Runs all services in Wales and the Marches except those bound for London. After many years of neglect, new trains are finally being bought for this railway but they’ll take a while to bed in. Until then, almost all their trains are little two/three-carriage units with limited bike space. In particular, the Marches line (Cardiff–Shrewsbury–Manchester and North Wales) and the North Wales Coast line are invariably overloaded and you’d be mad not to book. They have two bike spaces in the centre, but we’ve often found them stuffed with suitcases, especially on trains from Manchester Airport.
Official page on the TfW website.
The ‘other’ route from London to Birmingham, from Marylebone via Banbury. Generally cheaper than Avanti, and one of Britain’s best-regarded companies. Most trains are comfortable commuter units where you can just use the vestibules. They now have a few luxury ‘Silver’ trains with a separate spacious bike compartment in the engine at one end: ask staff for help. No booking required.
Official page on the Chiltern Railways website.
Two arms of the same company, one running local trains in the West Midlands, the other to London and the North-West. No booking required; some trains have a couple of spaces in the centre, or you can unofficially use the vestibules. Their services can be a good (and cheap) alternative to the hassle of booking with Avanti.
See InterCity page.