Looking at a one way fare from Stansted to Leicester, I'm seeing that the lowest advance purchase is 17 pounds, but looking out from today that price is only available up to 79 days out. After that the lowest fare is 54 pounds, available for the period from 80 to 91 days out. Does that sound right, that the lowest fares are populated later? The anytime single rate is 107 pounds if that matters.
Yes, it does seem that the lowest fare is loaded online a little later, not in the first step of posting tickets for sale.
Fares in the UK are complicated and vary depending on how far in advance the tickets are bought, plus the day and time of travel.
I have just looked at nationalrail.co.uk and journeys tonight on a specific train can be had for £24 single. I don't see any fares for the 4 different dates I have looked at for £107.
The easiest way of doing the journey is to travel on www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk - and pre-book with them a specific train - which you should find for about £17 one way SSD > LEI. (That is pre-booking about 10 or 11 weeks in advance - though you may still find ‘cheap’ tickets for trains not that far in advance. (Play around with dates on www.nationalrail.co.uk). The Cross Country Trains are the ones with 0 for changes - as you are going direct. The other services listed have you going into London including an underground connection to St.Pancras to then come out again to Leicester.
If you pre-book and don’t make the train you are booked on - or arrive for an earlier one - hopefully the train manager will ignore the fact that you are not on the pre-booked service. (Explain that your plane was late. If early - ask the guy at the back of the train if you could board the earlier service prior to boarding at Stansted Airport - this may depend on the loadings as these trains are short and in high demand)).
Well that's 3 different websites being used, including the one I used www.eastmidlandstrains.co.uk
I can't get the national rail website to show anything but the cheapest fare in each class, but the others show multiple fares including the unrestricted ones without any effort.
Since there are directs trains throughout the day I wouldn't bother with a London transfer.
The slower no-change route is quite scenic - going through such places as Cambridge, Stamford, Oakham and Melton Mowbray but it isn't fast.
The East Midlands route seems faster because it has fewer stops and goes through the beautiful Northamptonshire countryside calling at such places as Kettering, Wellingborough, Bedford, Market Harborough. But it does need you to get from Liverpool Street to St Pancras.
The National Rail website I find to be the easiest way of finding schedules & fares. Different routes have different train companies - or share the same lines for part of journey. You can’t actually book with National Rail - it suggests the main train company that you will travel on as the place to make your book. If you use the direct trains, you will be using Cross Country Trains and it would be best to book direct with them. In the unlikely event that a train does not run, you have the right to use alternative companies /routes - check with staff.
Don’t forget that you can also buy return tickets. Do these work out cheaper or more expensive than singles? (Depends on route).
In answer to the oirginal question.
The flexible fares (ie those that don't have compulsory reservations) are effectively loaded on the first Sunday in January. You can but them in-advance but not reserve a seat until the reservations system opens for the train, usually 12 weeks before the date. The cheap ADVANCE tickets are fixed to specific trains and need a reservation - which means they can't be sold until the reservations are open. They have quotas with rising prices, Nationalrail.co.uk and others only show live fares that are available to buy at the moment of the enquiry.
The rolling list of dates for when reservations are open (and therefore Advance tickets available) is at
And as someone has already pointed out, use the CrossCountry website, it's their train and there might be a special offer buried on it somewhere.