Landmark 25th anniversary for online retailing in UK rail

On 25th February 1999 Trainline, which was then a telesales company, launched its first website and became UK rail’s first online retailer. A quarter of a century later, online retailing is a flourishing and competitive part of the rail industry with more than 40 train operators and independent retailers providing apps and/or websites that offer train tickets to the public.

New research commissioned from YouGov demonstrates the impact of online retailing on how the British public buy their train tickets, with 90% of UK train travellers saying they find it easy to buy train tickets – rising to 97% among regular Trainline users. Online retail channels are the top choice for UK train travellers, with two-thirds (67%) saying they prefer to use apps or websites.

25 years of progress in technology has transformed the way the public buy their train tickets:

  • In 1999 less than 1% of train tickets were sold online; today online sales are rail’s biggest channel by value, approaching 50% of all sales.
  •  In 1999 tickets bought online had to be posted to customers; today 90% of tickets sold online by Trainline are barcode tickets and fulfilled instantly
  • In 1999 Trainline would shut down its website overnight due to a lack of demand; today Trainline sells 200m tickets every year from 270 carriers in 40 different countries.

Trainline CEO Jody Ford said: “Online retailing is a major success story for UK rail, with tech making it much easier for the public to buy train tickets and to choose rail when they’re deciding how they will travel. We’ve come a long way from the early years when internet sales were a niche market, and today there is a rich diversity of retailers who are all promoting UK rail and offering travellers a wide range of choice. This is also an important anniversary for Trainline as a company, and the journey we have been on through years of innovation and investment to become one of the UK’s most successful tech companies. 25 years on from the launch of our first website, we are exporting our tech across the continent and we’re proud to have established Trainline as Europe’s number one most downloaded rail travel app.”