Who wants to bother typing on actual keys on an actual computer? We have mobiles now, for Pete's sake! So forget the best train-booking websites, grandma, and saddle up to get tickets on your mobile with the Trainline app.
We tested the app on the iPhone, because we're fancy like that, but it's also available on non-touchscreen BlackBerry phones, as well as some Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson handsets, with support for Android devices on the way. A full list of supported phones is available on the Trainline website. The app is free to install.
First one's free
We like the National Rail website because it's independent and links straight to the right train company when you're ready to book a ticket, skipping the booking fees. But National Rail's iPhone app is particularly pricey, at £4.99, and you can't book tickets from it. It's great for finding train times, but, at that price, it ought to be.
The Trainline app is free, and can do the same job of helping you plan your journey on the iron highway. But it can't show live departure information like the National Rail app can, and that feature comes in very handy when you're at the station and trying to find the right platform.
The Trainline app is the first one that lets you buy train tickets within the app, although, in the Raileasy app, you can search for a journey and then use the browser to buy tickets on a mobile-friendly site. Other train sites offer mobile-friendly sites too.
In our tests, the Trainline app did a great job of helping us buy tickets quickly and easily. The interface is well designed and user-friendly, and even fiddly tasks, like entering credit-card information, are straightforward. That's what makes having an app useful, as opposed to using a website, since even mobile-friendly websites can be fiddly and unforgiving of mistakes and dropped data connections.
Death by a thousand fees
The sting in the tail is that the Trainline app charges fees. We can swallow the £1.00 charge to buy a ticket, but £3.50 to use a credit card? Ouch. Happily, it's free to use a debit card.
Once you've bought the ticket, there's no fancy e-ticket for your phone, despite the fact that the Trainline offers them for some networks on its website. Instead, you pick up your tickets from the machines at stations, just as you would if you'd bought them online. This can work a treat but you'll be scuppered if your station doesn't have a fast-ticket machine.
The Trainline app is well worth having just for planning journeys, especially since the National Rail app is so expensive. But the ability to buy a ticket straight from the app makes it even better for those times when you're travelling to the station with seconds to spare, or planning your trips on the go.
When buying a ticket, watch out for the fees, though. Be sure to use a debit card to avoid the massive credit-card fee, and be aware that each journey will incur a £1.00 booking charge.
Edited by Charles Kloet