Here’s a little development that might make your traveling life easier. If, like me, you are an occasional or frequent long distance of intercity train passenger in the UK, you are probably familiar with the god-awful travel planning and ticket booking website thetrainline.com
Until early this year, thetrainline.com was the only booking engine on the internet for buying National Rail train tickets. Although other websites, including those of the train operators themselves, sold tickets, they all used thetrainline’s archaic and illogical system. This demanded e-mail registration, numerous pages to present ticket options, and then a complicated process to reveal the cheapest possible single fares that might be better value than a return. To add insult to injury, thetrainline.com started 2008 by refreshing its delivery options. Free second class postal delivery is no longer an option (you must now pay £1 for first class delivery or more four next-day or same-day courier dispatch) and if you want to collect your ticket from a FastTicket machine at a station, you have to pay £0.50. There is now no way to buy a ticket on thetrainline.com without paying for ticket delivery in some form.
So, to the rescue, bounds in the new operator of the east coast train franchise, formely known as GNER. National Express have won the rights to operate this franchise, and with their flashy new website, they’ve finally launched an online booking engine to challenge thetrainline. And it’s a winner. Several pages of input are now compressed into just one. You can enter your journey requirements on the first page and then see all the possible ticket options on the next. The screenshot above shows what seems to be referred to as ‘the mixing deck’. Two columns group your outward and return trains. At the top of each column are buttons that, when clicked, highlight trains with available groups of ascending fares. So you click the preferred fare at the top of the column, and then the trains with seats at those prices show up. You then do the same on the return column, and the ‘mixing deck’ combines them on the yellow cross-bar to show you your fare with all the times, dates and restrictions. And from what I can see (having yet had reason to book a ticket) there’s no charge for ticket collection.
You can find the new booking engine at www.nationalexpresseastcoast.co.uk