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Rail Travel, London-Edinburgh-London

Planning a trip to London in September. Both of us over 60. Want a side trip to spend a couple of days in York, on to Edinburgh, and return to London to catch a 4pm flight home. The web site is really helpful. Would like confirmation that I (finally) understand rail tickets.

National Rail for two "off peak" Two Together is 127.80BP for KGX->YRK, 114.80BP for YRK->EDB, and 408BP for EDB->KGX. A total of 650.60BP, or approximately $1,137.50USD. Wow! "Off Peak" means we can board any train after 9:30am, but if we want a confirmed seat, we need to make a reservation.

BritRail Point to Point tickets are $190USD for KGX->EDB and return. For two people, that is $760. We can get off in York on one day, and get back on at York a few days later. They are good any day, any train. If we change plans, they are refundable.

A BritRail senior pass for 3 days travel in 2 months is $295. Which brings the total down to $590. Any train, any time (except for that "reservation" thing).

National Rail offers "Advance" tickets, which have limited availability, no refunds, and are good for only the specific train booked. That option comes to 156.60BP + 30BP for the Two Together Card, or approximately $324USD.

It seems to me that the 3 trip BritRail pass makes the most sense. It offers flexibility on when to travel plus can be refunded. The $200 savings from purchasing Advance tickets is much like the savings from buying non-refundable airline tickets.

Am I even close to understanding this?


Posted by
12133 posts

We were just there last month, traveling with a mix of rail pass and Advance tickets. The Advance fares were much better, and we did not mind losing flexibility. I signed up on the East Coast Trains website for notification when the Advance fares were released, and our tickets from London to Edinburgh in First class were £31 with a Senior Railcard.

Breaking your journey at York will cost a bit more but is well worth it. Looking at the East Coast website at trains 60 days from now, I find the price for your entire journey can be as low as £92.60 for the two of you, plus £30 for the Railcard, so £122.60 total. Much less than the Railpass option.

If you do decide to go with the Railpass, I recommend you make seat reservations, as we found the trains were quite crowded. On some short hops where were did not make reservations we did not find seats together so rode standing in the entry area. However, making reservations means you give up the flexibility you sought with the Railpass.

The First Great Western train we rode from Cornwall back to London had a designated car for people without seat reservations, but I don't know how crowded it was, or whether East Coast trains follow that practice.

Posted by
25539 posts


for the cheapest offers use the website of the operating company providing the train you are intending to ride.

For such a small amount of train travel it would surprise me if the Britrail pass really wound up cheaper but it can, for its price if willingly paid, remove worry and stress.

Have a look at the website for East Coast Trains, in this case, at

I see that they are currently selling tickets for travel through the 14th of September.

Two other things worry me. It looks like your real whole name is being used as your avatar. You can change that in your profile. When you are logged in click on where it says Signed in As and your name. Click on Profile and you can put anything there - most of us use our first name. This is a forum where anybody can read, and we get our fair share of spammers and other low life. You don't say where you are from in your profile but your name is fairly unique and you wouldn't want pond scum knowing when you would be away from home.

The other thing that bothers me is it looks like your plan is to get on a train in Edinburgh and travel south to London, and get on the flight home the same day. I tend to be averse to that much risk, but maybe you are comfortable with it. If your flight home is at 16:00 (4pm) you need to be at the airport at least 3 hours ahead, and no matter which airport (Heathrow or Gatwick) and no matter if taxi, train, or Underground, or combination, it will be at least an hour from Kings Cross station to the airport. So you need to be in Kings Cross no later than noon, and no stopping for lunch.

So you MUST be on either the 05:40, 05:48, 06:26, 06:55, or 07:30(and that one's a squeaker!) to have any chance of catching your train. What troubles me is that that train has to go between 4 and 5 hours most of the length of Great Britain without encountering delay. That often happens, between 8 and 9 of out of 10 trains across Britain arrive within 10 minutes of their scheduled arrival but "stuff happens" usually when you are on a deadline. I was coming home from London on my train this morning (I work for a British railway company) when I saw the Caledonian Sleeper, the sleeper train from Scotland which is scheduled to arrive early in London from Scotland passing me on its final leg at nearly noon. There had been a broken down train "up north" and it had put most Virgin, Cross Country and Caledonian trains very late or cancelled.

That probably won't happen to you, but are you in a position to re-book your airfare at the last minute if it did? Most airlines expect you to the airport on time and don't care why you're not.

I don't want to alarm you in any way, but I work on the trains and always leave a buffer. I just want to be sure that you are OK with the risk.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the quick response and great suggestions! I had wondered why the Rick Steves forums didn't prompt people to create an Avatar during the signup process. Have changed it now. We had wondered if it was feasible to make the airline connection directly from Edinburgh. Looks like we will spend a night back in London before catching the return flight.

Posted by
4521 posts

For the itinerary stated, consider flying from Edinburgh rather than the train, but if you have already booked the transatlantic flight you would still have an issue if you misconnect on separate tickets.

Alternatively change the order to London-Edinburgh-York-London. You could do this on a London-Edinburgh super off peak return costing £86.50 or so each plus the rail card cost. This ticket is not tied to any specific train, and can be used from York after 08:49 and your last leg is much shorter. (You probably could find cheaper advances.)