Buying advance purchase train tickets will save a lot of money by buying train tickets online but there are some catches. Travelling around the UK can be pretty expensive even by train but there are lots of ways to save money. In other articles we have discussed the savings to be made with railcards and by overseas visitors traveling to the UK, but this time we look at advance purchase tickets.
Advance purchase tickets – buy tickets online
Most rail companies, especially the long distance operators, offer advance purchase tickets online for those customers wanting to save money. Generally these are available on the reservation system 12 weeks in advance (this may vary with engineering works at weekends) and save money for customers willing to commit to a specific train journey.
As an example of the savings to be made, we looked at a Manchester to Brighton ticket which would cost £88.60 traveling off-peak on any train, but this is reduced to £42 by traveling on specific trains there and back. This is obviously just one example for a specific future date, and savings can be less or more depending on the route and distance.
Over recent years many rail operators have brought in flexible quotas on trains similar to airlines. What this means in practice is that high demand trains will have fewer advance tickets available and quieter trains have more. This is useful to know if you are going somewhere which is likely to be busy with, for example, a big football match or festival. The golden rule is to book as soon as the reservations open to save money.
With most advance purchase tickets railcards are valid reducing these costs by a third and can even be used to save on First Class advance purchase tickets as well. It can often be worth buying a railcard even if it’s just used for one journey, but always do the calculations first.
Advance tickets on trains – things to be aware of
Advance purchase rail tickets are great but there are some catches to be aware of:
- All these types of tickets come with a seat reservation which must be used as conductors can check this.
- When you’ve booked an advance purchase ticket you must stick to the specific trains booked where there is a seat reservation, even if your train is running late. Traveling on a different train to your ticket will most likely result in you paying the full fare for that time of day.
- If you change your mind about the time of train before your journey is due to start, you will have to pay the difference between what you paid and the next available fare plus a £10 administration charge per person.
- If delays happen after you have started your journey, you are allowed to take the next available service but there will be no seat reservation.
- If you wish to cancel your journey all together after booking advance tickets, you will be given a refund but again a £10 administration charge is made per person.
Booking train tickets online and saving with advance purchase is a great way to visit other places in the UK and cheaply, but just make sure you are aware of the catches.