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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

There are rough edges, for instance different fare concessions for children between the Underground and buses, but these are relatively trivial.

 

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 Harry Potter Studio Tour 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.

 

Train Services not part of the Oyster / Travelcard ticketing system

There are a few train services in London that you cannot use the fares and ticketing like Oyster and Travelcards outlined above on. These include the Heathrow Express airport train.

 

Oyster cards & Travelcards

Travelcard or Oyster Cards In London Discussion

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. There are no true e-tickets apart from the airport trains, but you can order online to take advance of advance purchase promotional fares and collect from ticket machines at major train stations.


The Trainline - timetables and ticketing for UK railways

 

Railcards

Railcards are money saving passes targeted at leisure travellers to encourage then to use the British railway network on their travels. You cannot use them for London Underground and DLR tickets.

 

There are many Railcards all aimed at their own target niche market, but the broad idea of all of them are that you pay an upfront flat fee for a Railcard, with a one or three years duration that enables you to get significant discounts on nearly all train tickets throughout Britain.

 

The initial cost of the Railcard doesn't justify their use just for one or two journeys, but if you regularly use the railways for leisure travel or are using the railways to tour the UK they are well worth looking at.

 

The various Railcards are:

 

  • 16-25 Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares - For those between 16 and 25 or over 25 in full-time education.

  • Two Together Railcard (1 year) - 1/3 off train fares - For those over 16 travelling as a couple (not morning peak)

  • Family & Friends Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults, 60% off children's fares aged 5 to 15 years.

    To use it, at least one of the group travelling must be named on the Railcard and there must also be at least one child travelling on a child rate ticket. The maximum size of group that can use a Railcard to obtain discounts is 4 adults and 4 children. The named Railcard holder must travel for the entire journey with any passengers who have been bought discounted tickets.

  • Senior Railcards (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults over 60 or over.

  • Disabled Person Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults who are claiming disability benefits or are registered as disabled. A travelling companion also gets the discount too.

  • Network Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults, 60% off children's fares aged 5 to 15 years for trains in the Network Railcard area (London and South East England). Restricted to the card holder and up to 3 friends.

Railcards - full details

 

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:

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.

 


The Trainline - timetables and ticketing for UK railways