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Occasionally I have to travel by train for work, and rather than queue up for tickets on the day of travelling, someone recommended thetrainline.com to me so I thought I would give it a go! Before writing this review, I was just scouring some of the very negative reviews written about the trainline previously and I'm wondering if they have completely reviewed their service, as my experience was pretty positive although I do have one or two niggles.
First, a little about the site itself. It is apparently the largest independent retailer of train tickets and the best thing is that you can use it to look up train times and book your tickets in advance which of course saves a whole lot of hassle on the day. On the home page it is pretty easy to see the links to click on to either check journey times or actually book your tickets.
The quick timetable checker is very quick. You just put in your 'leaving from' and 'going to' station and it instantly brings up a number of options. They give you all the information you would expect - times, duration, number of changes etc, as well as later or earlier options.
Buying tickets is also very straightforward too. The first time, because you have to register, it probably takes a little longer, but after that it is pretty quick. You get walked through every stage of the process so it's pretty impossible to go wrong. When you get to the point of paying for your ticket though, there are a couple of things to look out for which I didn't really like.
Firstly, there is the fact that they automatically add in an insurance charge which protects you if you have to cancel your journey as this means you won't need to pay the £10 cancellation fee. This is a pretty sensible option but I sort of object to it being added automatically. You can opt out of this which I did, but the default is to opt in so you do need to be aware.
Secondly, you will be charged to receive your tickets, which of course you are not if you purchase at the station. There are various options for this. You can pay 50 pence to go and collect your ticket from one of the self service fastpay kiosks at many stations. This is probably the best option but it is dependent on your local station having the right type of ticket machine. The ones that have these are all listed but unfortunately my station is not one of them. This meant that I had to opt for my tickets being sent to me and for this there is a £1 charge. I was booking my tickets over a week in advance so this was Ok but I would feel a bit nervous if there was much less than a week before travelling. You can order your tickets to have next day delivery but this costs an additional £6.
The third thing to be aware of is that if you want to pay by credit card there is a £2.50 fee. Now I know a lot of travel operators do this but I thought £2.50 was quite a lot for my £25 ticket particularly as I do not have to pay this at my station. All in all, none of these extra charges are that much, but they do all add up. I suppose you have to weigh these up against the convenience of using the trainline, and of course, the other option is to pay by debit card, for which there is no charge.
The big question of course is how good is the service? Well, in my experience it was excellent because I ordered my tickets on a Sunday and they were with me on the Tuesday which was the earliest I could have expected them. Everything was in order and it did take the pressure of me when making my journey as I didn't have to allow extra time for ticket queues.
I think it is likely that I will use the Trainline again, despite my gripes about the charges. I like the convenience of having my tickets ahead of time, and as the site is easy to navigate and straightforward and they also have a very helpful helpdesk, it is worth it. Just a small point to make as well is that you can go through a cashback site like Quidco and you will get a small amount of cashback too!