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Trains and tourists: A match made in heaven?

Trains and tourists: A match made in heaven?

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Google Maps has been updated in order to entice 2012 Olympic tourists to visit other areas of England.

Rather than insist you walk from London to Wales, or perhaps Jet Ski, Google has added a multi-lingual update to its Map facility that could make tourists and locals alike dance in sheer joy.

Google has added a new feature to its popular 'Google Maps' service, which now includes train routes and timetables. Which train, which bus, where from and what time can now be accessed through one service rather than scouring through various websites and patching a journey together in a haphazard fashion.

The option works in the same way as the 'via car' directions. It now simply includes a 'via public transport' setting. The information is provided through the collaboration of Google and TheTrainline.

Users are also able to book tickets through TheTrainline's website via a clickthrough link after planning their route, erasing yet another hoop both tourists and locals have to jump through.

It has been suggested that this update has been implemented in order to encourage tourists visiting London for the 2012 Olympics to consider travelling to other parts of the country. When an expected 31 million visitors descend, making more information available about public transport may also entice them to explore the rest of Britain.

VisitBritain’s chairman Christopher Rodrigues stated:

"We want to encourage visitors to explore the whole of Britain. With the Olympics less than 200 days away Google's initiative is exciting news. Millions of visitors plan their itinerary using Google Maps and this additional information will act as a catalyst and inspire them to discover all that is wonderful about our great country."

Google is now offering timetables for over 170,000 routes in the UK, including 250 train and tube stations. The update, live now on the desktop version of Google Maps and on relevant Android apps, also provides information on over 8000 bus routes.

Google UK's geospatial technologist , Ed Parsons, explained why the update came into effect:

"Google Maps seeks to provide a wide range of local information, and public transport station and schedule information is definitely a part of that. This means we can reach and help a larger number of people with useful national rail train information."

Since Google Maps is available in over than 50 languages, if promoted adequately, it could become an invaluable tool for those coming to London and beyond -- after all, it can be difficult enough for locals to plan routes of travel around England, let alone tourists with a different native tongue.

While foreseen engineering works and bank holiday timetable changes will be included within the route planner, there is no suggestion that up-to-the-minute delays will be available. Sadly, tourists will have to join the locals when it comes to raging about the latest, almost daily public transport breakdown in London.

Image credit: SmartPlanet

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure