Trains in the UK are provided by two networks: National Rail (introduced in 1999) in England, Wales and Scotland, and Northern Ireland Railways in NI; these changes occurred following the privatisation of the rail networks in the UK. Around twenty companies operate on these networks including Virgin Trains, First Great Western, South West Trains, CrossCountry, Southern, Abellio Greater Anglia, c2c, Chiltern Railways, and Merseyrail.
Opened in 1825, Great Britain's railway system is the oldest in the world. Although train speeds in the UK may not be as fast as the high-speed train services provided in other countries, they are still agreed to be an excellent means for inter-city transport. There are also more services than many other European countries on average per hour.
There are more than 20 different Rail Operating Companies in the UK and Northern Ireland. These are franchised out to public transport operating groups.
Abellio Greater Anglia's services predominately operate from the surrounding peripheries of London, mostly departing from London Liverpool Street station to the north-east of London and the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, Herefordshire and Cambridgeshire. It has only been known as Abellio Greater Anglia since 2013, prior to that the service was known by a variety of different names which reflected the change of hands; it is currently owned by the parent organisation Abellio.
For more information: Abellio Greater Anglia
Colloquially known as simply Northern, Northern Rail operates the majority of its services, unsurprisingly, in the north of England. The services do extend, however, to the northern areas of the Midlands and southern areas of Scotland. The service predominantly focuses on more rural commuter train services and longer distance services, thus operates the most stations in the UK. Northern Rail has recently started operating Northern Electrics, making long distance travel with Northern much more accessible and quick.
For more information: Northern Rail.
Scotrail operates trains in Scotland. Both commuter trains and long distance services within Scotland are operated by Scotrail, including some lines down into England, via Carlisle to Newcastle. The densest part of the Scotrail network is the subarban area surrounding Glasgow, which forms the second largest suburban rail network in the UK, after London.
For more information: Scotrail.
CrossCountry operates under the parent company of Arriva Trains and has done so since 2007. As the name suggests, CrossCountry operates a great deal of routes from one end of the country to the other including the longest direct service from Penzance in Cornwall to Aberdeen in Scotland. It is one of the few remaining franchised train companies that does not operate any train stations, however, given its central location in the UK, all routes either stop at or terminate at Birmingham New Street.
For more information: CrossCountry.
Arriva Trains Wales operates trains in Wales. They run along a number of different lines in all parts of the country, as well as being the primary train operator to run services that connect North Wales to South Wales. The company also manages all stations in Wales, as well as some in England, including Shrewsbury and Hereford. All stations in Wales managed by the company show bilingual station names.
For more information: Arriva Trains Wales.