National Rail

Last updated

National Rail
Product type Public transport
Owner Rail Delivery Group
CountryUnited Kingdom
Related brands
MarketsUnited Kingdom

National Rail (NR) in Great Britain is the trading name licensed for use by the Rail Delivery Group, an unincorporated association whose membership consists of the passenger train operating companies (TOCs) of England, Scotland, and Wales. The TOCs run the passenger services previously provided by the British Railways Board, from 1965 using the brand name British Rail. Northern Ireland, which is bordered by the Republic of Ireland, has a different system. National Rail services share a ticketing structure and inter-availability that generally do not extend to services which were not part of British Rail.


National Rail and Network Rail

Young person's railcard rail ticket from Wellington to Shrewsbury British rail ticket Wellington Shrewsbury.jpg
Young person's railcard rail ticket from Wellington to Shrewsbury
Child return ticket from East Kilbride to Glasgow EK to Central Ticket.jpg
Child return ticket from East Kilbride to Glasgow

National Rail should not be confused with Network Rail. National Rail is a brand used to promote passenger railway services, and providing some harmonisation for passengers in ticketing, while Network Rail is the organisation which owns and manages most of the fixed assets of the railway network, including tracks, stations and signals.

The two generally coincide where passenger services are run. Most major Network Rail lines also carry freight traffic and some lines are freight only. There are some scheduled passenger services on privately managed, non-Network Rail lines, for example Heathrow Express, which partly runs on Network Rail track. The London Underground also overlaps with Network Rail in places.

Train operating companies (TOCs)

Twenty-five privately owned train operating companies were each franchised for a defined term by government in 1996-97. They operated passenger trains in Great Britain. However, franchises have ceased to exist and are being replaced by operating contracts, which do not involve significant commercial risk for the operators. The Rail Delivery Group is the trade association representing the TOCs and provides core services, including the provision of the National Rail Enquiries service. It also runs Rail Settlement Plan, which formerly allocated ticket revenue to the various TOCs, and Rail Staff Travel, which manages travel facilities for railway staff. It does not compile the national timetable, which is the joint responsibility of the Office of Rail and Road (allocation of paths) and Network Rail (timetable production and publication). Since March 2020 all ticket revenue has been collected by the Department for Transport, which also pays the operators' costs.

Design and marketing

Following the privatisation of British Rail there was no longer a single approach to railway corporate design. The look and feel of signage, liveries and marketing material was largely the preserve of the individual TOCs. However, railway reforms which are currently in progress will restore the pre-privatisation position, with design responsibilities for the whole network resting with the new 'guiding mind', Great British Railways.

However, National Rail continues to use BR's famous double-arrow symbol, designed by Gerald Burney of the Design Research Unit. It has been incorporated in the National Rail logotype and is displayed on tickets, the National Rail website and other publicity. The trademark rights to the double arrow symbol remain state-owned, being vested in the Secretary of State for Transport. [1]

The double arrow symbol is also a generic symbol for a railway station across Great Britain, and is used to indicate a railway station on British traffic signs. [2]

Corporate identity

A train station name sign showing the corporate identity of National Rail Wymondham Train Station Name Sign.jpg
A train station name sign showing the corporate identity of National Rail

The National Rail (NR) logo was introduced by ATOC in 1999, (previously British Rail logo as used from 1965), and was used on the Great Britain public timetable for the first time in the edition valid from 26 September in that year. Rules for its use are set out in the Corporate Identity Style Guidelines published by the Rail Delivery Group, available on its website. [3] "In 1964 the Design Research Unit—Britain’s first multi-disciplinary design agency founded in 1943 by Misha Black, Milner Gray and Herbert Read—was commissioned to breathe new life into the nation’s neglected railway industry". [4] The NR title is sometimes described as a "brand". [5] As it was used by British Rail, the single operator before franchising, its use also maintains continuity and public familiarity; and it avoids the need to replace signage.

