National Rail

Last updated

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

National Rail (NR) in the United Kingdom 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 eight privately owned train operating companies, each franchised for a defined term by government, operate passenger trains on the main rail network in Great Britain. 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 allocates 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 Regulation (allocation of paths) and Network Rail (timetable production and publication).

Design and marketing

Since the privatisation of British Rail there is no longer a single approach to design on railways in Great Britain. The look and feel of signage, liveries and marketing material is largely the preserve of the individual TOCs.

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 used to indicate a railway station on British traffic signs. [2]

Corporate identity

The National Rail (NR) logo was introduced by ATOC in 1999, 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.

Although TOCs compete against each other for franchises, and for passengers on routes where more than one TOC operates, the strapline used with the National Rail logo is 'Britain's train companies working together'.

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 & Wear Metro, Manchester Metrolink, Sheffield Supertram, Midland 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 (LO) is a hybrid: its services are operated via a concession awarded by Transport for London, and are branded accordingly, but until 2010 all its routes used infrastructure owned by Network Rail, that is because of the East London Line which was a LO line converted to a mainline but it is still National Rail. LO now also possesses some infrastructure in its own right, following the reopening of the former London Underground East London line as the East London Railway. Since all the previous LO routes were operated by National Rail franchise Silverlink until November 2007, they have continued to be shown in the National Rail timetable and are still considered to be a part of National Rail.

Heathrow Express and Eurostar are also not part of the National Rail network despite sharing of stations (Heathrow Express also share its route with GWR and TfL Rail). Northern Ireland Railways were never part of British Rail, which was limited to England, Scotland and Wales, and therefore are not part of the National Rail network.

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 Heathrow Express and London Underground 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]

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. [9]

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, [10] 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, [11] 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. [12] [13] However Trainline remains the most downloaded rail app in the UK with 9.4 million users. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

Rail transport in Great Britain

The railway system in Great Britain is the oldest in the world. The first locomotive-hauled public railway opened in 1825, which was followed by an era of rapid expansion. Whilst the network suffered gradual attrition from about 1900 onwards, and more severe rationalisation in the 1950s and 1960s, the network has again been growing since the 1980s. The UK was ranked eighth among national European rail systems in the 2017 European Railway Performance Index for intensity of use, quality of service and safety performance.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) is the British rail industry membership body that brings together passenger and freight rail companies, Network Rail and High Speed 2.

Southall railway station

Southall is a railway station on the Great Western main line in Southall, London, England. It is in Travelcard Zone 4 and passenger services are provided by Great Western Railway from London Paddington and by TfL Rail to Heathrow Airport. It is 9 miles 6 chains (14.6 km) down the line from Paddington and is situated between Hanwell to the east and Hayes & Harlington to the west.

Stansted Express Direct train service linking London Liverpool Street to London Stansted Airport

The Stansted Express is a direct train service linking London Liverpool Street to London Stansted Airport. It is a sub-brand of Greater Anglia, the current franchise operator of the East Anglia franchise.

A train operating company (TOC) is a business operating passenger trains on the railway system of Great Britain under the collective National Rail brand. TOCs have existed since the privatisation of the network under the Railways Act 1993.

Hanwell railway station railway station in London

Hanwell railway station serves Hanwell in the London Borough of Ealing. It is 7 miles 28 chains (11.8 km) down the line from London Paddington and is situated between West Ealing and Southall.


RailAir describes a number of airport bus and coach services designed to connect the National Rail network to airports in the United Kingdom. Services are currently concentrated on Heathrow Airport, with one other from Luton Airport. RailAir services are operated as public transport services by or on behalf of train operators, where the whole journey is paid for as a through ticket which combines the railway and bus journey, although journeys can be made using the bus only. As such, many are operated where the train and bus operator are owned by the same company.

Ravenglass railway station Mainline railway station in Ravenglass, Cumbria

Ravenglass railway station serves the village of Ravenglass in Cumbria, England. It is a stop on the scenic Cumbrian Coast Line 29 14 miles (47.1 km) north of Barrow-in-Furness and the terminus of the Ravenglass and Eskdale heritage railway. The two parts of the station are separated by the station's car park. The station is owned by Network Rail and managed by Northern, who provide all passenger train services, whilst the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway run its own platforms and services. The mainline station was originally known as Ravenglass before being lengthened to Ravenglass for Eskdale. It was then renamed to Ravenglass on 6 May 1974. When First North Western operated the station during the early part of the 21st century, it reverted to its name of Ravenglass for Eskdale' until Northern rebranded the station signage in 2007, losing the "for Eskdale" suffix once more.

