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Which train app should you be using?

willp789

willp789

5 minute read

Let’s get just get this one out of the way… at 1 million downloads, National Rail Enquiries is one of the most downloaded train apps, but that doesn’t mean you should use it. Aside from crashing a few times, the interface is somewhat ‘retro’ compared to the others.

Looks aside, the National Rail app functions as you would expect. Favourite stations are present and a ‘get me home’ button is a nice inclusion. When you get to purchasing a ticket, you’re redirected to the website of a local rail company. As a result, there shouldn’t be any booking fees. Additionally, it was a little disappointing to see adverts within the app.

National Rail

Southeastern On Track

Unlike most of the other apps, Southeastern On Track features a dashboard containing live information about your common journeys, favourite stations and the London Underground. This is great because the most useful information is available as soon as you open the app.

In terms of design, the Southeastern On Track app is laid out very nicely with various sections accessible from the slide-in menu. Buying tickets is a smooth experience overall but other train apps often found better prices. Because this app is directly from a rail company, there are no booking charges.

Southeastern

Virgin Trains and CrossCountry

The reason I’m bundling these two apps together is that they are very similar in design. My guess is that the same developers made both apps but tweaked the branding to suit. The GWR app (formerly First Great Western) also used the same app layout for many years and it worked well for me, it was functional even if it wasn’t pretty.

Both apps have a very straightforward purchase process and the pricing tiers are very clearly laid out. When buying tickets, it’s useful to see the various prices available for the different times, so they do well in this regard.

Virgin Trains

GWR (Great Western Rail)

The GWR app has a lot of potential. The interface is clean and planning a journey is a breeze with the dedicated ‘plan’ tab. One feature which I couldn’t find was a way of saving journeys. The live times feature is good for looking a couple hours ahead, but to find later times you need to run a search…

In addition, purchasing tickets can be a bit overwhelming because lots of information is shown with very little structure. I personally preferred it when the GWR app followed the same layout as Virgin Train and CrossCountry because purchasing tickets was a lot easier.

Great Western Rail

Trainline

Opening the Trainline app brings you immediately into your ‘recents and favourites’ page which displays a plethora of useful information. This includes the next 3 trains from your favourite stations, accompanied with live information about the platform number and possible delays.

When it comes to buying tickets, Trainline does a very good job and finding the cheapest ticket for your chosen journey. Unfortunately, this comes at a small price of 25p per transaction, but I think this is worth it for the potential price savings on tickets. Additionally, Trainline has a superb interface and is really easy to use.

Trainline

TrainPro

TrainPro is very similar to Trainline in that it isn’t from any particular rail company. Where it differs is that TrainPro doesn’t have any booking fees. This could save you a significant amount of money if you frequently use trains.

Opening the app will bring you to the tickets page, but a swipe to the left will bring you to the ‘live info’ page where you can choose an origin and a destination to see live information. This isn’t particularly useful because it won’t remember multiple journeys like Trainline does. On the other hand, the TrainPro app looks nice and is well laid out.

TrainPro

Which one should you use?

If you’re looking for the best overall experience and you don’t mind the 25p booking charge, I would highly recommend trying the Trainline app. For me, Trainline is my favourite because I tend to buy tickets at the station, which means I only need the app for timings. If you would rather avoid the booking charge, I would suggest trying Southeastern On Track or TrainPro because of their intuitive layouts and useful features.

Here are my subjective scores for each app, so you can decide for yourself:

National Rail Enquiries

  • Design: 25
  • Features: 35
  • Booking fee: Varies (usually none)
  • Number of downloads: 1 million

    Southeastern On Track

  • Design: 45

  • Features: 45

  • Booking fee: None

  • Number of downloads: 50 thousand

    Virgin Trains

  • Design: 35

  • Features: 45

  • Booking fee: None

  • Number of downloads: 100 thousand

    CrossCountry

  • Design: 35

  • Features: 45

  • Booking fee: None

  • Number of downloads: 100 thousand

    GWR

  • Design: 45

  • Features: 45

  • Booking fee: None

  • Number of downloads: 100 thousand

    Trainline

  • Design: 55

  • Features: 55

  • Booking fee: 25p*

  • Number of downloads: 1 million *if the transaction is more than £25, the booking fee will be higher.

TrainPro

  • Design: 45
  • Features: 45
  • Booking fee: None
  • Number of downloads: 10 thousand

Conclusion

There are lots of train apps available, but in reality you only need one installed on your phone. Which train app do you prefer to use? Will you be trying out some of the other apps? Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic in the comments below.

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Written by willp789

willp789
Will is a tech fanatic who likes coffee and music.