A Beginner’s Guide to UK Train Travel, Part III: London by Rail

This week, To The Trains finishes our three-part series on train travel in the United Kingdom. Over the past two weeks, we have looked at the various train operators, train services, and ticket types in the UK. Now, we look at how to get around the country by rail once you arrive in the capital city of London.

London’s Network Stations

When searching for stations in London, many lists include all stations for both travel on the national network and for the Underground. With the London Underground being one of the world’s most comprehensive rapid transit systems, we will focus on the primary Network Rail stations in the capital city. Unlike most American cities, which are served by only one station, London has multiple stations provide service to different regions across Great Britain.

Cannon Street – Located near London Bridge, Cannon Street provide network rail service for Southeastern. Southeastern trains from Cannon Street connect to locations in the London metropolitan area.

Charing Cross – Another station serving Southeastern, Charing Cross is located in the London borough of Westminster. Services travel to the southeast, including Dover and Hastings.

King‘s Cross Station

Euston – One of London’s largest stations, Euston Station provides service for the West Coast Main Line. Many trains are currently operated by Virgin Trains, and provide service to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. Other operators include London Northwestern, providing service to Birmingham, and the Caledonian Sleeper, which provides sleeper service to the Scottish lowlands and highlands six nights a week.

King’s Cross – With its fictitious Platform 9 ¾ one of London’s top tourist attractions for families, King’s Cross still see numerous East Coast Main Line journeys. With trains run by London Northeastern, Great Northern, Hull Trains, and Grand Central, trains from King’s Cross provide service to Cambridge, Doncaster, Hull, Sunderland, Leeds, York, Newcastle, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.

Liverpool Street – As England’s third-busiest station, Liverpool Street serves numerous cities in the east of England. Trains depart from Liverpool Street main-line station for destinations across the east of England, including Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester, Chelmsford, Cambridge, and many suburban stations in north and east London, Essex and Hertfordshire. The primary operator for intercity travel is Greater Anglia, but will be served by the new Elizabeth Line service by Transport for London.

London Bridge – London Bridge, which recently underwent an upgrade for the ThamesLink service, is an intermediate station for many Southeastern trains leaving Charing Cross and Cannon Street. Southern service also provides some suburban Metro services from the station.

Marylebone – One of the smaller main line stations in London, Marylebone is currently served by Chiltern Railways. Chiltern provides multiple hourly services to both Birmingham and Oxford.

Paddington Station – Made famous by story and movie teddy bear, Paddington Station is the terminus of the Great Western Main Line, which provides service to the cities of Bath, Bristol, Oxford, Cardiff, Exeter, and Plymouth. Additionally, Paddington is the gateway to Heathrow Airport, with service provide by both the Heathrow Express and the newly-launched Elizabeth Line, also known as Crossrail.

St. Pancras International

St. Pancras International – Located adjacent to King’s Cross, the large gothic structure of St. Pancras strikes an imposing visage in London. The former Midlands terminus was rebuilt in the early 2000s to provide service to both England and abroad. Within England, East Midlands provides service to Leicester, Derby, Sheffield, and Nottingham, while high-speed Southeastern trains run from St. Pancras to Dover and Canterbury. The primary service from St. Pancras is the Eurostar, providing service to continental Europe in Paris, Belgium, and Amsterdam.

Victoria – Located in Westminster, Victoria provides services for both Southern and Southeastern trains, as well as a shuttle service to Gatwick Airport. Trains travel to Dover, Canterbury, Brighton, Southampton, and Portsmouth, as well as numerous Metro London services.

Waterloo – Great Britain’s busiest station is Waterloo, which is located across the River Thames from the Parliament building in Westminster. Served by Southwestern Trains, Waterloo provides service to Portsmouth, Bournemouth, Yeovil, Exeter, Southampton, and Reading. For services in the greater London area, trains from Waterloo connect to both Wimbledon and Twickenham for sports fans.

Connecting Between Stations

With the expansive Underground network, all of London’s Network Rail stations are easily accessible via rapid transit. For many of the busiest stations, there are platforms for the London Underground either in or underneath the station itself. The line connecting most of London’s stations is the Circle Line. The Circle Line, represented by the yellow lines on the system map, has stations at Euston, King’s Cross/St. Pancras, Liverpool Street, Cannon Street, Victoria, and Paddington. Additionally, Waterloo station is located a short walk across the River Thames from the station at Westminster.

I hope this series on train travel in the United Kingdom has been helpful in planning your next vacation to Great Britain. If you have any questions about the UK system, be sure to comment below.