Goole railway station Railway station in East riding of Yorkshire, England

Goole railway station is a railway station in town of Goole on the Hull and Doncaster Branch in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England.

Alfreton railway station Railway station in Derbyshire, England

Alfreton railway station serves the town of Alfreton in Derbyshire, England. The station is on the Erewash Valley Line 18 14 miles (29.4 km) north of Nottingham and 9 34 miles (15.7 km) south of Chesterfield.

London station group 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.

Allens West railway station Railway station in County Durham, England

Allens West railway station is in the town of Eaglescliffe within the borough of Stockton-on-Tees, England. It is located on the Tees Valley Line 7 miles (11 km) west of Middlesbrough and 8 miles (13 km) east of Darlington. The station is operated by Northern who provide all passenger train services.

Overground Network

Overground Network was a branding initiative launched in 2003 by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) and Transport for London (TfL), the public transport authority in London, England. Its aim was to encourage use of National Rail services in South London. The project was a partnership between the SRA, TfL, three train operating companies, the South and West London Transport Conference (SWELTRAC) and the South East London Transport Strategy (SELTRANS). The scheme is no longer being promoted and the Overground Network project has since been abandoned.

Witton railway station station that serves the Witton area of the city of Birmingham, England

Witton railway station serves the Witton area of the city of Birmingham, England. It is situated on the Birmingham-Walsall Line, part of the former Grand Junction Railway, opened in 1837. The line through the station was electrified in 1966 as part of the London Midland Region's electrification programme. The actual energization of the line from Coventry to Walsall through Aston took place on 15 August 1966. The station, and all trains serving it, are operated by West Midlands Trains.

Transport in London Transport network serving London and surrounding regions

London has an extensive and developed transport network which includes both private and public services. Journeys made by public transport systems account for 37% of London's journeys while private services accounted for 36% of journeys, walking 24% and cycling 2%. London's public transport network serves as the central hub for the United Kingdom in rail, air and road transport.

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.

The Scheidt & Bachmann Ticket XPress system is a passenger-operated self-service railway ticket issuing system developed and manufactured by the German systems development and production group Scheidt & Bachmann GmbH, based in the city of Mönchengladbach. Since the first trial installations in 2003, seven train operating companies (TOCs) in Great Britain have adopted the system as their main passenger-operated ticket vending method, while four others have installed machines at certain stations on their networks. More than 1,500 machines are in place across the country, and more than 850 stations have one or more. Machines can accept cash and/or payment cards and can sell most National Rail tickets.

Avantix Mobile

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.

Penalty fare Variant of offense Retrieval of benefits

On United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland public transport systems, a penalty fare, standard fare, or fixed penalty notice is a special fare charged at a higher than normal price because the purchaser did not comply with the normal ticket purchasing rules. It should not be confused with an unpaid fares notice.


  1. Archived 16 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine trade mark EU001733575
  2. Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, Schedule 7
  3. "National Rail Descriptor Guidelines". National Rail Descriptor Guidelines. Rail Delivery Group. Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  4. "British Rail's double-arrow logo, by the Design Research Unit". 4 January 2012. Archived from the original on 1 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.: "British Rail’s double-arrow"
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 May 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link): "National Rail is the collective brand for Britain's train companies working together"
  6. Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. "National Rail". Transport for London. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  7. "The First Contactless Only Station - Geoff Marshall - Youtube". Youtube. 7 October 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  8. Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. "National Rail fares, caps and Travelcards beyond Zone 9". Transport for London. Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  9. "National Rail Enquiries - National Rail Conditions of Travel". Retrieved 19 April 2020.
  10. "National Rail Conditions of Travel". National Rail. Rail Delivery Group. Archived from the original on 21 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  11. "Electronic National Rail Timetable". Network Rail. Network Rail. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  12. "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.
  13. "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.
  14. "Mobile App - Trainline". Trainline. Archived from the original on 30 September 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.