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Heathrow to Liverpool by train questions

We're flying to London Heathrow, scheduled arrival Sep 24, 7:00am.
The current plan is to take a train, or bus/train combination, from Heathrow to Liverpool.
I've searched several booking websites (listed below) with a variety of results -- cost ranging from $20 to $300 for a standard ticket for the same day.

My questions are:
1. What is the best site to book on? There's much variety on the ones I've seen.
2. Would it be smarter (time and cost) to go to London, then leave for Liverpool from there rather than from Heathrow?
If so, where is the best London departure point to Liverpool?
Which is best way from Heathrow to London: tube, Elizabeth Line, or Heathrow Express? (Considering that we'll be catching a train to Liverpool)
3. Is it necessary to have an advance reservation? (There's always the chance that our flight will be late or even rescheduled -- I suppose we'll be out the money?)
4. Would it be advisable to get a Britrail England pass? The only other train trip we have planned is Oxford to London, three weeks later. If so, how much does a Britrain England pass cost? I've had a devil of a time trying to find out. The Britrail website that sells the pass returns: "This site can’t be reached". And several third party websites explain all about the pass except for the cost.
5. Are we foolish to fly in (Buffalo to Atlanta to Heathrow, 14 hrs total) and immediately travel to Liverpool? We're in our 70s, in good shape for our age, but not exactly full of youthful energy. However I hate to waste a day getting a room in London and spend much of the next day going to Liverpool, when it could all be done in one exhausting day.

BTW, what did they do to the old Britrail system? When I was in the UK in 1978 and 1983, train travel was a lot simpler and cheaper.

Thanks for any insight you can provide!

Booking websites I've checked:
https://www.raileurope.com/en-us/destinations/heathrow-liverpool-train
https://www.thetrainline.com/en-us/train-times/heathrow-airport-to-liverpool
https://www.rome2rio.com/map/London-Heathrow-Airport-LHR/Liverpool#r/Train
https://www.omio.com/trains/london-heathrow-airport/liverpool-z3ygi

Posted by
84 posts

Great! I could tell they were 3rd party but figured that's how it worked these days.
This is the problem with search engines accepting fees -- they display the most profitable results, not the best ones.

It's great to have the official website, though I'm still surprised at the cost.

Thanks for the help.

Posted by
266 posts

Not an expert on UK trains, except I agree that everything about them is much more expensive, slower and more complicated than it was back in the day! I can't imagine that any rail pass would be worthwhile for two one-way trips three weeks apart, one of them very short (Oxford-London). But on q. 6, I do think all else equal that it's better to get some onward travel out of the way on arrival day than to arrive at your hotel insanely early, not be able to check in yet, and wander the streets in a jet lagged stupor.

Posted by
84 posts

That's a good point about not being able to check in if we stay the first day in London. I hadn't thought of that.

My wife can't sleep on a plane, and I'm good for only an hour or two of light dozing, so we're beat when we fly overseas. However it would be pointless to kill the better part of a day with suitcases in London, so I guess it'll be exhausted train trip to Liverpool. At least we'll be able to check in by the time we get there.

Thank you!

Posted by
15696 posts

1) As Badger stated, the best website is nationalrail.co.uk

2) Trains from London to Liverpool are operated by Avanti West Coast and leave from Euston station. Since it's a Sunday, there are usually planned engineering works on some tube lines. Once we know what they will be on the day you arrive, we can give you your options on how to get there.

3) you could buy an all day ticket good on any train that day between London and Liverpool.

4) No. A waste of money for your routes.

5) You skipped 5.

6) Only you can answer that.

Posted by
84 posts

Thanks, that's very helpful info. I had no idea about tube maintenance shutdowns. Would that apply to the Elizabeth Line and Heathrow Express as well?

Also, I wasn't aware that I could buy an all-day ticket. That's a big help because the flight could well be delayed. I was thinking I'd have to buy a ticket for quite a bit later than scheduled arrival, then wait around if the flight is on time. An all-day ticket solves that.

There was a #5 at some point but it disappeared when I edited the post. I fixed it.

