Friday, 13 February 2015

Taking the train in the UK with Yunpeng

Hi! It's Yunpeng here again; the Chinese International Office Ambassador (IOA)..

Yunpeng at Platform 9 3/4 in London
I hope you found my previous blog entry useful. When working as an IOA, I was asked by some students either inside the UK or studying in China who showed interests to visit the campus. Sheffield doesn't really have a domestic airport (the nearest airport is Manchester, about 1 1/2 hours away) so unless someone picks you up in the airports in nearby cities, you need to book a train ticket for the cheapest and quickest way to get to Sheffield.

But don't be scared! It's really easy to buy an on-line ticket at a reasonable price. Take a look at the National Rail web pages for an idea of times and prices, though you can book tickets from other places, too. Once you have booked a ticket, you can choose to add one pound (if you live in the UK, otherwise it may cost more) to mail the physical ticket to your house. Alternatively, you can write down the reference and collect your ticket from the ticket machines at train stations using the credit/debit card that you booked your ticket with. 

The UK and Chinese train systems are fundamentally different. As you know, the Chinese train services are managed by the state-owned train company (it used to be a central governmental department but became an enterprise in 2012). However, the UK trains are run by several private companies. Though the UK trains are about a third less fast than Chinese ones (imagine the Chinese trains need to cross the huge country so how can they not be fast?!), they are very important for local people to travel and commute on . An example is that there are more than 20 trains each day connecting Sheffield and London, some of which only take 2 and a half hours, so you can easily go there and back in a day if you wanted!

Some money-saving advice, like booking early and using comparison websites, are also valid in the context of trains. In addition to these, as a student, you can purchase a 16-25 young person card which gives you huge discount. If you are a frequent traveler, for example, you live in Chesterfield but study or work in Sheffield then you can buy weekly or monthly tickets, bringing each journey down to only few pounds! 

By Yunpeng Zhu

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