The lettering used in the National Rail logotype is a modified form of the typeface Sassoon Bold. Some train operating companies continue to use the former British Rail Rail Alphabet lettering to varying degrees in station signage, although its use is no longer universal; however it remains compulsory (under Railway Group Standards) for safety signage in trackside areas and is still common (although not universal) on rolling stock.

The British Rail typefaces of choice from 1965 were Helvetica and Univers, with others (particularly Frutiger) coming into use during the sectorisation period after 1983. TOCs may use what they like: examples include Futura (Stagecoach Group), Helvetica (FirstGroup and National Express), Frutiger (Arriva Trains Wales), Bliss (CrossCountry), and a modified version of Precious by London Midland.

Other passenger rail operators in Great Britain

Several conurbations have their own metro or tram systems, most of which are not part of National Rail. These include the London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, London Tramlink, Blackpool Tramway, Glasgow Subway, Tyne and Wear Metro, Manchester Metrolink, Sheffield Supertram, West Midlands Metro and Nottingham Express Transit. On the other hand, the largely self-contained Merseyrail system is part of the National Rail network, and urban rail networks around Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and West Yorkshire consist entirely of National Rail services.

London Overground and the Elizabeth line (formerly TfL Rail) are hybrids: Their services are operated via a concession awarded by Transport for London (TfL). They are part of National Rail as train operating companies, where tickets can be used in the same way as other operators, and shown in the National Rail timetable. However, under Transport for London, they are considered as separate networks. They are listed separately in all materials produced by TfL than National Rail, stations serving London Overground or the Elizabeth line only do not have the National Rail logo shown on either the station themselves or the tube map, and fares on these two networks are priced as TfL services, the same as London Underground, rather than National Rail services. The National Rail service status web page by TfL also does not list these two systems as well.

London Overground also owns some infrastructure in its own right, following the reopening of the former London Underground East London line.

Eurostar is also not part of the National Rail network despite sharing of tracks and stations (along High Speed 1). Northern Ireland Railways were never part of British Rail, which was limited to England, Scotland and Wales.

There are many privately owned or heritage railways in Great Britain which are not part of the National Rail network and mostly operate for heritage or pleasure purposes rather than as public transport, but some have connections to National Rail track.


National Rail services have a common ticketing structure inherited from British Rail. Through tickets are available between any pair of stations on the network, and can be bought from any station ticket office. Most tickets are inter-available between the services of all operators on routes appropriate to the journey being made. Operators on some routes offer operator-specific tickets that are cheaper than the inter-available ones.

Through tickets involving London Underground, or to some ferry services (RailSail tickets) are also available. Oyster pay-as-you-go can be used on National Rail in Greater London from 2 January 2010. [6] These same areas can also be journeyed to using a contactless debit/credit card. Contactless also covers some areas that Oyster doesn't such as the Crossrail line to Reading, or the Thameslink station at Oakleigh Park. [7] [8]

The most common types of tickets available include 'advance' tickets, that specify a specific route and timing between two destinations, 'off-peak' tickets, either as a single or a return, that allow a passenger to use a train at hours where the service is not busy, and 'anytime' tickets, which can be used on any train. Season tickets, which offer unlimited travel between two stations for a specified period, are also available. [9] A 'rover' ticket also exists that allows unlimited travel in a set area or on services of certain operators, for a certain period of time. Rovers which allow unlimited travel for only one day are sometimes referred to as ranger tickets, and are usually available for smaller areas. [10]

Passengers without a valid ticket boarding a train at a station where ticket-buying facilities are available are required to pay the full Open Single or Return fare. On some services penalty fares apply - a ticketless passenger may be charged the greater of £20 or twice the full single fare to the next stop. Penalty Fares can be collected only by authorised Revenue Protection Inspectors, not by ordinary Guards. [11]

National Rail distributes a number of technical manuals on which travel on the railways in Great Britain is based, such as the National Rail Conditions of Travel, [12] via their website.


Pocket timetables for individual operators or routes are available free at staffed stations. The last official printed timetable with up to 3000 pages was published in 2007. Now the only complete print edition is published by Middleton Press (as of October 2016). A digital version of the full timetable is available as a pdf file without charge on the Network Rail website, [13] however passengers are recommended to obtain their timetables from the individual train companies.

