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Day Return train tickets?

This may be a basic question but the answer isn't clear to me from the National Rail website...

When I purchase a return train ticket (for example, from London to Windsor), do I need to choose a specific return time in advance? The Journey Planner on the National Rail site has you choose both an outbound and a return time for the ticket; do I have to travel on those specific trains, or is the ticket valid on any train on that route?

Posted by
4674 posts

On long distance trains, it depends on the type of ticket you buy. If you have an "open return" you can use any train. If you have a cheap advance fare you will generally have to travel on the train you picked.

London to Windsor, I think, is too short a journey for advance fares with such strict conditions to be sold on.

Posted by
8889 posts

No. Day return tickets are "off peak". They can only be used at certain times (outside rush hours), but on any train within those times. They are for short journeys, for example both routes to Windsor are commuter routes with frequent trains and no reserved seating. There is no price advantage for advance purchase, you can buy at the station on the day for the same price.
I am sure Nigel can provide a full explanation.

Posted by
34 posts

Thank you both!

@Chris F, I didn't realize there was no discount for advance purchase on commuter routes. We'll be staying in London and doing day trips to Windsor and possibly Brighton, so I'll plan to just buy our train tickets on the day.

Posted by
9510 posts

Well, Brighton is different than Windsor. Just a quick look at the National Rail site reveals you can get a ticket for March (furthest booking date) for 5GBP whereas if you were booking for tomorrow the lowest fare I see would be 17GBP. Still not bad for a fare, though as compared to going to some other places people choose for day trips.

Posted by
27428 posts

There are plenty of Advance tickets on commuter trains on commuter routes. Howabout Birmingham to Euston for a fiver? LNW on that, Virgin Advance are squeak higher. Or £7.50 in First at the peak?

Not all routes, not all trains, not all companies. You needs to look around.

Also somebody wrote somewhere today that day returns are all off-peak. Nope - Anytime Day Returns are available, and off-peak period (return off-peak any time within 30 days) returns are also available

The choice is much less than it used to be before the government decided that everybody wanted "simpler" tickets. We all know what that means.

Posted by
4633 posts

Within the South-East of England Advance type tickets tend on the whole to be limited to journeys where there is either a variety of rail operators competing with each other, or strong competition from coach or bus companies. Different for longer journeys outside of this area.

Off-Peak Day returns though are often only a few pence more than the equivalent single, so take care whether you are really looking at return fares online.

Posted by
93 posts

You've probably already used this website: seat61.com , but I found the information and links on the site extremely helpful when planning our trip last summer. We used advance tickets on various trains extensively throughout England and the info on this site made things much clearer.