A WORD of advice. If you leave Wick station next Saturday at 3.44pm on the first leg of a train trip to St Ives, only to find yourself trundling into your destination at 7:08am the following Monday, you've been suckered. And probably on the verge of a nervous breakdown, following your eight- hour wait for a connection in Glasgow.

According to Railtrack's online timetable this 39 hour, 24 minute journey is the worst of the three possible routes you could have taken. A 26 hour, 13 minute ride; or a mere 21 hours, 36 minutes being the other options.

Railtrack's database, however, is an excellent starting point for rail travellers, although as the above example shows, you may not always like the advice it hands out. The site, which has recently been revamped, currently sees half a million hits a week.

Travellers enter their destination, travel date and (optionally) departure or arrival times, whether they want to avoid London and how many connections they're prepared to stomach.

The service does tell people exactly what they ask, even if the request is a bit silly. Tell it, for example, that you want to go between Stirling and Dunblane (a seven-minute ride) but taking a 150-mile detour via Wick, and that's what you'll get.

It also makes the unlikely assertion that reservations are compulsory on the Dunblane-Stirling leg. But the really big flaw is that it doesn't give prices. This is apparently because the site is run by Railtrack and the fares are set by the train companies.

Meanwhile, Eurotunnel has also placed its train times online. Less scope for typing in your own destination here, admittedly, given the limited number of stops between London and Brussels/Paris, so they don't bother with an interactive database.

Instead they've just bunged the timetable online. Ten out of 10 for ease of use, as they say, minus several million for style.

Railtrack: www.railtrack.co.uk/travel

Eurotunnel: www.eurotunnel.com

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