Britrail Pass vs. Senior Railcard

My wife and I (both over 65) will be traveling by train and car in England/Scotland mid-October. From past experience, we plan on First Class, with 4-5 days by train. Our travel dates do not yet show up at the National Rail site booking calendar; the first segment is Oct. 17. However, when I check the latest available date on the calendar, the First Class Advance fares are already gone, especially on the longer (costlier) routes (Wakefield>Glasgow; Perth>Middlesbrough).

So, the Senior Railcards, that give a 1/3 discount are not as valuable, since the only available fares will be "Anytime", which are expensive. I'm thinking about getting 4 day Britrail Flexipasses, then I can simply book any route, First Class, and not worry about the Advance Fares.

It looks like I could save a total of $200 on both our rail costs using Britrail Passes vs. Senior Railcards, and not have to stress over advance bookings. any thoughts, suggestions? Many thanks.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
6114 posts

There is usually a range of advance fares, in addition to the very cheapest, but perhaps 1st class sells out faster when the rates are low. I consider the BritRail pass much more convenient, if you would like to keep your schedule flexible. Senior rate to cover your 4 longest travel days within 2 months is $459 per person in 1st class and seat reservations are free to make at stations.

Posted by Jerry
Stockton, CA
134 posts

Thanks Laura.

In my research, I have only seen two categories of First Class fares show up: Advance and Anytime. I've only seen the Advance fares to be rarely available. So, I will likely go with the Britrail Pass, as you suggest. I see they have gone up dramatically, like everything else. Who says inflation is in check?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
10747 posts

Advance fares are based on allotments of projected empty seats - they are a device to fill otherwise empty seats.

They are out there, and cost more or less based on convenience. If you were willing to split the tickets around the connections you would find even cheaper fares.

Examples, without splitting, Perth to Middlesbrough Thursday 2nd October First Advance before the Senior Cards (consider a Two Together card for half the money as long as all trips are together) -
9:57 with 1 change, 4:23, £80pp
11:14, 3 changes, 5:05 (half an hour longer but 2 more changes), only £43 pp.

and several more. You may need to be a touch flexible...

How does that compare with a pass day cost?

Posted by Mary
Leesburg, VA, USA
228 posts

Jerry,

My husband and I used Senior 1st Class BritRail Passes on some of our past trips; and yes, the convenience of being able to take any train on a given day does have its' advantages. However, for our trip to Scotland and England this Fall, we're purchasing one of the Two-Together Railcards; and since we know what days we need to be in a certain city due to hotel reservations, we made the commitment to exact trains. Some of the fares I booked were 1st Class Advance and others were 1st Class Advance Anytime. By my calculations we saved more than $300 over using the BritRail Pass even accounting for the £30 railcard and current exchange rate.

That being said; you know what your comfort/stress level is, so choose what's best for you and enjoy.

Mary

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5877 posts

The Advance fares, especially with a Senior Railcard, are so much better than a day on a First Class pass that is is well worth seeking them.

The Advance fares are not necessarily released on the same day that tickets are, and they do not apply to all trains on a given day.

Are you looking for them properly? Nigel,found them for October 2. I was conducting a search at the same time and found, for September 29 and 30, a First Class Advance fare of £30.70 on the direct train (no changes) from Wakefield to Glasgow. For Perth to Middleborough, the First class advance fare of £28.50 showed up on the 3-change train for one day, a 2-change train the other.

A 4-day Britrail Pass for 2 seniors traveling together costs $918 on the website. That means the per-journey/day costs or two is $229.50. This is more than double the cost of the Advance fares.

I have some familiarity with your dilemma. Two months ago we traveled around the UK by train. I bought 5 of our 8 journeys ahead and got great Advance fares. I signed up for fare alerts on the East coast trains website and bought the fares as soon as I could. For the other 3 journeys, I decided to purchase a pass because (1) for one journey, Bodmin Parkway to Paddington, my early research led me to believe that no advance fares would appear for the particular journey we wanted, and (2) for 2 journeys with multiple legs I did not want to have to commit us to a particular set of trains that far in advance. As it turned out we decided we should have reservations as we found the trains quite crowded in May, so we had to commit anyway. As it turned out I did predict correctly that no Advance fares would appear on that Bodmin train we wanted! but we paid dearly to ride that train with our pass. So it was a mistake to Purchas the pass buy my travel companions had such a good time on the trip which I planned that they forgave me.

So. . . . Sign up fare alerts and wait for the Advance fares. If you miss them entirely (not likely), you can always purchase the pass later.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5877 posts

I neglected to mention the two together card! which may be a better option than the Senior Railcard! but Mary (who was posting at the same time) covered it.

Posted by Jerry
Stockton, CA
134 posts

Thanks Lola, Mary and Nigel for your help.

For some of our segments, there is some time pressure. For Perth>Middlesbrough, I need to first drop off my rental car in Perth, which I think is near the train station, and get to Middlesbrough in time to pick up my next rental car.

Nigel, I did see the First Advance fares on Oct. 2nd. But we won't be traveling that segment until Oct. 18, and those aren't posted yet. Do Advance Fares pop-up after the initial 12 week booking date? Since our schedule will be pretty locked in, I do like to have our train bookings made in advance if it involves cheap fares.

I didn't realize the "Two Together" railcards were less expensive than the Senior Railcards, but will check it out. Since we will be traveling together, that would work.

Paying over $900 in advance for Senior BritRail Passes makes me gag. So, I'll do a little more research before deciding.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
10747 posts

Both the Senior Railcard and Two Together Railcard are at the National Rail website, and their terms and conditions are there. They are both the same price but you need 2 Senior Railcards whereas you only need one Two Together - plus photos on the Two Together.

If traveling in the southeast and London check for time restrictions.