The TrainLine website is one of the best train ticket services in the UK, allowing you to purchase tickets ahead of time and save money on future journeys. You can get to the station on the day that you’re travelling, pick up your ticket from one of the machines and be on your way.
It couldn’t get much simpler, but it’s just got a bit more convenient with the introduction of the TrainLine Android App – it’s also currently available for iPhone, Blackberry and Nokia.
Being a frequent user of thetrainline.com on the internet, I have been looking forward to the launch of this Android mobile phone application for a long time, ever since we compiled our best android apps list and grabbed it at the first opportunity I had.
The main interface of the application is really simple, with a main menu consisting of just three choices. If you’re planning a journey, you’ll want the ‘Find Trains’ option here. You can also choose to check on your existing tickets and view some more information related to the application and the services that it offers.
When you’re planning a journey, you are prompted to select an origin and destination. Unfortunately, the interface here isn’t fantastic. You have a list of stations, and can scroll through them or use the slider at the right hand side of the box to quickly get down the list. Scrolling through the list with your finger is, quite frankly, an absolute pain as there is no momentum scrolling.
You can search for a station via text, but a custom keyboard is used here too so it’s not familiar for users. It makes no sense to me why the developers would choose to apply a custom skin to the keyboard and not use the built in capability of Android to make a scrolling list that isn’t so awkward to use, this must be especially annoying if you’ve installed a keyboard app such as Swype. Right now, this part of the application needs some serious work!
Choosing your dates is a simple enough process as well; you’re given a calendar from which to choose the day you wish to travel and you can type in a departure time using the (custom) keyboard.
Once all your information has been inputted, you can search for trains. You’re given a time table of all the trains that are available, with the cost clearly displayed at the bottom. There are a number of choices available here as well, such as off-peak return, anytime return and first class anytime return.
When everything is sorted and you know which train you want to get, then you simply have to pay to get your ticket. I say “simply”, but the process is anything but. The first time you use a card, even if you’ve shopped online before, you have to enter all of your details in to the app, with a £3.50 charge for a new credit card. Fortunately, within the application you can then enter just the three security digits on the back of your card for subsequent purchases.
I’d love to see more e-ticket availability in future versions to make the whole process a seamless one, especially as we start seeing phones such as the Google Nexus S featuring Near Field Communication (NFC) but this will of course take a bit of work and co-operation from rail operators in the UK. For me, it would make the app worth a lot more on my phone.