As far as whether we'd be foolish to go to Liverpool on arrival day, I think Slate's point about being too early to check in to a hotel settles the issue. We'll be dragging but will probably plan on same day to Liverpool.

Thanks very much!

Posted by
6717 posts

An off peak single from Euston is £72.70, which you can buy at Euston when you arrive up until minutes before the train departs. So total flexibility.
No need to pre purchase.
Car C is always unreserved as is Car U if it happens to be an 11 car train.
Valid on all weekday trains until 1530 and from 1900, and all weekend trains.
In the peak it is £171, so just wait out the peak if that happens. Have a meal at one of the two pubs at Euston!

Posted by
6717 posts

$300 is either first class or someone is profiteering.

Posted by
33332 posts

still wondering about the great variety of fares?

Two of the third party companies in your list should be run away from - fast.

RailEurope consistently overcharges, doesn't list all the choices, and are of little help when things go ass over teacups.

Rome 2 Rio is so bad in my opinion that they should be banned. I never ever use it but from what I have seen in reports here they just seem to throw darts at a dartboard with their eyes closed and then make it up as they go along. Whatever they say for routes and prices should be disregarded. They get it wrong, often spectacularly, as often as they get it right.

The reason for such variation is that 2 companies work the London to Liverpool route. Avanti West Coast is the higher speed, faster, express train which caters to executives in First Class. They are the king of the road on that route, and they charge for that.

London Northwestern and its brother under the skin West Midlands trains run the commuter end of the spectrum, and don't do a cafe car or reservations or, now, not even First Class. They get you there but you may have to change trains along the way to get there cheapest and fastest on their trains.

They both use the same tracks, and London Northwestern is only a little slower (110 mph instead of 125) but does stop more often.

They are both fully electric.

The most expensive tickets are for travel in and out of London at peak times, what you might call rush hour. That peak time is longer at Avanti than it is at LNWR, and as said their prices are much higher anyway.

So tickets valid all day, so called Anytime tickets are most expensive, those on LNWR cheaper than Avanti, and First Class most expensive of all.

There are also tickets valid all day EXCEPT during the Peak. These are called Off-Peak tickets and are dramatically less expensive. But it does mean going after the rush hour when it is quieter. Both Anytime and Off-Peak tickets can be bought right up until time of travel, and their price does not change.

There is yet another type of ticket, called Advance which are not on all routes or paths, are capacity controlled, have strict cut off times and usually not easily changeable and non-refundable. These are least flexible and least expensive - some great deals available but if you miss the train you just have an expensive bookmark as a souvenir. Advance tickets are for people who commit to a specific train and time - usually not the best idea for incoming transatlantic passengers.

I hope that helps clarify. All the options will be on National Rail website.

Posted by
1004 posts

The first point I would make is why are flying into London when you really want to be 200 miles away? If the flights are already booked then that's where we are but it would have made more sense to have flown into Manchester - there are direct flights from Atlanta and New York amongst others. If you haven't booked or can change your flights then from Manchester you can get a direct train from the airport station to Liverpool in about an hour i.e. about the same time you would have arrived in central London.

Assuming you are stuck with the train from London then there are Advance tickets available from £42 on the fast trains, taking about 3 hours. The slow trains are cheaper but will take over 4 hours and will require a change at Crewe - I wouldn't recommend straight off a red eye flight. But if you miss the train with an Advance ticket you will have to buy another at the walk-up price. I would recommend buying the off-peak ticket at £72.70 and booking seats on the best timed train. If you make it you have reserved seats but you can still take any other train anyway. I would recommend booking the 10.19 train, which you should make if everything goes to plan, but there are trains at 10.48 and and 12.09 and hourly afterwards if it doesn't.

One more thing to consider. Avanti offer an on the day upgrade from Standard to Standard Premium. It's a bit like Premium Economy on planes - in this case you get a First Class seat but none of the other perks of First Class travel like food, drink and lounge access. I imagine that would be £25pp if you chose it. It would be a good choice if the train is really crowded and you don't have reserved seats but Standard is perfectly comfortable.

