UK Rail Tickets And Travel

If you fancy letting the train take the strain, then you are fortunate as rail services are becoming increasingly better served by internet sites. This article looks at how to obtain rail travel information, tickets at the best prices and the rail card options for UK journeys.

Rail information for UK journeys

For rail information such as times, routes, live departure / arrival times the sites I can particularly recommend are:

Transport Direct - Routes and timetables Simple page for finding train times
Transport Direct – Departure Boards Shows departure information for rail stations. This site allows you to monitor if your train is on time, handy if you are in the office and going to catch a train nearby.

Buying tickets for UK journeys

If you are buying tickets for journeys on the UK rail network there are several web sites where you can check the price of Rail tickets. Prices do vary between these sites as some add on booking fees, and often sites don't show you all the available tickets offers. The web sites where tickets can be bought online include:

Southern Railway No Fees. I’ve found it very good at finding bargain tickets that the others don’t report back.
Qjump Booking fee of £1 to get tickets posted.
Virgin Trains No Fees.
The Trainline Booking fee of £1 to get tickets posted.
RailEasy Booking fee of £1 to get tickets posted.

The main site I use for looking up prices is the Southern Railway site. It has no fees and is very good at finding bargains. To see how all the above sites fare, have a look at the couple of rail ticket comparison exercises I performed.

There is of course the good old rail station ticket office where you can purchase all ticket types. And will benefit from the knowledge / experience of the ticket staff who have probably sold more tickets than you’ve ever bought.

Tips for getting the best UK rail fares

Some tips to help get the cheapest fares:

Buy early Tickets are typically available from at least 12 weeks in advance. To help the Trainline website has an alert system that can email you when tickets go on sale. Note buying tickets more than 12 weeks in advance, may restrict you, as while some sites will offer you the standard fares the allocations of cheaper discount fares won’t be available yet.
Advance tickets These can sometimes still be bought up to a few hours before travelling. So it's worth checking even on the day.
Railcards These cut around a 3rd from ticket costs. See the National Rail Railcards Site website for more info.
Season tickets If you are making the same journey several days in a row you may be able to cut costs by buying a season ticket. These are available for periods of 7 days or more. Information including price details can be obtained from the National Rail Season Ticket Site.

For an example of how UK rail ticket websites compare have a look at a couple of rail ticket comparison exercises I performed.

Railcards

There are several rail cards and passes available in the UK:

Card Cost Requirement Gets You
16-25 £26 Under 26 or a full time student 1/3rd off rail fares across UK
Family and friends £26 Travelling with a child 5 - 15 yrs 1/3 of adult and 60% of child fares across UK
Senior   £26 Over 60 1/3 off standard and first class across UK
Disabled persons £18 Need to qualify as disabled 1/3rd off rail fares across UK
Network Railcard £25 None   1/3 of adult and 60% of child fares across London & South East
Gold Card Varies Need annual season ticket 1/3 of adult and 60% of child fares across London & South East
Season tickets Varies Available for 7 days or more Unlimited travel on that route during the validity period.


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