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Advance train tickets in Great Britain vs. Britrail pass

This is our itinerary: London until Dec. 30, then Edinburgh until Jan. 2, then York until Jan. 4, then back to London (and flying home). We're right at the 12-week mark for train tickets (and cheap ones, I think) being released. Yesterday I checked on the LON-EDB tickets and they were £125 each (yikes!). Today, though, a first-class is going for £51 (and that's cheaper than standard that time of day, fun!). However, the other two train legs have not gone down in price (yet?). Next issue: We can buy a three-day (over eight days) two-person low-season BritRail pass for $430. No huge hurry on getting that any time soon. But it means that if we bought point-to-point tickets, they'd all need to beat $215/£134 (for each of us). The rail pass seems like a great bargain, unless we might be able to get better prices on the EDB-YRK and YRK-LON legs in the next few days. So I guess I really have one question: Will that great £51 LON-EDB ticket price disappear very soon, do you think?
It ped remarkably in a day so I can only assume it would continue to be unpredictable (but what do I know?). I don't want to get locked into buying point-to-point tickets, though, if I can't be reasonably sure the other legs of our journey will go down in price to make it worth it.

Posted by
521 posts

Wait until you can see 'Advance' tickets available for each leg and buy them as soon as they go on sale for each leg. There are 3 types of train ticket, 'Anytime', 'Off-peak' and 'Advance'. The first two can be bought at any time (subject to the 12 week limit), even on the day of departure, and they will range in price from the expensive to the criminally extortionate. 'Advance' tickets are cheaper, are generally available in limited numbers so they can sell out and they go up in price the longer you leave it after they go on sale. They can only be purchased until the day before travel, are not refundable, can be changed only for an additional fee and tie you to the specific train for which they are booked. Just to give you an idea of the kind of prices to expect, I pretended that someone was doing each leg of your trip on Christmas Eve, 24 December, which is open for booking already. 'Advance' ticket prices on that date, if booked right now, would be something like this: 09.00 London to Edinburgh - £49 10.00 Edinburgh to York - £19.60 09.30 York to London - £21.15 Total £89.75.

Posted by
26 posts

Oh, I see. That's very helpful! Thanks for doing that research; I truly appreciate it. I think I understand more how tickets and prices are structured, too. Thanks again!

Posted by
521 posts

12 weeks out is subject to some variation,especially when timetable changes are due, so I think you are a few days too early to see the cheapest 'Advance' tickets for 30 December. Try a search for a week or two earlier and you'll see what I mean. With Advance tickets at the lowest prices you should be able to beat the cost of the passes, but you are travelling to Scotland the day before New Year's Eve so all trains that day will be very busy and the cheapest tickets will sell quickly when they do go on sale. You can set an alert on the East Coast Trains website, so you get an email when Advance tickets are available.

Posted by
26 posts

Ah, I tried that and I do see what you mean. I'll keep my eyes peeled, and my browser refreshed, during the next week or so. Should I buy the advance tickets as soon as I see a good price, or should I wait until all three legs of the trip have good prices on offer?

Posted by
8700 posts

For 30 December I found fares as low as 29.50 GBP for London-Edinburgh at eastcoast.co.uk.

Posted by
521 posts

They must have been released today, because last night East Coast was saying tickets were not available yet. That is a good price. I just checked - 3 January is now the latest date available for booking, or 2 January in some cases.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks for all the help, everyone. Tickets for the last leg of our journey became available today, and we got great deals on all of them, as we've been booking as they've become available. Now onward to lodging!

Posted by
521 posts

Great news Tonya. I hope you reserved your seats, especially for London to Edinburgh - I'd imagine the trains will be packed on the 30th.

Posted by
12345 posts

Are the "advance" fares subject to the Senior Card discount?

Posted by
26023 posts

To further pile on - there is a restriction on Senior Card discounts in the London and London suburban area - known as Network Southeast - that the card may not be used on early morning journeys entirely within the area until off-peak tickets are valid. The time that off-peak tickets become valid varies from operator to operator and route to route. This is often overlooked but is a restriction. There is no such restriction if the journey starts and/or ends outside the area.