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When To Buy Train Tickets

This is my first post on this forum, so please excuse my newbie ignorance!
My lovely wife and I have been planning our trip to the UK in September for months now, have our plane tickets, bought our luggage, etc. But in view of the possible rail strikes I'm not sure whether I should go ahead and purchase train tickets on line now, or wait a while. Our itinerary is as follows:

Heathrow to Moreton-on-Marsh (Costwolds)
Moreton-on-Marsh to Oxford
Oxford to London (Victoria)
London To York
York to Edinburgh

I've looked at the cost of a Railpass vs. separate tickets - looks like separate tickets will be a bit less expensive.
Your thoughts will be appreciated!

Posted by
29645 posts


Just to be able to phrase answers best for you - are you brand new to the Forums or have you read some of the previous travel in the UK posts in the Forum?

I'd expect that a Two-Together Railcard would help you. Three months out is earlier than I would buy tickets.

Posted by
11 posts

Ah yes, the 2-together pass is a great deal for us!
Nigel - While I've poked around this forum from time to time, this is the first time I've posted anything. I'll be reading more now that the trip seems eminent, even if 3 months away.
How far in advance do you usually purchase tickets?


Posted by
2134 posts

Why is London VICTORIA mentioned? If you were to go from MIM to York via London, you would arrive from MIM at Paddington and then have to get over to King’s Cross for trains to York. Victoria serves trains going south of London.

Posted by
29 posts

We leave in 10 days for England and Wales and have decided, on the advice of our son who lives in England, to wait for now. We may pay more by buying a day or two before, but will maximize our flexibility in light of the possible RR strikes.
We will travel between London-Oxford, York-Durham-York, and York-LHR.
I am not sure this is the best strategy for you.

Posted by
105 posts

"Why is London VICTORIA mentioned? If you were to go from MIM to York via London, you would arrive from MIM at Paddington and then have to get over to King’s Cross for trains to York. Victoria serves trains going south of London."

I am assuming they are staying in London after Oxford, before heading to York, not trying to connect. But I could be wrong.

Posted by
2284 posts

For London > York and York > Edinburgh buy Advance tickets when they go on sale.

This link will tell you more about Advance tickets for September dates

MiM > Oxford just buy at the station - it’s a local journey.

Oxford > London (either Paddington or Marylebone)– look for Advance tickets and buy when they become available. Take the Underground to Victoria.

London to MiM.

From LHR to Paddington with the Heathrow Express, you can buy these now as they are good value. For London Paddington to MiM, as above, if you're prepared to commit to a specific train, you can buy Advance tickets when they go on sale. If you want the flexibility of a walk-up Off-Peak or Anytime ticket just buy at the station

You can buy all Advance tickets from the LNER website.

Posted by
12565 posts

From Heathrow to Paddington, you can also use Crossrail. No need to buy in advance and cheaper than Heathrow Express.

And I agree the only two routes you need to buy in advance is London-York and York-Edinburgh.

Posted by
11 posts

Wow, this is very helpful, thank you all.
James - Victoria is the station very near where we're staying in London for four nights. Is there a better/easier route?

Additional question re rail cards - my wife and I are both 71, but it seems like a "two together" card is just as good for us. Do we buy two cards or one?

Thanks to you for clarifying which tickets to get now.


Posted by
1010 posts

Just the one ticket covers you both.
The main restriction on it ,both people need to be travelling together for the discount to be vid.
Travel has to begin after 9.30 am

Posted by
29645 posts

One Two Together Railcard for two people travelling together. Photos of each required... Restrictions as above.

Trains from different parts of the country generally go into one terminal, and others will only be connected to it by tube, bus, taxi or walking. If you are near Victoria the only places trains from there go is south, to Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and as far as Portsmouth.

Scotland is served only by Kings Cross (East Coast Main Line) and Euston (West Coast Main Line, slower).

Posted by
2134 posts

The Senior Railcard = 1 each at £30 per person & can be used before 9.30am on weekdays. The 2 Together Railcard = £30 for the 2 of you but is not valid before 9.30am on weekdays. (Can be used anytime on weekends).

So, you want to land at Heathrow and travel to MIM. You can do this by train by doing this on the following site. Put in for Heathrow to MIM and click ADVANCED OPTION & tick NOT VIA LONDON. Then just follow the instructions that it gives you.

I am not sure if you are staying in MIM or some other Cotswold village or whether you plan to stay in Oxford? If you are staying in MIM then you can pay on the day for the short train ride to Oxford as a day return ticket. Also note that if staying anywhere near Cheltenham that direct trains go from here to York hourly.

