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Rail Europe, a subsidiary of French rail operator SNCF, officially relaunched its website this week, though it soft launched a few weeks ago, just in time for the volcanic ash crisis. 

The website aggregates tickets from rail operators across Europe, and aims to make it easy for UK customers to book rail journeys across the continent. 

I found plenty of usability issues with the Eurostar website recently, so perhaps Rail Europe offers a better alternative...


Here's the new homepage: 

And the previous version: 

Rail Europe has opted for four main tabs for navigation, which stands out more clearly. Large drop down menus also allow users to access sub-categories. 

Also, the search box has been shrunk and moved to the right of the page, though a darker background makes it more clearly defined. This smaller search box means that there is now more room on the page to provide suggested destinations and latest offers, providing ideas for visitors who may arrive without a specific journey in mind. 


Selecting outbound and inbound journeys is easy enough, with an auto-complete function to help. The calendar pops up easily and quickly enough, and it avoids basic errors like allowing users to select return journeys that are earlier than outward ones. 

Since the site is dealing with multiple rail operators across the continent there are some differences in areas such as age requirements, but links to this information, as well as on dietary issues, cycles, and wheelchair access are provided on the booking form. 

The results page provides a decent summary of journey times and prices, and can be sorted by departure time or price, and viewed via Google maps. 

When you select a journey more detail on ticket options and prices is provided, as well as useful information on what comforts and faciiities you can expect for different classes of ticket; on board meals, power points, wi-fi, etc. 

Some searches did fail to find any matching results, but, unlike Eurostar, this site either offers some alternatives: 

Content / journey ideas

A big part of the site, and one which Rail Europe plans to develop further is the content available for different journeys and destinations. This content is designed to appeal to those visitors that are looking for destination ideas, or inspiration on what to do when they get somewhere. 

So, as well as the promoted destinations on the homepage, the European routes and trains section provides a useful overview of the journeys and types of service on offer via the site. 

For example, I can select a destination, and the site will give me an overview of the typical route taken, as well as how much it is likely to cost, and how long it will take: 

Using maps, the site will also give you five suggested attractions / things to do in that area: 

Checkout process

The site generally follows checkout best practice, including a guest registration option for those that prefer not to register: 

The number of steps in the process, and the progress made so far is made clear, while a summary of the journey you are about to book is provided: 

The calls to action throughout the checkout process could be made clearer. They are mainly in blue, and don't stand out quite as much as they could. For example, in the screenshot above, the email sign up stands out more than the next step link. 

The payment screen has been fully enclosed, the only links out are forward via payment, or back to the basket via the link on the progress bar. This does remove distractions for customers, though for those that do need to get back to the basket to make a last minute change, the link back to the basket needs to be clearer.  

Pressing the back button twice leads you to a blank page and the prospect of starting all over again, something which should be avoided at all costs. 


UK rail websites have been criticised in the past for making it too hard to book journeys to European destinations, but the Rail Europe site makes this booking process relatively easy for customers. 

There are a few issues here and there which could be improved, but this new site, which was developed by Design UK, is a big improvement on the previous version, and also on the Eurostar website. 

Graham Charlton

Published 12 May, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (5)


Parijat Sinha

Hi Graham, Thanks for your review of the Rail Europe website. I would like to share with you the the new website of Rail Europe www.raileurope.co.uk was designed by "Design UK" but developed by Valtech - www.valtech.co.in. Would appreciate that if you can update your blog accordingly? I was also present in the recent launch event of Rail Europe's website on May 12th at their London Shop.

Thanks in advance.

Best Regards,

Parijat Sinha Practice Head – .NET Practice & Agile Transformation Services parijat.sinha@valtech.co.in Mobile: +91 9845 003844 Direct: +91 80 2607 9578 Valtech (India) 30/A First Main, Industrial Suburb J.P Nagar Third Phase, Bangalore 560078 INDIA www.valtech.com

over 6 years ago


susan mcdonald

I am most disappointed with this site and Rail Europe as a company. They are slow to respond and difficult to contact.
In my experience the website told me that the request was unable to be processed, which leads any normal person to believe that it had not been processed / booked.
What this really means is do it all over again and RailEurope will duplicate your booking and debit your card twice!!! They then claim that it all your fault.

over 5 years ago



I am appalled by this company's website. I booked for my family to travel in France today on the Rail Europe website and after selecting my journey and inputting my payment card details, the next screen told me there had been an error in processing. There were two national rate numbers displayed for customer assistance, only one of which claimed to assist those who had already got as far as logging their payment details. I called both numbers several times, got cut off after two rings the first few times, then got through to a call waiting system which kept me on for 17 minutes before I rang off. I then got through to Rail Europe's London booking office and they put me on hold for a further 15 minutes. A third attempt actually got me through to a human being, who said he could find no trace of me on their system but that this alone didn't guarantee that the booking had failed - meaning I still had no way on knowing whether or not I had been charged and had bought tickets. He offered to put me through to the correct website assistance operative, claiming there was no queue....I waited 10 minutes before hanging up. Then I decided to try to book again on the website and guess what....the website told me that the journey I wished to make did not exist !! What a waste of time, probably two hours to achieve nothing - zero customer service, no fall back in the case of a problem, truly awful.

over 5 years ago



Rail Europe, SNCF and RENFE have a scam going which everyone travelling from France to Spain should be aware of. If you book a ticket from France through to Barcelona via Irun connecting with the 15.55 Irun to Barcelona train there is only a 10 min transfer time. The french train several times a week arrives late. Everyone then has to stay in Irun overnight for the next train at 7.30 am and pay between 7 and 10 euros to change the ticket. They must be making thousands of euros a week from this scam which, although propagated by SNCF and Rail Europe, is ignored by Renfe as it suits them for the obvious reasons. Could anyone else who has experienced this please respond to this message. I intend to pursue this with all parties and the more examples the better.

over 5 years ago



Why viewers still use to read news papers when in this technological world all is
accessible on net?

over 4 years ago

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