National Rail – representing the UK’s train operating companies

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Set up in 1996, National Rail represents each of the 23 companies that run a train franchise in the UK, including Virgin Trains, CrossCountry and First TransPennine Express.

Administered by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), National Rail is considered to be the generic brand use to describe country-wide train travel in Britain.

The brand was set up to allow ease of use for customers, as well as providing a system through which operators could offer some parity across the board – such as allowing some customers travel to any London station, despite each being run by a separate company. ATOC’s other operations include the marketing of railcards and the licencing of ticket sales to third parties such as TheTrainLine.com.

National Rail railcard promo

One of the most common misconceptions about National Rail is that the company is a train operator themselves or that the business are the body that deal with complaints – however, their business is providing timetable and journey planning services to customers, as well as offering advice in relation to travel plans.

Although National Rail now offer their journey planning system through their website, app and other online channels, their network of travel advisors are still hugely popular – especially among older people. Overall, National Rail estimate that 17 million customers use their service annually, with a growing number of these being through mobile.