In early June, I will be finishing a RS tour in Nice, staying a couple of extra nights in Nice, then flying British Airways to London. From Gatwick Airport, it looks like I can take the Gatwick Express to Victoria, then the tube from Victoria to London Kings Cross, with my eventual destination York (on that same travel day). If my flight lands at 12:30, would I be able to purchase advance fares to York that leave London Kings Cross beginning at 2:30 or would that be cutting it too close? How much time should I allow before considering ticket purchase? I'm thinking I should look at York departures beginning later than that? Also, it appears that both Virgin Trains East Coast and Grand Central Trains run that route, with the majority of the trains operated by Virgin Trains East Coast. Does anyone have any experience with Grand Central Trains as an alternative to Virgin Trains East Coast?
Assuming that your flight is on time, you should be out of the airport in an hour and another hour to get into London plus time to get to KX station. I think that the earliest train you could get would be 3/3.30. You may wish to consider a flexible ticket, as if you buy a ticket for a particular timed service and your flight is 2 hours late and you miss it, you will have to buy a new ticket.
You can take either train. Tickets that allow you to take a train from both operators will be slightly more expensive than one that is only valid for one or the other. They both take about the same time.
I suspected I needed to allow time for unforeseeable circumstances. I'll keep an eye on fares and decide between Grand Central and Virgin depending on fares offered on the day, once they are published.
You don't need to go to Victoria. You can get a Thameslink train direct to St Pancras International which is next door to Kings Cross. Takes about 54 minutes. Nationalrail.co.uk.
Ditto Thameslink recommendation, really the best kept London transport secret.
Thanks Mel and Tom,
The Thameslink sounds a better choice; I wouldn't have to switch between train (Gatwick Express), tube (Victoria-Kings Cross) and then back to train (Kings Cross -York) with luggage. I had briefly looked at Thameslink, but I couldn't find the schedule, so I didn't know how frequently they ran. From the national rail enquiries site, it looks like at least three an hour, if I'm reading that right, and I can purchase an anytime fare, so that will allow plenty of time for uncertain circumstances.
You do know that the Thameslink will require you to change at St Pancras and walk across the street to the Kings Cross platforms to join the train north to York? Your most recent post makes it sound like you think it will take you all the way between Gatwick and York.
Allow a few extra minutes, not many, when using Thameslink. They sometimes run a few minutes late.
Yes, I am aware I need to change train stations from St. Pancras to Kings Cross, so thanks for the reminder, and sorry for my confusing reply upthread. Right now, then, the schedule looks like plane, train, train instead of plane, train, tube, train. I'm trying to build in some flexibility in my day of travel, recognizing that I will be traveling most of the day, so if Thameslink is off a few minutes, I hope I've built in enough time so that I don't stress. Also, before leaving Gatwick, I wanted to get a picture of a placard I saw during my last trip a couple of years ago, located on one of the exit doors of the North Terminal that read "Gum Recycling Center," with wads of gum tacked to it. For some reason, I thought that was funny, so if I have time, I want a picture. Once I'm at Kings Cross, I might stop at Platform 9 3/4 before heading to York.
On the other hand, I haven't yet investigated the best way to get to Nice Airport on the day of travel, so more research ahead.
is your flight booked?
if not it would be best to fly to Manchester
Where will you be going to Nice Airport from?
One difference in train companies is that East Coast use diesel or electric trains with a locomotive at one or both ends, while some Grand Central trains use diesel multiple units with an engine on each carriage. These mean that there is a lot more noise inside the train.
RO: My flight is already booked, so I'll stick with this plan although in future, I'll consider other possibilities, as you suggest. This is a repositioning day so I've resigned myself to a lengthy travel day.
Nigel: I will be traveling to Nice Airport from Nice - an Ibis Styles Centre Gare - which I booked because I thought it would be handy for day trips to other towns/villages along the coast during my extra days in Nice as it is close to the train station. It appears there is an airport express bus - 99? - that leaves from the train station and will deposit me at the airport in about 15 minutes. Would that be the best form of transportation to the airport?
Phillip: The noise factor is one I hadn't considered, but less noise is always more pleasant. I'll likely choose based upon price and time first, then consider which company offers those ideals.
Thanks for all the help,
The bus from Nice Ville station is very easy and only €6. It takes you right to the terminal. There is a local train from Nice Ville to the next stop St Augustine which is about a 15 to 20 minute walk to the terminal along a walking route but crosses major roads and has only stairs from the station. Given that, and that you will be close to Nice Ville the bus makes a lot of sense.
