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BritRail pass or point-to-point

Do we have any British rail gurus out there?

After spending a few days in London, my boyfriend and I plan to stay with a friend in Birmingham for a few days, using that as a homebase to make a few day trips around the country. While the point-to-point vs. rail pass situation is clearer in other countries, I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out the best rail deal in Britain.

We will need to take the train from London to Birmingham, and from Birmingham to Luton airport (flying to Germany via easyJet, and it seems like the best location to fly out of, feel free to refute that though!). We are also looking at taking day trips to Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff, Cambridge, or Oxford (choosing two of these).

Our options are as follows:
4-day Consecutive BritRail Youth Pass ($159);
Point-to-point with 15-25 Youth Card (28GBP = 1/3 off tickets);
Plain point-to-point, if Youth Card isn't worth it

Anyone have suggestions to point me in the cheapest direction? Maybe it's just me, but the DB website is a lot more straightforward than the National Rail site. Anyway, I'd appreciate your help!

Posted by
1265 posts

Anna - I used East Coast Rail to check ticket prices.

The cheapest travel I could find going from London to Birmingham was £6.

Liverpool same day return from Birmingham was £20.

Cardiff same day return from Birmingham was £44.10.

The only fare I couldn't find was Birmingham to Luton airport. I would assume to get Luton Airport you would have to backtrack through London.

These fares total £70 + fare from Birminghame to Luton Airport. You BritRail 4 day pass is $199 - 20% is $159. I think a 4 day BritRail pass will meet your needs better than p2p tickets. I make this statement because the p2p tickets are non-refunable and non-changeable. With you Britrail pass you show up and ride.

As an FYI hopefully Tim or Lee will respond to this post. They are extremely knowledgeable on train travel.

Posted by
873 posts

Yes, I did some more research via the National Rail website and got roughly the same figures. At this point, I think I will pay what looks like a bit extra for the pass and be able to hop on any train. Since we aren't sure exactly where/when we'll be travelling, I'd rather not be tied to specific trains.

Also, I think we would actually get the 3-Day Youth England Pass, which is only $129. Thanks for the response, Joel!

Posted by
881 posts

Hi, Anna. Just a quick question: will you be doing all that traveling in 3 consecutive days? I think the Brit Youth passes are for consecutive days ie - once you stamp the first one, the timer starts counting down(3days = 72hrs), and you have ___ number of days to use it. (Unlike some of the other rail passes that are "4 out of 15" days, etc.

I could be wrong, it is after midnight... :)

Posted by
873 posts

Yes, they would be consecutive days. We would spend a few days in London, then go to Birmingham for a few days, and then take the National Express coach to Luton (it isn't covered by the pass).

We're staying with a friend in Birmingham, and he'll be able to drive us, too, if/when our passes expire. We just want to take trains for longer trips.

Oh, and unless it's severely outdated, Rick's website says that you get an extra pass day free if you buy by 4/29. So I guess we'd have 4 consecutive days.

Posted by
8700 posts

When I checked the East Coast site, I found a cheaper advance purchase discount fare for Birmingham-Cardiff than Joel did. Still, since you are young enough to qualify for a youth pass, you can have flexibility for all your rides for around the same total cost as you would pay for getting the best advance point-to-point fares.

You also could use your pass to get from Birmingham to Luton. Take a train from Birmingham to London Euston. Walk to London St. Pancras. (It's 0.8km and will take you less than 15 minutes.) Take a train from there to Luton Airport Parkway and the shuttle bus from there to the airport.

Without knowing where in Germany you plan to fly from Luton, I can't say if there is a better airport to use than Luton, but easyJet is a good airline.

Posted by
32935 posts


Part of the problem you will have with point to point tickets in the UK is that instead one unified system in the country there are over 20 private companies running trains around the country. These companies in many cases compete with each other on the same or similar routes. Unless you have a pass it will be something you should be aware of. For example, one that I know very well is the London to Birmingham corridor. You have London Midland trains which run very modern, clean, comfortable 100 mph electric trains every hour between London and Birmingham, at pretty competitive prices. The down side is that trains stop fairly frequently (16 times in 2 and a half hours to three hours) and are slower because of that and because they take a route via Northampton. There's also Virgin, who stop 3 times and go at up to 125 mph every 20 minutes. Downside? Price, generally. Chiltern runs diesel trains at up to 100 mph but are slower than the other two because they take a more rambling route, and they arrive at the much smaller but very nice Marylebone station in London. Slower yet is another diesel train which doesn't stop in Birmingham but a suburb.

Most of these times are available on National Rail enquiries website

I will put further info in a later post.


Posted by
10 posts

We just used our Britrail passes for 8 days of travel in Wales, England, and Scotland, and like the flexibility and ease of being able to hop on a train and ride. We added up the price of the tickets we would have purchased for each journey, and came out way ahead with the passes since we traveled every day, and took some longer journeys.