London Rail services complementing the Underground

London Underground is only one part of London's Rail Network

South West Train At Windsor Riverside Station
Windsor Riverside: London commuter train

London's rail network & integration with the London Underground

London has a dense network of local suburban commuter trains, separate from London's famous Underground system. South of the River Thames the railway network is far more dominant than the London Underground.

In the centre of London where most of the sights and hotel districts are the London Underground rules supreme.

The transport passes that nearly everyone uses, Oyster and Travelcard, allow you to travel seamlessly across all modes of transport, bus, Underground, train and DLR using the same ticket/pass.

Fare zones   Overground & DLR   Child fares   Oyster & Travelcards   Train only fares   BOOK train tickets   2 for 1 promo   UK day-trips by train from London

Although the railways are run by separate companies to the London Underground the level of integration has stepped up a lot in recent years. The overall regulation, fares and ticketing for buses, Underground, DLR and London suburban trains are managed by a central government body called Transport for London (TfL) chaired by the Mayor of London.

Fare zones & London urban rail map with zones

The London public transport system is divided up into zones that radiate from the centre. Nearly all the hotels and the main sights are in Zone 1. Heathrow Airport is in Zone 6 and the furthest zone out is Zone 9.

The majority of visitors will only travel in the two most central zones 1 and 2, but some tourist attractions like Hampton Court, Kew Gardens, Wimbledon and the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter are in the outer zones.

The Tube and Rail Map has the stations and their zones marked.

The fare you are charged whether by Underground or rail is determined by which zones you travel between, rather than individual stations. Some stations like Turnham Green are in two zones, you use whichever zone for these stations is most beneficial in working out your fare.

The Overground & Docklands Light Railway

Docklands Light Railway train
Docklands Light Railway train

When looking at the rail map you will see that beside the London Underground and the standard railways there are two separate entities, the Overground and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

Both have very different histories and have different trains to either each other or the London Underground, but for the day to day business of getting around London they can be treated in terms of fares and ticketing as the same as the London Underground.

Free fares issue for kids 5-10 years old with national railway services

For public transport within London kids under 11 travel free without a ticket.

The notable exception is any train service run by a national railways company where only kids under 5 travel free..

Railway services (and by this we mean not London Underground lines) that are part of the DLR, Overground or TFL Rail networks are not part of the national railways run services.

Very crudely national rail service trains operating routes within London where kids between 5-10 do not travel free are those that run out of Paddington, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street, London Bridge, Blackfriars, Charing Cross, Waterloo and Victoria stations.

Oyster Cards, Contactless payment cards & Travelcards

The Oyster card is a permanent reusable electronic ticket which is topped up from time to time by its owner. Londoners have their season tickets loaded onto Oyster cards as well and there are passes for one weekly and monthly durations. All can be loaded onto the one electronic Oyster card.

You can use Oyster cards on all of London's public transport, Underground, buses, Overground, DLR, suburban rail services and some river services.

Travelcards are an alternative to Oyster cards. Travelcards are valid on the same modes of transport as Oyster cards but are unlimited travel passes for a fixed flat fee. Travelcards are available for 1 and 7 days, 1 month and 1 year durations.

Oyster cards - more details

Travelcards - more details

Train only fares

There is a manned ticket office at all rail stations, though less busy rail stations may have restricted opening hours. The ticket offices accept credit and debit cards.

Next to the manned ticket offices are always at least one bank of automatic ticket machines. You can buy tickets based on the zone system for within London or tickets to any railway station in Great Britain from railway ticket offices.

You can buy day return tickets at any London suburban train station and beyond to Central London and pay a supplement for a Travelcard that covers the centre of London to be included in the ticket. If you travel after 9.30am, Monday to Friday, or anytime at weekends and holidays the Travelcard is cheaper as the Travelcard bundled enjoys the off-peak discount.

For fares and timetables use the 'Trainline' website where you can also order tickets for delivery to your home address. This facility includes International addresses, though there is a fee.

Digital tickets

Two types of digital ticket are available: etickets and mobile tickets. An eticket comes as a PDF attached to an email, which you can either open from your email or in the Trainline app.

Mobile Tickets are just like etickets, except you can only open them directly in our app and you need to ‘activate’ the ticket before you use it. Mobile Tickets can’t be shared or used on more than one device.

You can scan them directly form your phone with no need to print.

You can use digital tickets for the majority of UK train journeys. Some stations may not have ticket gates for you can scan your phone, but you can always just show a member of staff instead and they’ll let you through. You can also use etickets across Europe.

Paper tickets

You have three options:

  • Collection from machine at station: collect just 15 minutes after booking. For some bookings you'll need to use the card you paid with to collect your tickets. 
  • Second Class post: Your tickets will be sent out within 24 hours. This option is only available if your travel date is at least seven days after your booking date.
  • Next Day Delivery: Book before 15:00 and you’ll get your tickets by 13:00 the next working day, except bank holidays and public holidays. If you book on the weekend, you’ll get your tickets by Tuesday. Some postcodes have restrictions.


Woman in a train

Book in advance and save money on your train journey

• UK buses • Eurostar • Virgin trains

Railway 2 for 1 promotion

The railways sponsor a hugely popular and long running promotion that allows those people using the train to visit leading attractions to get two people admitted for the price of one.

When visiting London you can you can get 2 for 1 admission to many of London's major sights including the Tower of London. The full list is very long and covers all of Great Britain. If you have train tickets to London and you are doing some sightseeing it's a worthwhile promotion to look into.

Railways 2 for 1 promotion - more details

Day trips from London by rail to popular UK destinations

Day trip from London to Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is an easy day trip from central London

Windsor Castle 30-40 minutes from Paddington, trains twice an hour. 50 minutes from Waterloo, also twice an hour.

Hampton Court 30-40 minutes Waterloo, twice an hour.

Oxford Around one hour from Paddington, trains every 20-30 minutes.

Salisbury (for Stonehenge) Around one hour 30 minutes from Waterloo, trains every 30 minutes.

Bath Around one hour 30 minutes from Paddington, trains every 30 minutes.

Warwick Around one hour 20 minutes from Marylebone, trains every 30-60 minutes.

Stratford-upon-Avon Around 2 hours from Marylebone, direct trains every 3 hours.

Canterbury Around 60-90 minutes from St Pancras, Charing Cross, Victoria and London Bridge.

Discounted tours from London


Discounted Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath tours from London

£143 - Windsor Castle, Stonehenge & Bath

£116 - Stonehenge & Bath

£65 - Stonehenge half-day tour

• Exclusive prices including admission to attractions • Air-conditioned tour coaches with free Wi-Fi

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