National Rail, operated by several railway companies, is used by many hundreds of thousands commuters each day. For visitors, the overground rail service is useful for trips to the outskirts of the capital, particularly south of the Thames where the Underground system is limited.
The Silverlink 'overground' rail line, which runs in an arc around north London from Richmond to North Woolwich, via London City Airport, is a useful alternative to the Tube (telephone 01923 207258). The Underground map or 'Journey Planner' shows you the 'overground' lines and all the Tube stations that have connections to the National Rail network. For more information ring National Rail Enquiries on 08457 484950.
The railway network is also the best way to travel further afield in the UK. London has eight main railway stations serving the whole of the South East of England and beyond. Services vary between slow stopping trains, express services to major towns and Intercity trains which travel throughout the UK.
Rail tickets can be purchased from ticket offices at railway stations or from travel agents as well as online. They can also be purchased by telephone. Most credit/debit cards are acceptable. Queues at ticket offices can be very long and slow moving, so if possible use one of the automatic ticket machines, similar to the self-service ticket machines at Underground stations.
A huge variety of tickets are available but the most economical ticket for a day trip out of London is the Cheap Day Return. This offers excellent value compared to the Standard Return ticket but is only obtainable and usable after 09:30.
Travel Cards & Oyster Cards
If you only intend to use the rail services within Greater London the cheapest and most flexible way to travel is with a Travelcard or Oyster Card. These are valid on London's rail services within the relevant zones and can also be used on the Underground system, Buses, Docklands Light Railway and some Green Line buses. Travelcards and Oyster Cards can be purchased at all Tube and Rail stations, as well as appointed newsagents. Oyster Cards are also available online. Short-term visitors to London will find the Oyster Card, One-Day or One-Week Travelcards the most convenient, though monthly and yearly Travelcards are available.
One-Day Travelcards can be used after 09:30 on weekdays and all day at the weekends and public holidays. These can be purchased for different Zones. The One-Day Travelcard is now valid until 04:30 the next day and can be used on night buses (prefixed with an N).
Family Travelcards are available as are Weekend Travelcards and One-Week Travelcards
You will need a Photocard in order to purchase any Travelcard except the One-Day and Weekend versions. To obtain a Photocard take a passport-size photograph to any post office or Underground station Ticket Office. A Child-Rate Photocard is required for children between 5 - 15 to use Child-Rate Travelcards. To prove their age children show either their birth certificate or passport.
Once you have purchased your ticket, check the platform indicator boards to find the most direct train to your destination. Some train doors open automatically, others open by pushing the 'open' button or by means of a handle. To open older style doors from the inside you will have to pull down the window and reach outside to use the handle. Keep well away from the doors when the train is in motion and if you have to stand make sure you hold on firmly to a hand-rail or strap.
If you have lost property on a train or at a railway station telephone 08700 005151 and you will be connected to the appropriate station