Great Rail Journeys

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Great Rail Journeys
Industry Tour operator
Founded 1994
Headquarters York, UK
Key people
Ian Macbeth and Howard Trinder (Founders)
Nick Cust (Non-executive Chairman)
Peter Liney (CEO)
Products Escorted Rail Tours
Owner ECI Partners
Number of employees
Subsidiaries Treyn Holidays

Great Rail Journeys is a United Kingdom (UK) tour operator for escorted holidays (involving a group of travellers under the guidance of a tour director) by rail.[1] Based at Saviour House in the centre of York,[2] UK, the company provides worldwide rail tour holidays for people of all nationalities, but its primary customer base consists of British passport holders.[3] As of June 2012, Great Rail Journeys is Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL)-bonded, and maintains a membership with the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO).[4]


British Rail employees, Ian Macbeth and Howard Trinder, began the company in the mid-1980s as "Mac's Tours", organising international holidays on a semi-formal basis for fellow employees— British Rail staff at the time were entitled to many discounts on foreign rail travel. On leaving British Rail, Macbeth and Trinder decided to launch the company as a tour operator, keeping the name "Mac's Tours", but produced more professional brochures and organised itineraries that were not just rail-specific.

The name "Great Rail Journeys" was adopted in 1994. In 2004 Great Rail Journeys was a founder member of the Amber Travel Partnership with independent specialist tour operator, Inntravel. The group was formed with the view to bringing further like-minded owner-managed travel brands into the group. In 2005, the Amber Travel Partnership, including Great Rail Journeys, was acquired by the independent private equity firm, Primary Capital. In 2006, Great Rail Journeys launched a new subsidiary website, "", which organises individual tours, rather than group tour products.[5]

On April 2013 ECI Partners invested a majority stake in Amber Travel giving exit to former owners Primary Capital 2005 acquisition.[6] Peter Liney was named as the Amber Travel Chief Executive Officer on June 2013.[7]


Great Rail Journeys predominantly cater for first class escorted rail tours across 4 different continents, primarily travelling on prestige or historic trains as the highlight of each package. Their tours have a wide-ranging itinerary specifying the full journey on details such as the hotels or modes of travel used for the particular package and include a tour manager throughout the trip. Excluding tours within the United Kingdom, all journeys begin in London, using St Pancras railway station or an airport depending on the destination.

The company's headquarters is based in York where the administrative and operational staff for all 3 brands are located, in contrast the tour managers are self-employed and meet their tour passengers directly from the departure point stipulated in the itinerary.

Great Rail Journeys currently organises over 1,100 departures a year on around 230 different itineraries. The majority of the itineraries are within Europe, though every year the range of holidays increases and now includes tours all over the world including Africa, Asia, Australasia and North America. Signature Great Rail Journeys tours include The Trans-Siberian Express The Glacier Express USA Coast to Coast; India’s Palace on Wheels; The Marrakech Express; and The Arctic Circle Express.

Recent product developments include the launch of a ‘Cruising Holidays by Rail’ brochure – combining a rail journey with a sea or river cruise. Great Rail Journeys has also developed a range of ‘Special Interest Holidays’ featuring visits to Viennese Balls Europe’s major carnivals including Venice and Nice and, for 2010, tours to Oberammergau to see the world famous Passion Play. Great Rail Journeys Cruising Holidays by Rail programme introduced seven new itineraries for 2009 including a Norwegian "Coastal Adventure" which sails through the Arctic Circle to Europe’s most northerly point, and a Scottish.

The 2009 season saw the introduction of a number of new Worldwide Holidays by Rail including a 16-day South Africa tour – on board one of the world’s most luxurious trains, a 14-day musical tour through America’s Deep South a 13-day India’s Golden Triangle tour and new Canadian holidays. New for 2010 was a tour taking in Las Vegas and the USA's Golden West, an Alaskan Adventure and a new tour to India featuring a journey on the Deccan Odyssey, Northern India's newest luxury train.

The European Holidays by Rail programme expanded in 2009 with the addition of seven new itineraries including an eight-day tour, a 15-day Portugal and the Douro tour and a 13-day Andalucian Explorer holiday.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Staff (2012). "Home". Great Rail Journeys. Great Rail Journeys. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Great Rail Journeys. "See and do: Great Rail Journeys". Visit York. Visit York. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  3. ^ Staff (2014). "Frequently Asked Questions". Great Rail Journeys. Great Rail Journeys. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 
  4. ^ Staff (2012). "About Us". Great Rail Journeys. Great Rail Journeys. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Staff (2012). "Home". Great Rail Journeys Group of Companies. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  6. ^ ECI invests in Amber Travel
  7. ^ Amber Travel appoints new CEO

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