|Peterborough: trains for Ipswich and Norwich.|
|Birmingham New Street: |
trains for London and Bournemouth.
The main thing about changing trains, as in most aspects of life, to be honest, is to keep your head and not panic! When it is time to leave your first train, gather your things carefully together (see advice on my Luggage page) and leave the train calmly, glancing at your seat and table to ensure that you have not left anything, and make your way to the platform. If you need to stop and adjust your baggage or check anything, do stand clear of the doors so that other passengers can get past you!
|Train indicator at Birmingham New Street, showing my|
train home to Stamford! The next train is a (delayed) train
Somewhere on the station, and often in several places, there will be a comprehensive list of departures (and arrivals, too, for those meeting people off trains) for the next hour or two. At Peterborough, for example, there is a big display over the main entrance hall which lists the stopping places of all departures, and smaller displays showing the time and destinations are on the platforms and elsewhere, including, wisely, the waiting rooms. There are also staff around to be consulted, including several sitting at counters and employed for this very purpose (they are especially useful on those occasions when things go wrong and special advice is needed - as happened to us at York on our way to Whitby).
Mantra: "Time, Destination, Platform"
At main stations in London, Birmingham etc, there are similar but larger displays making it pretty simple to discover where you need to be. So, armed with the departure time, destination and platform number (as well as whether the train is on time, or how many minutes late), the next step is to find the platform. Simply look for the signs which will be plentiful at interchange stations. Sometimes a long platform is divided into A end and B end but a long train will occupy the whole platform and just the number may be all you are given - announcements will sometimes tell you which end to be for First and Standard classes, or where to stand if you've a bicycle to load.
If you allow five minutes to change trains, this will be adequate at most stations, but a few more minutes, especially if you've never been there before, would be wise at big complex stations like Birmingham New Street or Edinburgh Waverley. You need time to find the departures list, read the information about your next train (time, destination, platform), find the platform, walk to it and board the train, and at places like New Street, the walking alone can take a couple of minutes. If you're not in a hurry (and often one is not), then allowing a bit longer and just taking time to have a drink or even allowing a lot longer and visiting a museum can turn a journey into a tour! We do it a lot: I bought a shirt once while changing trains in Birmingham, and in London we sometimes spend a whole day!
|A Cross Country Voyager at Birmingham New Street.|
This station is key to visiting a huge part of Britain and is
designed to make changes of train as easy as possible.
Birmingham New Street
|At the A end of New Street's platforms the waiting areas are|
separated by the main entrance from the Bull Ring, so
changing trains is best done at the B end.
|New Street's helpful guide to|
which "lounge" you need for
which platform changes:
cut out and keep, or save to
If you've time to spare, this station is in the heart of England's second city and there is plenty to see and do within a few minutes walk of the trains, so there is no need to rush through, so long as you get your last train to your destination. To leave the station, ask at a manned ticket barrier if your ticket is valid for break of journey (no need to do this if you have full-priced "any time" tickets or separate tickets for each leg of the journey) and then the options are to leave via one of the street-level exits - the main one takes you out to the well-known Bull Ring shopping area - or to go up one more level to the new Grand Central shopping centre which is built above the station. There also exits to Stephenson Street and Station Street, but these are not so useful for a quick visit (unless you want the Ian Allan transport book and model shop on Stephenson Street).
|Grand Central, with shops (including John Lewis department|
store), restaurants, bars and cafés, is on a gallery above New
Street station's concourse. There are several eating and drink-
ing places on the concourse, too, and in the waiting areas.
You are unlikely to have to go to Snow Hill station but if you do there are now trams from the Stephenson Street exit to Snow Hill, also signposted.
Trains which operate from Snow Hill also normally call at Moor Street, which is nearer.
London, Kings Cross and St Pancras International
London has never had a "central" station and changing trains here has normally meant a cross-town trek by Underground, taxi, bus or, if you know where you're going, on foot. The opening of the Thameslink service (strictly a reopening) between Farringdon and Blackfriars gave those of us in the north some limited access to the south and vice-versa, but the more recent opening of the high speed lines into Kent (principally for Eurostar services to Europe) and expansion of the Thameslink services has made the Kings Cross and St Pancras termini, with their shared Underground station - already the best connected on the Underground network - a real hub for London. The two main line stations' main entrances have been moved to face each other across the street, too, and make a journey from, say, York to Margate, a simple matter of crossing the road (and there's a subway route if you don't even want to do that!).
If you know Kings Cross and/or St Pancras from the past, it is best to forget all about them and start again as if they are newly-opened stations that you've never seen before, because they are used now in such a different way that if you try following habitual ways you will end up in the wrong place - not a disaster by any means, but it will take out of your way and lead to unnecessary confusion.
Before writing about changing trains at the Kings Cross St Pancras hub, I just want to mention that London Euston station is just a short walk from here, or one stop on the sub-surface Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City or Circle line, so it is also a hub for those travelling to/from London by the West Coast Main Line, too, including the Caledonian Sleepers.
I shall describe a change of train from one arriving at Kings Cross into a connection at St Pancras, and then the other way round: the second half of each will also work for passengers arriving here from other stations on foot or by Underground, bus or taxi.
Arriving at Kings Cross, leaving by St Pancras International
|The main concourse at Kings Cross: go diagonally across for|
domestic rail services from St Pancras
|Exit to main concourse from Kings|
Cross main platforms
|Approaching the exit for St Pancras domestic rail services|
Arriving at St Pancras International, leaving by Kings Cross
There are, of course, many other large junctions in Britain, but I hope that this description of these few key places will illustrate how simple change-of-train can be. I have quite confidently made changes in other European countries at stations which I've never seen before and never experienced any real difficulty - although the signposting of some of Paris's great termini does leave something to be desired. Just take it one step at a time: find out what time train, to what ultimate destination and at which platform, and only then start looking for it. Easy!