Tech Talk: Trains, boats and planes

TRAVELLING anywhere this week? Good luck with that.

Public transport in this country rarely fires on all four cylinders but right now it’s down to about one-and-a-half, as the holiday shutdown and British winter combine to make the prospect of getting from A to B about as appealing as having root canal work.

But if your new Christmas toys include a smartphone or tablet, there are plenty of travel apps that can make your journey choices a little easier.

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Skyscanner, available for Apple and Android devices and on the web, is the easiest way to find and book flights from anywhere to anywhere else.

If you know where you want to go, it will scan all the available routes from your choice of airports and list them by price. Better still, if you have dates in mind but no destination, it will search for every cheap flight available from your local departure point. You can look months ahead and browse the globe for possible bargains – and many airlines will let you book your flights from within the app.

For journeys closer to home, the Trainline app helps you plan your route and book tickets, but not, crucially, check whether your train is on time. As it’s highly likely that it won’t be, you have a choice of “real time data” apps, which, somewhat outrageously, are mostly not free. Rail Planner Live at £3.50 is the best around, though the same information can be had for nothing on the National Rail website.

Several apps can now check for traffic on your car journey, and if you have an Android device, the best of these – Google Maps – comes as standard. Be sure to click the “layers” icon to turn on the traffic display, which highlights roads green, orange or red depending on the length of any delay.

Both Google Maps and Apple’s new and much-ridiculed mapping system provide turn-by-turn directions, as does the free Waze app, which generates information on delays, incidents and even temporary speed traps, from other users. Waze is available for Windows Mobile and Blackberry systems as well as Apple and Android.

Fixing your travel arrangements, especially at this time of year, is only half the battle; finding them again is often the difficult part, and that’s where an app called Tripit comes in. The idea is that you forward it your hotel, flight, car hire and restaurant reservations and it organises them all in the same place – which you can access wherever you are, so long as there’s an internet connection. It’s free if you don’t mind adverts; £2.54 if you do.

Tripit can’t do much if your journey is delayed – but it may at least be some comfort to know where you were supposed to have been come New Year’s Eve.