UntitledCreated with Sketch. UntitledCreated with Sketch. footer-accordion icon-twitter logo-trainline


The double arrow logo is a registered trade mark in the name of the Secretary of State for the Department for Transport.

Introducing British Rail

British Rail was privatised in 1997 and since then the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) have run private franchises across different routes. The double arrow logo is still used by National Rail in their brand.

Save an average of 43% on train tickets by booking Advance fares on thetrainline.com versus booking on the day of travel (limited availability & routes). Buy your tickets for all routes covered by old British Rail routes here.

A brief history of British Rail

British Rail operated the majority of the UK's rail network between 1948 and 1997 under the ownership of the UK government. Originally British Rail was the merging of four separate companies. Known at the time as the "Big Four", these companies were called:

  • London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS)

  • London and North Eastern Railway (now London North Eastern Railway)

  • Great Western Railway (GWR)

  • Southern Railway (SR)

GWR is still in operation today and operated under franchise by FirstGroup.

Through a gradual period of nationalisation, much of the network was transformed into diesel and lines upgraded to incorporate electrification. This process saw the steam train become replaced completely by 1968 by diesel or electric locomotives. When it comes to innovation and train development during this time, the jewel in the crown for British Rail was the Inter-City 125 trains, or as it later became more commonly known as the ‘High-Speed Train’. There was one exception to the rule, a single narrow-gauge tourist line in Wales which to this day continues to operate under private ownership. As a leading heritage railway find out more about the Vale of Rheidol Railway here. 

With British Rail privatised the responsibility for infrastructure including track, signalling and railway stations were transferred to Railtrack and then brought back into public control with the introduction of Network Rail in 2002. The TOCs are responsible for the trains themselves.

For more information on British Rail timetables, train tickets and off-peak times, you can use our journey planner to book your train now.




Phil Sangwell - originally posted to Flickr as Chesterfield

Fun facts about British Rail

1.There are 2,563 railway stations across Great Britain. 330 of which are in London.

2. The longest tunnel on the rail network is Severn Tunnel at 4.5 miles long.

3. There are 40,000 tunnels and bridges on Britain's rail network.

4. The busiest train station in the UK is Waterloo, with over 99m using the station in 2016.

5. The quietest was Shippea Hill in Cambridgeshire with just 22 entries and exits.

6. There are over 1.5bn passenger journeys a year.

7. The longest train journey on one train is between Aberdeen and Penzance taking on average 13 and a half hours.

The Double Arrow Logo

Synonymous for a generation and seen as a part of national identity, the British Rail double arrow logo was the personification of the development and renovation for the Uk's rail lines while under nationalisation. The logo was so well-known and received that it lives on with National Rail, just with a different colour scheme.

It could have been very different though for the British Rail logo, as there were 4 designs that found themselves on the cutting room floor, but luckily, we have found them and can let you decide if British Rail picked the right design!

British Rail Logo 1

British Rail Logo 3

British Rail Logo 2

British Rail Logo 4

These are 4 of the rejected logos, designed by the Design Research Unit, an agency hired by British Rail to help provide a new identity for the rail network.

© British Railways Board, UK National Archives


Journeys start better with Trainline

We help customers across Europe make more than 125,000 smarter journeys every single day. 


Book a train ticket.Download the Trainline app.