Finally, a last minute thought. I just checked and Liverpool football team are at home to West Ham United on that day at 2pm. West Ham are a London team, plus Liverpool have plenty of fans based in the south so early trains will be much more crowded than a usual Sunday morning. The 10.19 will get there just in time for the game so I would wait and book the 10.48 instead, which won't.

Posted by
84 posts

isn31c & Nigel --- Thank you, all very useful information.

Johnew52 --- Good point. We're starting in Liverpool and spending our last 5 days in London. So it made the most sense to fly into Manchester and return from London. However the one-way flights were much more expensive than round trip to London -- roughly double the cost, with most of the overage on the return flight. In fact, the one-way return from London was almost exactly the same cost as the round trip to London. I didn't believe it at first, but after trying several different day combinations, it kept turning out that way. (At least on the more reputable airlines -- I stayed away from the lowest cost/lowest rated ones.) So we changed plans to a London round trip. Even with the extra train fare we'll save hundreds of dollars/pounds.
Thanks for train details, very helpful. Also I'd have never been aware of the football match affecting train transport.

Everyone's responses have been extremely productive, thank you!

Posted by
1004 posts

Jim - two one-way tickets are generally much more expensive than a return. Did you try a open-jaw or multi-city itinerary ticket i.e. one ticket flying into Manchester and back from London? That is generally the cheapest way to do what you were looking for. Should not be much more than a standard return and very competitive once you add in the train trip, let alone the time saved.

Posted by
84 posts

Johnew52 --- I didn't realize there's a difference between two one-way tickets and the open-jaw or multi-city. I thought two one-ways were what that was called. I'll have to investigate how to specify that (to distinguish from two one-ways). I didn't see any option for that when I tried to book.

Thanks!

Posted by
84 posts

Okay, I see you can do it on Google Flights, which I'd never heard of. I used a few consolidators (Kayak, etc.) and the airlines own websites, which incidentally had better prices.

I'll explore the options. My only reluctance is that we managed to get seated both ways in rows with only two seats. The plane configurations are:

X X----X X X X----XX

We've had a couple issues in the past with adjacent passengers so I was happy to accomplish that. It cost an extra $160 but worth it, assuming it works out.

I'll play with Google Flights a bit.

Posted by
84 posts

I ran a few scenarios and it looks like I'll stick with the London round-trip. Desirable seat availability was a problem. For either the trip there or the return, we'd have to sit in a middle section (4 or 5 across) in a standard seat. Probably because I'm booking rather late. I wish there weren't so many darn Yanks visiting the UK. :-)

The only preferable seats were in Economy Premium and up, a $1500 increase over what I have now. For the round trip we don't have extra space seats, but we've got the two-across rows, which I really like. We only managed that once before and it was nice.

So unless there's a new development I'll be using the advice about train from London to Liverpool.

Next time though (if there is a next time) I'll remember about the open jaws option, hopefully farther in advance.

Posted by
266 posts

I just made flight reservations for a December trip to the UK, as you, first northern England and then London. Not sure where you're leaving from (Washington DC for me), but I found quite good fares on Aer Lingus flying through Dublin to Manchester, and then return Heathrow to Dulles via Dublin. Yes, there are plenty of nonstops from LHR to Dulles, which this isn't, but I don't mind, especially being able to go through U.S. immigration and customs in Dublin so don't need to deal with that when arriving in U.S. after a long flight.

Posted by
84 posts

Slate,
We're leaving from Buffalo, NY. Stop in Atlanta outbound and NYC back.

I could have gotten a better price if I'd booked sooner. I just booked 5 weeks ahead, and the flights were pretty full so there weren't any special deals. I left it late because we weren't (and still aren't) sure we'll be able to go. My mother-in-law is 100 years old so everything depends on how she's doing. Whenever we've made plans for the last 15 years at least, it's always with an explicit "if Mom is doing okay".

