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I have only traveled a little by train in England, here is what I have discovered so far.
For train schedules and planning go to the National Rail website. train passes. Rail Europe's Railcan be found here.
There are several different companies that operate trains in the UK but in my limited experience, this was not a problem.
heathrow express train Our first experience with the British rail system was on entry to the UK. At the airport we hopped on the Heathrow Express which took us to Paddington station. From Paddington station we were able to access the London Underground (metro) which allowed us movement through out London.
When leaving London by train the first thing you must determine is which train station has trains, going to your desired destination. In our case, I pulled out my book travel guide, looked up my destination (Salisbury) and found out I needed to leave from Waterloo station. waterloo train station
Photo Above - the busy Waterloo train station.
train tickets sold in these offices Arriving by Metro to the Waterloo train station our first goal was to locate the ticketing offices. Walking down a long, wide, glass covered, atrium type, pedestrian open space (see photo above) we finally located the train ticketing office; though at first look I thought they might be a concert ticketing office promoting the musical "Chicago". (see photo left)

Enter the ticket office and you will find one long line serviced by several ticket windows. The line moves fairly quickly, there was an attendant on duty prompting customers to move forward in to free ticketing windows.

We got our tickets, which displayed a departure time but no departure platform. Our next task was looking for monitors to provide us with the departure platform information.


Photo Above - the black stripe at the top of the photo is a monitor showing train departure times and platforms. Note the "15","16" and"17" boxes located below and to the right of the monitor (not connect to the monitor) these are the entrances to train platforms, numbers 15, 16 and 17.

Spaced, regularly, in the center of the long glass atrium of the train station can be found long rectangular monitors (see photo above, it is the long black stripe towards the top of the page) providing departure information on the train. In the Waterloo station people stood in front of these monitors waiting for their train departure platform to be announced.

Departing trains will appear first on the left side of the monitor. When first appearing on the sign, no platform number will be listed for the train. As the monitor is updated, train information moves to the right of the monitor and eventually, a platform will be assign for your train. Once a platform is assigned to your train you need to go to that platform.

Train Platforms at the Waterloo station run the length of the train station, opposite the shops and offices, i.e. if you are walking down the atrium and the ticket office was on the right wall, the train platforms are on the left wall. Look for the little black box with white numbers, those are the train platform numbers.
Photo above - on board a UK train.

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Information on this page comes form my July, 2006 visit to England
This page last updated September 2006