Sources of tickets and trip planning information
In the 1980s, British Rail, which was the national railway company, was broken up and privatized, separating ownership and maintenance of the tracks from the companies that operate the trains. Today there are dozens of different UK train companies serving different areas of the country. It can seem very confusing and overwhelming but it's easier than you think.
Anyone can dance
Any UK train company can take your booking and payment for any other train company on the system. The British rail fares are nationally regulated so, other than special promotional fares a particular company may be running, the fare for a given journey will be the same regardless of which train company books or operates the trip.
Types of British rail fares
Most services are offered on a 1st or 2nd class basis. Britain is a small country and there are only a few overnight train journeys. Unless you are taking one of these and want the option of a dining car, an included breakfast or, at some stations, a first class lounge where you can wait between trains, there is little point in spending extra on first class service.