Posted by
39 posts

If it helps, we just did a similar journey last week. Flew into Heathrow and spent that first night in London. We stayed at the Travelodge next to Euston Station, it was cheap and fine for one night. Took the first train to Liverpool in the morning. I think there's too many points of potential failure from Heathrow to Euston to risk trying to catch a train same day. We bought our tickets a couple of months in advance on the Avanti West Coast website, for a specific time of train departure. The tickets were 50 pounds total for three of us (advance rate group booking discount). You can pick your seats on the Avanti website when you're booking. The train was packed and almost every seat was reserved, people who got on with anytime tickets and with luggage had a very hard time finding seats and room for luggage. If you have luggage choose a seat as close to the luggage rack as possible and expect everyone to be trying to jam huge suitcases into a tiny space. Also, beware random unexpected delays. We got stuck waiting for an hour in the middle of the train ride because a person kept running on and off the tracks.

Posted by
5383 posts

A footnote that delays of an hour (or more) against the timetable trigger a 100% refund for single tickets under the Avanti Delay Repay Scheme. Even a 15 minute delay is 12.5%.

Posted by
84 posts

wildflowersoul,
That's very helpful information. Your price was a lot less than what I've seen, although I hadn't looked at advance purchase yet.
I'm so conflicted about trying to get there the same day. I'd really like to do it, but you're right about the pitfalls.

Marco,
Good tip about the delays, that would never have occurred to me.

Thank you both.

Posted by
1004 posts

Jim - there are no really cheap Advance tickets left on 24/9 - at the time you would be looking to travel they are £47 and a bit less later in the day.

There is a 6.36am train on Monday 25th at £33pp, which would have you in Liverpool by just after 9am. the trouble with that is that you might find it tough to get up that early on your first morning after a red-eye flight - your body will still be thinking it's 1.30am. But, with a cheap* hotel near Euston on Sunday it might work week financially.

*cheap is a relative word these days with Central London hotels. I can see rooms at the Premier Inn Euston right by the station for £100 or £79 for the Travelodge for 24/9.

Posted by
84 posts

John,
£47 is more than acceptable after some of the prices I saw a couple days ago. And £100 for a halfway decent London hotel is less than I expected.

You're right about the difficulty of catching an early train. We're generally early risers but that won't be a normal day.

Posted by
84 posts

How about this possibility? According to the National Rail website:

You can buy Anytime tickets at any time before you travel, and you can use your Anytime ticket to travel on any train on the route shown.
Anytime Day (Single and Return) tickets must be used on the date shown on your ticket and up to 04:29 the following day.
Anytime Single must be used within 2 days of the date shown on the ticket and up until 04:29 after the last day of validity.

So if we bought Anytime Single tickets dated for our arrival day, we could use them that day on any train we could catch, or if we're too tired then stay overnight near Euston and use the tickets the next day, again whenever we're ready.

I'm sure there will be a price premium but if it's not outrageous it could be worth the flexibility.

The only other issue is that I can't find how to price/buy Anytime tickets on their website. I see all the details about them except for how to buy.

UPDATE:

About an hour after posting this I realized the flaw in the plan: accommodations. We'd either have to reserve in both London and Liverpool, or take our chances on finding a place on the day. That might be okay for London, but we'll be 3 days in Liverpool and want to stay in a nice place and not have to move, so I guess this idea is out.

Posted by
2561 posts

Your arrival day (24 Sept) is a Sunday - it's Off-Peak tickets at weekends.

Posted by
1004 posts

Jim - as rambling on says, you don't nee to buy an Anytime single on a Sunday. They allow you to travel in peak times but there aren't any peak times on Sundays. The off-peak single at £72.70 will allow you to get any train when you get to Euston.

The £47 Advance ticket is a good price but you have to travel on the train you book or it's not valid and you would need to buy another ticket (the £72.60 one).

So I would either go with just buying an off-peak ticket on the Sunday when you get to Euston or stay over and get an early train on Monday morning. There are other trains on Monday - currently the 8.43 is available for £33 but that needs buying online now before the price rises.

Posted by
84 posts

Thank you for the clarifications.

My wife has been gone for a few days taking her elderly mother to visit relatives. When she gets back we'll have to decide about the London to Liverpool timing. I've gone back and forth several times the past couple days.