1st/2nd class on Britrail

Will be going to Scotland and down the west side of England to Bath, we will probably use the rail and drive package. What is the difference betw/ classes of travel?
We have used the rail a lot in Italy and found a big difference on some routes. We do not want to be sardines, or have to ride with our luggage virtually on our laps.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10844 posts

Our experience is that first and second class is about the same everywhere. A little greater difference with the newer and often high speed trains. We have traveled all over Italy, Spain, France, and some England via second class and have never encountered a sardine situation or having to hold luggage.

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
1687 posts

The only difference in the UK is that the seats in First Class are a bit bigger and it may be less crowded. What route are you using? Sometimes the second class can be crowded. Also the trains on that route don't have vast luggage accomodation.

Posted by Maryann
near NY, NJ, USA
445 posts

Very little difference between first and second class in my opinion.

If you can pindown travel times, I recommend that you book your tickets in advance. You can do this on The Trainline.com and then pick up the tickets at a UK train station.

On certain routes trains can be crowded. For instance last year both in July and November, I took a train fom Oxford heading to Manchester. Both
times the trains were crowded. But I had booked in advance and reserved seats. When one time, I found someone sitting in my seat, I just showed them my ticket with the seat reservation and they got up.

If you don't want to book now (with cheaper fares available), at least don't wait until the last moment to buy your ticket. Walk-up last minute fares ae the highest and you may not get a seat. At least try the day before or preferably a few days on busy runs.

However, how crowded a train will be will depend on the route. And you can't get reservations on local short distance trains. For instance if I buy a ticket from Oxford to London, there are no reservations available. The only time the local trains will be very crowded is during commuter hours.

Another time I took a train from Reading (Berkshire)
to Southampton early on a weekday. It was a train headed to Bournemouth and it was crowded. There were no reservations on this train. I only took it as I had to make a flight from SOuthammpton to Avignon.

Trains from Reading to Gatwick Airport do not offer reservations and I have never had a problem getting a seat. However, the Gatwick Express from London Victoris can be VERY crowded with no reservations.

Hard to predict when you can get reservations, but I know that the route to Birmingham and Manchester is
very busy since these are important business towns.

Hope this gives you some ideas. Perhaps the UK members will chime in with some more information.

Posted by Laura
London, UK
355 posts

I regularly travel on First Great Western trains and the first class carriages are just quieter with more room. I personally would not spend more on first class. On First Great Western you can request seats in a 'Quiet Carriage'. I always ask for that as mobile phones etc are banned and the families with the noisy kids tend to avoid it.

Posted by Rhonda
Puyallup, WA
49 posts

Our route will probably go down the west side;acouple of nights in Carlisle to visit Hadrian's Wall (rental car) before heading down to Bath. Our trip isn't until mid Sept and I think it is still too early to get reservations, but we definitely will. For day trips out of Bath I don't know if we will use train connections or a rental car. We definitely won't take the car into London for our final stop before flying home.