How Frequent are the trains?
It depends on the route you are using. On the most scenic lines, there are usually only a few trains each day, due to the sparse population in these areas. The Summer Timetable (early June-Late September) has more trains. At the other end of the scale, Glasgow-Edinburgh trains run every 15 minutes throughout the day. Some Glasgow suburban routes run literally every few minutes, while most lines have a train at least every half-hour or so. On longer distance routes to England, GNER operate a train almost every half hour from Edinburgh to London and vice versa. Some of these trains carry on beyond Edinburgh to Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow. Virgin have 8 or nine departures each day from Glasgow to London, as well as others from Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow to Manchester, Birmingham and other destinations in the South and West of England.
How can I find out train times?
If you have access to the internet, you can visit the Uk’s National Rail Enquiries journey planner. http://ojp2.nationalrail.co.uk/en/pj/jp?&T2ID=9113_2006425142717
First ScotRail have a similar facility on their own site. This site also has PDF versions of schedules for all Scottish lines (called timetables in Europe) that you can browse or download.
If you don’t have internet access, it’s no problem. Timetables for individual routes are on display at all stations, and leaflets containing the relevant routes can be picked up at station enquiry offices (called ‘Travel Centres’) where you can also ask about train services. Timetables covering Scotland are available at main travel centres.
Or you can simply telephone National Rail Enquiries from within Scotland on 08457 48 49 50, or from North America on 011 44 20 7278 5240.
Will I be able to understand the schedules?
All European public transportation timetables use the 24-hour clock. For times before 1 pm there’s no difference. 9.15 a.m. is simply shown as 0915. For times after 1 pm, add twelve hours to convert to the 24 hour clock. E.g. 2.20 pm plus 12 hours is 1420. To convert 24 hour clock to ‘normal’ time, subtract twelve hours. 1745 minus twelve hours is 5.45 pm.
Is the timetable the same at weekends?
No. On Saturdays the schedules generally mirror weekdays but without the extra trains at rush hours. On Sundays there is traditionally a less frequent service, though this is gradually changing. Also at weekends - particularly on Sundays – work on track renewal and maintenance sometimes mean trains cannot run, and are diverted via alternative routes or replaced by buses, which usually means a longer journey time. Always check with the rail operator before travelling on a Sunday.
Are the trains safe ?
Unquestionably, yes. British Railway Safety is a proud tradition going back to the earliest days of rail travel. Incidents involving passenger death or injury are very, very rare indeed. The risk of injury through terrorism, too, is incredibly small, though railway staff are on their guard at all times for suspicious activity.
Do I need to make a reservation before I travel?
No, except on Caledonian Sleeper Services. You can, for nearly all trains, just turn up and go. However it is advisable to reserve a seat for longer distance trains to and from England. This can be done up to a couple of hours before departure at most main line stations.
Can I travel First Class ?
You can, but not all Scottish trains have first class accommodation. ScotRail trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen have first class sections, but other routes do not. Virgin and GNER trains to English destinations have first class cars available. Freedom of Scotland passes are not available for first class travel.
What about my baggage?
European rail passengers carry their own bags, so it’s advisable to travel light. Luggage trolleys are provided at main stations. Porters are available only at large stations. There is space for suitcases available in most trains. If you need help, call the station a day or two beforehand. But DO NOT leave your bags unattended, even for a short time, as security staff may remove and destroy them.
How can I be sure I’m on the right train?
At most stations there are clear departure boards or monitors, backed up with announcements. Also most trains have announcements on board as well, telling you what train you’re on and what the next station is. If you’re not sure – ask the conductor – sometimes called the Train Manager – or another uniformed member of staff. You’ll find them helpful and friendly.