Station group

Station group

In the ticketing system of the British rail network, tickets are normally issued to and from individual stations. However, in some instances, when there is more than one station in a town or other locality - and especially in cases where these are on different lines or routes - it may be desirable for passengers to be able to travel to one station and back from another, or more generally to be able to choose which of the stations they wish to travel to. To accommodate this requirement, British Rail introduced a series of station groups: notional "common locations" to which tickets from stations outside that group would be issued.


Penge in South London has two stations: Penge East and Penge West. The former is served by trains from London Victoria to Orpington; the latter is on the route from London Bridge to Sutton. For a traveller arriving at, for example, a London terminal station and intending to go to Penge, it makes little difference which route is chosen; both stations are close together and serve the same area. Therefore, a ticket to be issued solely to one Penge station or the other would be unduly restrictive - it would remove the opportunity to travel by a choice of equally convenient routes. A notional "Penge group" solves this problem: a ticket issued in this way would be interavailable.

National Fares Manuals

The concept was explained in the National Fares Manuals (NFMs) issued approximately three times per year by the British Railways Board to stations, Rail Appointed Travel Agents and other ticket issuing authorities. (Since privatisation, they have been published by ATOC.) This representative quote is taken from Section A5 of NFM 64 (issued on 29 September 1996):

:"Fares for certain ... cities and towns are shown to and from a notional common station [.] All fares are quoted and all tickets should be issued to and from [these notional group] stations except for local journeys between two stations in the same group. Tickets issued to and from these [notional group] stations are valid to or from any of their associated stations, subject to normal route availability."

Terminology and appearance on tickets

These "locations" had to be shown in a standard, easily identifiable way on tickets. The method chosen by the British Railways Board was as follows:
* Take the name of the actual location where the stations are: for Penge East and Penge West, PENGE.
* Add the suffix BR to this: PENGE BR.

In addition, each station group was allocated its own National Location Code (NLC). As noted below, these were almost all in the 0000-series: specifically, between 0250 and 0500. The NLC appeared on PORTIS/SPORTIS tickets, which by convention always showed the "origin" and "destination" NLCs as well as the code of the issuing point; but APTIS tickets (and those from later systems) always showed the NLC of the actual station of issue, even where a ticket was issued from a "station group".

After privatisation, the designation "BR" was no longer appropriate, although having been in use for more than 10 years it had become a convenient shorthand device for referring to the station groups concept in general (even the National Fares Manuals used the term "BR Stations" as the heading for the Section referred to above). A new designation had to be created which still took up little space on a ticket (location names are restricted to 16 characters on most ticket issuing systems) and which still conveyed a notion of interavailability.

The solution, introduced gradually from November 1997 and uploaded to all ticket issuing systems by January 1998, was for BR to be changed to STNS or STATIONS as appropriate:
* STNS if the location name was between 8 and 11 characters in length: for example, LIVERPOOL BR became LIVERPOOL STNS.
* STATIONS if the location name was 7 characters or fewer: for example, DORKING BR became DORKING STATIONS. [Journal of the Transport Ticket Society, number 408 (January 1998): pages 22-23. ISSN 0144-347X] [Journal of the Transport Ticket Society, number 409 (February 1998): page 59. ISSN 0144-347X]

Table notes

*note label|Ardrossan|Ardrossan|Ardrossan Ardrossan Town was included from NFM 39 (May 1988) following the reopening of the station.
*note label|Blackpool|Blackpool|Blackpool Blackpool Pleasure Beach was included in the group during the period of validity of NFM 39 (May 1988 - October 1988).
*note label|Bristol|Bristol|Bristol "Filton" refers to the original Filton station, which was subsequently closed and replaced by Filton Abbey Wood nearby.
*note label|Burnley|Burnley|Burnley Rose Grove was included in the group until NFM 41 (January 1989).
*note label|Cardiff|Cardiff|Cardiff "Cardiff Bute Road" was subsequently renamed "Cardiff Bay". Cathays was included in the group until NFM 41 (January 1989).
*note label|Exeter|Exeter|Exeter St James Park was included in the group until NFM 41 (January 1989).
*note label|Lichfield|Lichfield|Lichfield This grouping was introduced in NFM 42, but was withdrawn at the next fares change because of the difficulty in allocating revenue correctly between the Intercity sector and the Regional Railways sector.
*note label|Newhaven|Newhaven|Newhaven Newhaven Marine station was in limited use for ferry passengers only.
*note label|Rotherham|Rotherham|Rotherham The dates are, respectively, the opening date of Rotherham Central station and the closing date of Rotherham Masborough station.
*note label|Ryde|Ryde|Ryde NFMs indicated that Ryde Pier Head was not included.
*note label|St Helens|St Helens|St Helens "St Helens Shaw Street" was subsequently renamed "St Helens Central".
*note label|T Wells|T Wells|T Wells "Withdrawn from" date is the closure date of Tunbridge Wells West station.
*note label|Wrexham|Wrexham|Wrexham Sometimes shown as WREXHAM CLWYD BR.


NFM 36 (June 1987) to NFM 68 (January 1998) inclusive have been used to confirm this information. NFM 29 (January 1985) shows some further differences; mainly the exclusion of stations opened subsequently and integrated into the appropriate groups, but others as well:
* South Croydon was "officially" included in the Croydon group
* Droitwich Spa was not included in the Worcester group
* St James Park was not included in the Exeter group, as at that time it was a non-timetabled halt Fact|date=February 2007
* A LINCOLN BR group existed to incorporate Lincoln Central and Lincoln St Marks, until the latter closed in May 1985; the group NLC is unknown

The London group

The status of individual stations within groups

The station group concept only applied to point-to-point travel tickets and tickets directly related to these, such as Season Tickets and Excess Tickets. Other types of ticket issued at a station within a group would show the name of the station itself - selected examples are:
* One Day Travelcards in the London area
* Platform Tickets
* Car Park Tickets
* Rail Rovers and Rangers

Also, for a ticket issued for travel between one station in a group and another, the individual stations' names are shown. This only has practical relevance in situations where group stations are easily accessible from each other - for example, the Liverpool group, where all four stations can be reached directly from each of the others.


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