National Rail Enquiries

The National Rail Enquiries website includes a journey planner, fare and live departure information. The site is designed to complement the myriad different websites of Britain's privatised rail companies, so when users have selected which tickets they wish to buy, they are redirected to the most relevant train company website, where they can buy their tickets without booking fees.

In 2012 the website was joined by a mobile app mirroring its functionality. The app is available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. [14] [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Permit to travel</span>

In the ticketing system of the British rail network, a Permit to Travel provisionally allows passengers to travel on a train when they have not purchased a ticket in advance and the ticket office of the station they are travelling from is closed, without incurring a penalty fare.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oyster card</span> Payment method for public transport in London

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ravenglass railway station</span> Railway station in Cumbria, England

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">London station group</span> Station group

The London station group is a group of 18 railway stations served by the National Rail network in central London. Most are terminal stations, either serving major national services or local commuter routes. A small number are through-stations that are considered terminals for ticketing purposes. All current stations in the group fall within London fare zone 1. A ticket marked "London Terminals" allows travel to any station in the group via any permitted route, as determined by the National Routeing Guide.

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In the ticketing system of the British rail network, tickets are normally issued to and from individual stations. In some instances, when there is more than one station in a town or other locality—especially where these are on different routes—it may be desirable for passengers to be able to travel to one station and back from another, or more generally to be able to choose which of the stations they wish to travel to. To accommodate this requirement, British Rail introduced a series of station groups: notional "common locations" to which tickets from stations outside that group would be issued.

There is no single 'discount railcard' available on the UK railway network. In addition to the large number and variety of short-term or localised promotional fares that have been available to passengers on the British railway network in recent decades, there are many permanent concessionary fare schemes available to passengers. Some of these take the form of Railcards, which can be purchased by people who qualify according to the conditions, and which give discounts for all journeys over a period; other concessions are available for individual journeys. In all cases, details of the type of concession will be printed on the passenger's travel ticket, to distinguish reduced-rate tickets from those sold at the standard full fare.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Avantix Mobile</span>

Avantix Mobile ("AVB") is a portable railway ticket issuing system used across the British railway network from 2001 to 2017.

British railway technical manuals

The railway network of Great Britain is operated with the aid of a number of documents, which have been sometimes termed "technical manuals", because they are more detailed than the pocket-timetables which the public encounters every day. Historically, they were classified PRIVATE and not for publication, however since rail privatisation they are now more widely available, mostly in digital form, because they are produced centrally and not by the regional rail operators.

A penalty fare, standard fare, or fixed penalty notice is a special, usually higher, fare charged because a passenger using public transport did not comply with the normal ticket purchasing rules. It should not be confused with an unpaid fares notice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive</span>

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Great British Railways (GBR) is a planned state-owned public body that will oversee rail transport in Great Britain from 2023, with the exception of Transport for London, Merseytravel services, and light rail and trams elsewhere in England. It will replace Network Rail as the operator of rail infrastructure across all of Great Britain. It will also control the contracting of passenger train services, the setting of fares and timetables, and the collection of fare revenue, with the exception of services wholly within Scotland and Wales.


  1. Archived 16 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine trade mark EU001733575
  2. Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, Schedule 7
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  5. "ATOC - Rail Fares in 2013 - Your Online Guide". Archived from the original on 23 May 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.: "National Rail is the collective brand for Britain's train companies working together"
  6. "National Rail". Transport for London. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  7. "The First Contactless Only Station - Geoff Marshall - Youtube". Youtube. 7 October 2019. Archived from the original on 11 December 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
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  14. "National Rail Enquiries announces a new app for iPhone & Android". National Rail blog. National Rail Enquiries. 1 May 2012. Archived from the original on 8 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  15. "Download our FREE app and become more mobile and get FREE alerts". National Rail Enquiries. National Rail. Archived from the original on 30 September 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.