For your longer journeys to the north, it is much cheaper to pre purchase Advance tickets for specific trains. If a strike happens, they will give you a refund or swop to another day if you so desire. Hopefully all the aggro from the rail unions will be over by September or earlier.
If you go to and check out the prices going forward you will see that August is now in darker print meaning that the Advance tickets are now available. However, note that September is still in faint type meaning that the cheaper advance fares have not yet been loaded and you would pay full whack if booked now.

I would not go from York to Heathrow prior to a flight - just in case something goes wrong. I would in fact stay in London for the final few days so you are just a short distance from Heathrow.

I have a way of getting you from MIM to Edinburgh for the same price as MIM to York - providing you don't mind the 6 hour trip as opposed to around 4 hours from MIM to York. Go to and put in for MIM > EDB for a date in August with a Railcard. You will see that a train leaves MIM at 10.19 and that you change trains (routes) at Worcestershire Parkway for one going to Nottingham (from Cardiff) . When this train arrives at Birmingham New Street, you change again for the 12.17 Avanti West Coast service to Edinburgh (which normally goes from platform 7). Now the website I have given splits the ticket up into sections for each leg and thus saves £75 on the through ticket- even though you are travelling on the same trains. This means that you can get from MIM to Edinburgh for about £46 each with the Railcard. Another advantage of doing it this way is that you travel up the western side of the country instead of go up and back down the same route on the East Coast mainline form London.

Note that if any connection is missed and it is not your fault, the railways are obligated to take you on the next available service at no penalty. You can also get compensation for late arrival. Another site that works out if split tickets are cheaper is:> Note that these ’split’ sites take a commission of the saving achieved.

So, having done Edinburgh, you travel back to York and finally London. In the event that you travel directly from Edinburgh to London note that a new train company operates the route in addition to LNER (the main operator) - BUT they don't stop at York.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you for the question. My wife and I are taking part of the same route (Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh) in July. I've been looking at Advance Tickets. What if our plane is late? Will the Advance ticket still be good if we miss the train by a few hours?

Posted by
4920 posts

Will the Advance ticket still be good if we miss the train by a few hours?

No, it will become valueless and you would need to buy another.

Posted by
2134 posts

Regarding Advance tickets - what if plane is late? If going from Heathrow to MIM - using the trains at Heathrow should not be a problem. The problem may occur with the mainline GWR train that takes you to MIM. Having said that, I have been on the ‘wrong’ GWR train with an Advance ticket twice and nothing has been said. The person that matters is the train ‘manager’. That person can be found at the rear of the train when in station. Consider making a booking that gives you plenty of time to clear the airport. Should you be able to catch an earlier GWR train, I would hang out where the rear is likely to stop and ask the train manager if you could board the earlier service at no penalty rather than hang around for the booked train.

I really don't like the way things are done regarding these cheaper advance tickets. I can understand peak time trains being charged more. When you go from Heathrow to MIM the odds are that you will not be on a peak time train. First company operate the GWR & they also operate Trans Pennine Express in the north. With TPE they allow leeway at Manchester Airport so why they can’t do this for Heathrow, goodness knows?

Posted by
23014 posts

I like James's idea of buying an Advance ticket for what seems like a really safe departure time (understanding that nothing will protect you if your flight is 4 hours late) and asking the conductor whether you can hop on an earlier train if the transatlantic flight goes smoothly. The worst that can happen is the conductor says "No".

In situations where the base ticket price for a same-day purchase is many multiples of the Advance fare, I'd be willing to risk throwing away the Advance ticket in the case of a serious transportation delay. If the full fare is something like twice the price of the Advance fare, I'd probably just wait to buy the ticket until I was on the ground.

Posted by
2134 posts

I should add that when I ended up on later trains than booked for, I did not ask permission prior to boarding - and you have to be quick to do this as they don't hang around for long in stations; I simply boarded the train and hoped for the best. If you throw away and buy new tickets, you know that you are loser to start with. Better to take your chances on the wrong train even if it means you are charged a penalty. (It really depends who you get and they are likely to be picky if on a busy train in the peak).

Anyway, another thought: One way tickets in Britain are almost as expensive as returns. Say you are going from Heathrow to MIM and then back to London. The nearest station to Heathrow with direct trains to MIM is Slough. So, a super-off-peak return from Slough to MIM = £36.10 each person (valid on ANY super off peak train) Add to that a one way single £11.70each from Heathrow to Slough (change at Hayes & Harlington - NOT Heathrow Express into Paddington). Then, when returning from MIM to London (PAD) you would just need a ticket from Slough to Paddington. Prices quoted do not include any discount for having a Railcard.

Play around with to see when these Super-off-peak returns are valid.

Posted by
470 posts

The cheapest option for MiM to Oxford appears to be the Cotswolds Discovery Ticket at £10.50 or £6.90 with Rail Card