The Virgin Trains East Coast is the big boy, Grand Central is nominally the little underdog - but it was taken over by First Group one of the real big boys. Instead of fast electric trains it uses slower diesel DMUs. It was set up as serving one orphan town but has become competition. Personally I'd use the VTEC.
Grand Central don't go to Newcastle - they go to Sunderland (which is nearby). Although they use diesels, they are capable of the same maximum speed as the electric Virgin Trains = 125mph. So, go with Virgin East Coast.
Although it is too late now, you may like to know that on certain dates, Easyjet fly direct from Nice to Newcastle. So, if making such journeys in future, always check on sky scanner.net (with monthly view) to see if flights are available.
I noticed that the national rail website will sell through tickets Gatwick to York for 35 pounds. Tickets may include parts on Thameslink, Gatwick Express + tube, and the VTEC leg. Just so you check out through option tickets as well as the piecemeal approach.
James: As it happens, I'm not going to Newcastle either (heading for York), so Grand Central still is an option, but looking less likely based upon the recommendations from the crew here. I appreciate learning how to view skyscanner in monthly mode rather than by specific date, though. I didn't know how to do that, but realized when the Departure calendar pops up, a choice to view either by Specific Date or by Whole Month (or something like that) is available too. That's pretty handy.
Tom: At first, on National Rail, it seemed like all the routing from Gatwick to Kings Cross was sending me through Victoria, etc. Then I realized if I included in my search parameters routing through St. Pancras, I would be able to view the Thameslink version. The problem I have with committing to advanced tickets from Gatwick is the uncertainty of my arrival, and the pace I'll be able to maintain (stress free). These complete through tickets provide me with 1 minute to transfer from St. Pancras to Kings Cross. Having never done that before, it's likely to take me 1 minute just to find the "Way Out" sign. I have no problem committing to a certain time on the trip from Kings Cross to York, so will likely take advantage of Advanced fares on that portion. If I overestimate and have some spare time before the train departs, I can always have a coffee, or visit Platform 9 3/4, or if I completely overshoot and have a ton of spare time, I can visit the "Shakespeare in Ten Acts," exhibit at the British Library. (This is probably not likely, but I'll be back in London a week and a half later, so definitely then).
Thanks for all the help,
Apologies, James. I just now realized what you were trying to convey; I could have flown from Nice to Newcastle and bypassed London altogether. In that scenario, I would just need to take Virgin Trains East Coast back to York. I don't know how to edit (or even view) previous posts or my replies, but I do understand now.
Debby: this is where the local experts need to chime in, but my hunch is that a discounted ticket from Gatwick straight thru to York is only restricted on the Kings Cross to York leg, that ANY Thameslink, Gatwick Express, or tube journey (whatever mode is specified on the ticket) that day would work so no need to worry about making any set train from Gatwick. This is the norm in much of Europe; I am assuming it is true in the UK.
So if this is true you could purchase a through ticket with a comfortably late Kings Cross (KGX) departure and if you arrive on time leave immediately for KGX and spend whatever interval you have seeing things in London before the York train departure.
I would be inclined to advance buy the £10.30 Anytime ticket for Thameslink from GTW to STP. It looks like these trains leave from Platform 4 at Gatwick Airport at x10 mins & x40 mins & take 53 minutes to do the journey. (At x08 mins, a slower stopping service also departs Gatwick and this takes 1 hr 10 mins to reach St.Pancras).
Then, give yourself an hour or so for the switch to Kings Cross & the train to York. Advance purchase (say 11 weeks out) a specific train from KGX > YRK. Grand Central have a good reputation. In the event of a train failure, Virgin East Coast would be obligated to carry you (or vice versa) at no additional cost.
Should you purchase a through ticket, it is presumed that it is quite reasonable to walk from St.Pancras to King's Cross in the time allocated.
I was on the Virgin train to London yesterday!
There are more carriages on a Grand Central train so more seats. Those seats also have more space.
However, the Grand Central run older stock so the décor seems a little more tired.
My personal choice would be Grand Central everytime.
Weird, I have more time now to test buying a through ticket and two individual tickets and there is actually a surcharge (5 pounds) to buying a through ticket-- so not recommended. In Germany a suburban train feeding into a long distance train ticket would be free.