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Britrail pass--is it that easy?

As far as I can tell, I show up at the train station on the day I want to depart to my next destination and simply hop on the first train that I want to take, making all the necessary transfers along the way. (Clearly, I'm leaving out a lot of steps here. I wrote a Cliff's Notes version of a travel day.)

I guess the thing I'm questioning is that I'm sure certain trains are fully booked on occasion with travelers who purchased point-to-point tickets ahead of time. What does this mean for a Britrail pass rider? Is using a Britrail pass kind of like flying stand-by--you could get "bumped" if train is full?

One more semi-related question: RS mentions both the Britrail and National Rail websites for train route inquiries. Route-planning wise, is one site better than the other OR provide different information over the other?

Please bear with all my elementary questions!


Posted by
3428 posts

Mostly, it IS that easy. Point to point tickets have NO priority over passes. Reserved seats DO. However, in my experience (more than 20 years of trips at least 2 times a year) many "reserved" seats are never taken. There have been only one or two trips where seating was very full. One time we had to stand in the vestibule for one (10 min.) leg of a trip. I have found the following National Rail site most reliable and helpful for journey planning

Posted by
964 posts

Hi Erin,
British trains are only considered full, when you physically cannot sqeeze yourself in!
Rush hours (obviously) are the worst.

Posted by
2 posts

I ran into a crowded train only once--when I was fresh off the plane and heading off to Hereford to meet a group that was attending the Three Choirs Festival. Little did I know that there was a rock festival in Great Malvern that same weekend, so my train was packed with teens and twentysomethings. But a young couple saw me standing in the aisle with my suitcase and they called out to tell me that there was a free seat in their set of four seats. They even put my suitcase up on the rack so that I could crawl over into the empty seat.

The poster above is correct about reserved seats often being unclaimed. They're marked with the names of the two cities between which the reservation is supposed to be, but there seem to be a lot of no shows.