lots of work done in the 3.5 hours on the train to Manchester, and have the faint glow of happiness about my work meetings tomorrow. One question for the Brits or Brit-living folks out there, though: how do you get a reserved seat on these longer trains? I’ve done the London-to-Bath route twice, and today travelled up to Manchester, and in both cases there were few seats on the train that did not have little cards in them saying “reserved” with a starting and ending station. Interestingly, less than half of these spots were ever filled on the journey, including the one next to me. But say I wanted to guarantee myself a nice forward-facing window seat on my journey, what would I have to do?

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8 responses to “In Manchester by Rail

  1. Brit reader here. (I enjoy reading an outsider’s view of the country.)

    If you want to reserve a seat then you can buy tickets in advance on the internet. You can also get cheaper deals online too.

    http://www.thetrainline.com

  2. I think you have to book online or by phone.

    As well as the website suggested by Lisa, I think you can go to the websites of the individual train companies, which should amount to the same thing, but you never know.

  3. You can also reserve seats at the station – but only in advance, and not on the day.

    As for why the British complain about the state of the railways – well perhaps 90% of trains arriving late hitting the headlines for being an improvement has something to do with it:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/nov/23/travelleisure.transportintheuk

    A Japanese friend couldn’t quite believe that long distance trains could be up to 10 minutes behind schedule without being counted as late!!!

  4. > I’m constantly amazed at the persistent tendency of the local Brits to complain about the train service

    This is because they believe them to have been very much better in the past.

  5. > I still find it totally amazing that I can just check the schedule, buy a ticket at the station and travel half-way across the country (in relatively bad weather even)

    And yet five days ago you were complaining about “Britain’s inability to handle the snow”!

  6. Well, yes, they did not handle the snow well but handle general transport infrastructure (in the absence of snow, rain, leaves on the tracks, cows on the tracks, suicides, strikes, other interruptions, etc. ) just fine! It’s still a better public transport system than the US as a whole, no question.

  7. Pingback: Glasgow train adventures, take 2 « Not From Around Here

  8. You may have already found this but the trainline often has extra charges, I prefer to go via National Rail Enquiries http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ when booking a train, which doesn’t usually. Also sometimes on longer journeys with changes it can be cheaper to buy the tickets separately for each change and you have more control over your journey.

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