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Train from Gatwick to Salisbury - take GWR or Southern? Are they that bad?

Flying in to Gatwick (arrive at 9am) and traveling to Salisbury on a Friday morning. Was planning on taking the train as we have done everywhere else in Europe.

Great Western connects at Clapham Junction and then on to Salisbury. Cost 84 pounds.

Southern connects at Fareham, then to Salisbury. Cost 54 pounds.

But we have seen horrible reviews for both Great Western Rail and Southern. Are they as bad as the reviews say? GWR seemed slightly better on reviews - but both bad. Late and/or canceled runs, no available seats, and filthy dirty cars. Exaggerations?

Private car or taxi looks to be $250 or more. Is that worth it?

Posted by
16683 posts

Where are you looking for fares? On nationalrail.co.uk I see Anytime fares of £42.10 and some Off-Peak fares of £27.20. These are for trains with one change, the first leg on Southern and the second on GWR.

Posted by
8504 posts

Have you taken a train in the US lately?

Both lines are better than my experience on US trains! I had occasion to use both lines last week as a tourist and I had no complaints. Cars were clean, service as described.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks for all the replies. Was hoping the reviews were from run hour commuters - and I would completely understand their issues. Gosh knows I hate the highways here at rush hour. But as I've been telling my wife, on this trip, our vacation starts once we are sitting in that plane seat. From that point on, I'm in no rush to be anyplace. And since we will most likely be getting a train around 10am, I think we should be able to avoid the biggest crowds.

And sorry for not explaining it better - I was counting the fare for two people traveling - so rounded to about 54 and 84 pounds..

Posted by
5635 posts

Where are you checking he prices? Is that the price for one person or two people? I see anytime fares at 42.10. You will be traveling after the morning rush, so I doubt finding a seat will be a big issue,

It is a 2 hour train ride. You will be fine. I’d pick best time/price combination. You will be traveling after the morning rush, so I doubt finding a seat will be a big issue,

Posted by
402 posts

National Express from Gatwick to Salisbury would take over 4 hours, and need a change (probably at Heathrow)

I occassionally do Gatwick to my home, via Fareham - and that section of the journey is about 90 minutes, then it would be somewhere around an hour on to Salisbury + whatever the wait between trains.

Gatwick via Clapham is just over 2 hours, and that would be my preference.

Posted by
9 posts

TimW - thank you for the information. Timing is everything as they say. - and it goes for the train also.

The Southern Fareham train leaves around 25 minutes earlier from Gatwick than the GWR route. But it is definitely slower - it arrives in Salisbury about 20 minutes later than the GWR Clapham connection. But we were thinking of using Southern anyhow because it arrives and leave Fareham from platform 1 with a wait of only 9 minutes. So we wouldn't be rushing to another platform with luggage. My hates short connection times and loves the idea of leaving from the same platform. The Clapham connection time is 24 minutes, so we would have plenty of time with either.

So it comes down to which is has the better service - GWR or Southern? The short connection for Southern is the only real concern for the service. If both providers are about the same, then Southern is cheaper and I would happily enjoy the longer train ride! I only get to ride trains while in Europe!

And thank you, Carol - that is great news to hear from another recent first hand account.

Posted by
619 posts

I don't want to be too picky, but the via Clapham route uses Southern Railway and then South-Western Trains, while the route via Fareham uses Southern and then Great Western. There is unlikely to be a significant or predictable difference between the quality of the trains.

Posted by
2445 posts

I would be inclined to go via the Fareham (change) route. So, a one way pay on the day single from Gatwick to Salisbury via Fareham costs £27.20 per adult. Trains leave Gatwick at x09 hourly.

Posted by
4421 posts

My husband and daughter recently took Amtrak from Birmingham to New Orleans. My daughter said it was miserable-6 hours late. The only unpleasant experience I have had on a UK train was when a rowdy bachelorette party forced their way into First Class(because there were empty seats) and the conductor let them do it.

Posted by
5355 posts

There is a quirk with the British rail system in that if there are no available seats in the standard carriages then you are entitled to sit in first class at no extra cost, this is obviously to the consternation of those who have paid. I'm not sure if this is the case for all rail operators but certainly on the southern routes I've used.

Posted by
5355 posts

You can only sit in the first class seats with a standard ticket if you have specific permission or if they have been declassified. In the latter case all those who have paid for first class tickets can claim a refund down to standard. With Southern though there is barely anything to distinguish classes and some with first class may operate on standard class only routes.

Posted by
402 posts

"There is a quirk with the British rail system in that if there are no available seats in the standard carriages then you are entitled to sit in first class at no extra cost"

It's not all operators. Virgin are particularly bad at this. Last year I was on a train from Birmingham to Southampton that was hugely crowded - standing room only, and the doorways and corridors were packed. The First class was almost empty, but a very well dressed man with an upper class accent was openly complaining to the conductor about "Non first class passengers keep trying to get in here" and being unable to get to the buffet because of "all these people."

Posted by
5355 posts

You can only sit in the first class seats with a standard ticket if you have specific permission or if they have been declassified. In the latter case all those who have paid for first class tickets can claim a refund down to standard.

A refund is the least of the issue, it's allowing the oiks access in the first place.

Posted by
5355 posts

Anyway, back to the original question. The vast majority of reviews are posted by rightfully disgruntled commuters who are paying extortionate rates for poor service. I suspect you'll rarely find a review written by a casual train user who travels possibly three or four times a year. I don't travel by train often but when I do it's mainly Southern and sometimes GWR. I have found both to be very good services, the carriages have been very clean and in excellent condition (the toilets can sometimes deteriorate later in a journey), they've been prompt and they've been comfortable and uneventful journeys. Obviously this is in complete contrast to the soul destroying crush that is the rush hour journey but outside of those hours it's a different picture entirely. Go for the Southern option, the only real difference is the price, I wouldn't even contemplate a taxi.

Posted by
5355 posts

It's not all operators. Virgin are particularly bad at this. Last year I was on a train from Birmingham to Southampton that was hugely crowded - standing room only, and the doorways and corridors were packed. The First class was almost empty, but a very well dressed man with an upper class accent was openly complaining to the conductor about "Non first class passengers keep trying to get in here" and being unable to get to the buffet because of "all these people."

Birmingham to Southampton operator would be Cross Country Trains, ultimately owned by Deutsche Bahn. The main problem there is running trains that are too short for the demand, which were inherited from Virgin as the previous operator but they haven't shown much initiative in dealing with this issue.

Posted by
33123 posts

running trains that are too short for the demand, which were inherited from Virgin

all thanks several years ago to some bright government boffin coming up with his cunning plan Operation Princess which shortened the trains by half and were supposed to double the frequency. Guess how well that has worked out...